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Visionary Venues: Staying Ahead of the Convention Center Technology Curve

Managing a world-class convention center is more challenging today than in the past. The pay telephones are gone and technology—from wireless connectivity to digital signage—plays a much larger role in the life of a facility than ever before. The team at Orlando’s Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) has learned first hand what it takes to stay on top.

The use of mobile devices alone—attendees typically carry at least one and sometimes two or three—requires that the OCCC’s team plan carefully to meet the cellular and wireless demands of events. To do so, they talk with customers up to a year in advance (often traveling to their offices to meet face to face) to ascertain their requirements.

OCCC even supports the technologies that the clients bring with them. “We work closely with planners to help them customize their apps. We discuss data security and we go over their social media plans—hashtags, Facebook and Twitter—so that if there is a challenge [someone tweets that a room is too hot] we can act quickly,” says the center’s Deputy General Manager, Yulita Osuba.

Besides the technology needs that ebb and flow with each event, OCCC’s leadership thinks seriously about what it takes to operate a facility and how the various systems—software and hardware—work together in a cohesive way. For example, OCCC uses Ungerboeck Software to run its event business and can program its 66 digital wayfinding signs through the same interface.

For the larger investments, OCCC relies on its official IT provider, Smart City, and a customer advisory board to suggest and implement infrastructure upgrades. Because of the massive need for connectivity at meetings, it’s crucial that the facility stay abreast of the technology that’s available and viable. “We are constantly reviewing what’s working and not working, “ Osuba says.

Implementing new technology is another way for convention centers to maintain their competitiveness. OCCC is looking at indoor positioning technologies—WiFi-based services for navigation and wayfinding. “We would be able to offer it to our clients to identify ‘hotspots’ and provide them with traffic-flow analytics,” Osuba explains.

Determining what kind of technology a center can and should deploy is one thing. Helping customers leverage the technology already available is another. OCCC’s team works with each customer to help them take advantage of its offerings, even getting sponsors. “We have templates with great examples of how other clients [have sponsored hotspots or used digital signage] in the past,” Osuba says.

Staying ahead of the curve requires more than running a tight ship. A culture and an attitude toward the importance of technology are crucial. “We take technology so seriously, we have an acronym for it: NLAA, ‘No Limitations at All.’ Whatever you need, the OCCC can provide it,” Osuba says. Apparently that posture has worked. The Orange County Convention Center is consistently ranked as the top convention center in the country in national polls and publications. Times have changed and the OCCC has obviously changed with them.

This post was written exclusively for Ungerboeck by Michelle Bruno, MPC, Bruno Group Signature Events

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