BPAMA Expo focused on safety and innovation to boost attendance

Editor’s Note: All planners take the job of protecting attendees seriously. However, some industries put more emphasis on risk management than others. Smart Meetings interrogated Joanne Orlando, account manager at Total Event Resources, about tips for making safety and fail-safe execution centerpieces of an annual event.

Joanne Orlando

Business Goal: The 2018 BPAMA Convention & Business Expo is an event produced every other year for the association of BP Amoco marketers. This year, it was held at Biltmore, a Waldorf Astoria Resort, in Phoenix.

The goal was to attract more attendees and sponsors and show off advances that had been made and are still coming. Marching orders were to create an engaging experience that showcased the group’s thought leadership. At the same time, everything had to link back to the requirement for a risk-free meeting.

Challenge: Shaking up the event and making it more interactive meant moving away from producing a traditional conference expo with booths. The big-production AV presentations being proposed relied on a lot of moving parts to enhance (rather than distract from) the content on stage. This introduced a new risk element. “We had to sell it and make it worth it when they saw it,” Orlando said.

Solution: Total Event Resources started planning two years in advance for an event they titled “New Frontiers.” The team proposed using video mapping for a multitude of cascading screens of different sizes that could be programmed to work seamlessly together, lighting up the room and presenting layers of information. “It created a three-dimensional experience, so it looked like the images were popping out on stage,” Orlando explained. “It really got attendees engaged.”

As a way to anticipate anything that could possibly go wrong—and strategies for what to do if something did—the team produced a 150-page risk management document. In an industry where safety is an absolute priority, the comprehensive guide was one way to take chances on new approaches without being risky.

Interactive Elements: The new Innovation Center allowed attendees to touch and see new technology from sponsors and get answers to their questions about what it will mean for their operations.

Lessons Learned: One of the safety elements was a hotline so that if anything went wrong, communication would be simplified. When the team thought to test it just before the conference, the hotline was not connected. They were able to get it up and running quickly, but that close call drove home to Orlando and her team the importance of testing.

The innovative agenda also brought some specific physical requirements with it. Despite doing site visits, some of the meeting rooms had to be tweaked in configuration and size when they arrived. Lesson: Plan, and then adjust to fit the plan.