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Convention Center Trends

Speed and nimbleness are essential skills for a convention center operator when a potential client is considering booking that property for an event. The rebranded Spectra division of Comcast Spectacor can confidently meet those demands.

“We have a broad set of contacts within our company to quickly and easily respond to meeting planners’ requests by combining our hospitality and food services with the venue management side of our company,” said Shura Garnett, regional vice president for Spectra Venue Management. She is also general manager of the St. Charles, Missouri, Convention Center.

If a customer is searching for creative ideas on food-and-beverage presentations, Spectra can tap into a network of 300 to 400 industry contacts that offer suggestions that are bound to impress the client. “It takes experience to host an unforgettable event, and with all of our convention centers throughout North America, we feel we’re experts at bringing out the best in those that work with us,” said Garnett. The Spectra focus is on innovation, collaboration and engagement.

There are several trends emerging in the convention trade, said Garnett. Meeting planners are making their wants known. More of them are asking for complimentary meeting space. If a planner expects to spend a certain amount of money on food and beverage, audiovisual and other services, they often want the cost of the meeting space to be zero. Planners also want more unusual and creative settings. Some want greener meetings or more economical ones.

The needs for information technology are growing, too. Complimentary Wi-Fi is big. Many ask for it, said Garnett. “One day in the future, it is going to be an expectation to provide it, just like it’s an expectation to provide electricity and lights,” she said. Wi-Fi is gaining importance because meeting organizers do more live streaming. “But that can take a toll on your Wi-Fi system if it’s not state of the art. Sometimes hot spots can interfere with a building’s Wi-Fi system.”

As for technology, Spectra’s ties to its parent company, Comcast Spectacor, and its vast network means “we bring the latest and greatest technology and innovation to those venues,” said Garnett.

Spectra is always searching for new business and has implemented a national marketing plan. All of its convention centers share in it, said Garnett. The plan includes trade show participation, advertising, promoting venues and communication that includes e-newsletters, direct mail and email marketing to meeting planners. Perhaps most important, there is a shared database of planner information. Spectra staff members don’t just work off separate contact lists; they share them companywide — 20,000 or more of them. Data can be mined for best practices that assist clients.

Sharing clients within Spectra is another successful strategy. Garnett said that an event just held in St. Charles could possibly rotate to another city and venue in the future. “We try to put the event planners in touch with other venues we think will be appropriate for that planner,” she said.

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Dan Dickson

Dan has been a communicator all his professional life, first as an award-winning radio and TV news reporter for two decades and then as a communications director for several non-profits for another decade. He has contributed to The Group Travel Leader Inc. publications since 2007.