Back in April, despite uncertainty and ever-changing COVID-19 guidelines, it was still possible to host in-person events – even ones that achieve record revenue. Building Service Contractors Association International (BSCAI), an association that represents a worldwide network of companies that provide services to building owners and managers, successfully delivered their first in-person event since the start of the pandemic. Smithbucklin, in support of BSCAI, worked with Marriott International’s team to produce the multi-day conference at the Westin Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort. The record-breaking success of the event was achieved by working closely with our partners at the Westin, sharing clear communication with attendees, adherence to COVID-19 guidelines, and accommodating attendees’ various comfort levels with large gatherings.
As a naturally collegial community, BSCAI was eager to host their Executive Management Conference (EMC) in person if it could be done safely. The event brings together executive-level professionals and their senior teams from building service contracting companies to learn, strategize, interact, and explore new technologies for serving the industry. The EMC event marked the return of live events for not only BSCAI, but for higher-profile events in the janitorial/sanitation industry. This was also BSCAI’s first hybrid meeting, bringing together both an in-person and digital audience for education sessions.
A key to success was ensuring that COVID-19 guidelines were clearly communicated prior to the event. Advance communications detailed that all CDC and local regulations were being strictly adhered to in the planning of the event. Comprehensive “attendee expectations” were also sent to all registered attendees prior to the event to ensure that they were aware of processes and protocol to be followed at the event. The guidelines were reinforced on BSCAI’s website, mobile app, daily emails which included videos recorded by the emcee, and in signage at the event itself.
Attendee safety was the top priority of both Marriott and BSCAI during the event. Mask-wearing and daily temperature and health checks were mandatory for all attendees. The health check process was thorough – after attendees had their temperature taken, they received a green sticker on their badge indicating that they had been checked for the day. The sticker color varied among the three days in order for it to be clear that attendees had their temperature checked each day. Additionally, security was stationed outside of the meeting rooms to ensure that the attendees had the correct color sticker. The temperature check process went “extremely well,” according to Lisa Reich, the Westin’s Director of Meetings & Events.
Reich also noted that social distancing – specifically, splitting the attendees into two different groups – was a key factor in the success of the event. “We worked with the meeting planner to determine specific times when the groups would rotate and break, and had hotel staff guide the attendees as they were flowing through the space.” Having human direction, she said, “was essential.” The smaller group sizes allowed for staggered meal times and helped to reduce the number of attendees in general sessions and networking events. Social distancing was also implemented in the attendee seating arrangements, and large drapes were provided for exhibitor booths in addition to the exhibitors’ socially distanced floorplan.
From the use of a powerful electrostatic sprayer to making sure that hand sanitizer was available around every corner, the staff accounted for safety details both large and small. Other safety protocols included open-air food and beverage events, repeat presentations from speakers, audio/video overflow in pre-function space for general sessions, and the use of an emcee to bridge the in-person and digital audience and communicate safety protocols. Technology was a critical tool during the event – the BSCAI mobile app reduced the need for paper and provided real-time communications, and the BSCAI Online Attendee Portal allowed attendees to view programming in real-time and watch recorded content.
Marriott and BSCAI worked together to make sure all attendees felt safe regardless of their comfortability with in-person events. Although masks were no longer required by law, mask-wearing was required of all attendees. “We wanted all the attendees to feel comfortable, and we, as a hotel, wanted to still maintain the wearing of the masks,” Reich said. As an additional way to accommodate varying comfort levels, in-person attendees could choose to watch the programming from their hotel rooms if they were uncomfortable with in-person the same way virtual attendees could.
The event proved to be a success for both the attendees and organizers – BSCAI’s 2021 EMC achieved record revenue for the event. In-person event registration was 116% of budget and sales/sponsorship was 118% to budget. In-person registration sold-out and set a new benchmark for the meeting, representing a 55% increase from the 2019 edition of the meeting. The post-event survey showed that 95% of attendees rated their experience as “good” or “excellent,” and gave the event a 67 Net Promoter Score which is considered “excellent” for the industry. The event received countless glowing reviews from attendees and organizers alike, with BSCAI Executive Director Chris Mundschenk, CAE, noting, “Our staff, program planners, vendors, speakers, and venue partners truly went above and beyond to make sure we could execute this meeting safely, and accommodate attendee comfort levels no matter where they stood on that spectrum.”
Although navigating in-person events during a pandemic may be daunting, steps were taken to produce a safe event. BSCAI was able to successfully deliver one of their most important events during the pandemic with great support from Marriott International and the team at the Westin Ft. Lauderdale Beach Resort.
Photo credit: BSCAI