The Georgia World Congress CenterBy Jeff Cross | October 7, 2020 << Back to Articles
I’ve never had to think twice about my health if I wanted to attend an event. COVID-19 has certainly put a damper on that. I miss going to concerts, the energy at a sporting event, and the socialization and information available at conventions. When will we be able to do this again? And will it be safe? Those questions and concerns might be on your mind.
The professionals at the Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC), the largest Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold-certified convention center in the world, are hard at work on these questions and issues.
The Georgia World Congress Center
GWCC opened its doors in 1976 as one of the nation’s premier convention facilities. Since its opening, the facility has had several expansions in 1985, 1992, and 2002 to meet the needs of growing conventions and special events.
With more than 4 million square feet of total space, GWCC features 1.5 million square feet of flexible exhibition space, including 12 exhibition halls, 98 meeting rooms, two ballrooms, three fixed-seat auditoriums, and several beautifully landscaped outdoor plazas. GWCC’s impressive new 100,000 square foot Exhibit Hall BC, which opened in January, connects Buildings B and C of the Congress Center, creating more than 1 million square feet of contiguous exhibition space.
Located in the heart of downtown Atlanta, GWCC is part of a 220+ acre package of facilities known as Championship Campus. Unrivaled in North America, the campus also features Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Centennial Olympic Park, The Home Depot Backyard, and soon, Signia by Hilton, the convention center’s headquarter hotel.
Those leading the way in preparing the GWCC (and the entire campus) for the return of guests and events include executive director Frank Poe, chief administrative officer Jennifer LeMaster, chief commercial officer Joe Bocherer, and chief operating officer Kevin Duvall. What resources will they use to achieve this goal?
It takes a team
“Our team members are at the center of everything we do–without them, we couldn’t deliver on our brand service promise to create compelling guest experiences,” says Frank Poe. “This promise has led to industry-leading customer satisfaction scores. We consider our team members to be internal customers and we work very hard to create a culture that supports their needs from the day they are hired until the day they retire.”
Employment highlights include a reimagined new-hire orientation experience, ongoing training and learning and development opportunities, key industry partnerships to deliver certifications, internal governance committees dedicated to initiatives and activities important to team members, and strategic collaborations with some of the state’s leading colleges and universities designed to enhance business performance and elevate culture.
Adjustments and planning
While it is too early to speculate when things will return to normal, this pandemic has shown us that the desire to meet in person still remains strong, but changes and adjustments must be made. Technology will have a bigger presence and we will most likely see permanent changes to personal protocol and health and safety standards.
“With this in mind,” explains Poe, “we have created a comprehensive Business Return Plan (BRP) featuring 11 support functions ranging from crowd density and enhanced cleaning to touchless services and team member education and training to ensure GWCC (and our entire campus) is ready to welcome guests back and host events.”
Benefits of an ISSA membership
“Being a member of ISSA has been invaluable to GWCC, especially during these uncertain times,” claims Poe. “I’ve been honored to be part of a passionate, dedicated group of professionals with like-minded goals of establishing frameworks and best practices for the benefit of the industry. If not for these connections, we wouldn’t be poised, as an industry, for our successful return.”
GWCC was the first convention center in the country to achieve GBAC STAR accreditation from the Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC), a division of ISSA, setting the standard by which other public assembly venues will be judged. “It also has given us the opportunity to collaborate with our peers to help them achieve certification, which is a good thing for the industry as a whole,” says Poe. This accreditation affirms their commitment to systematic cleaning, disinfection, and infectious disease prevention measures.
A third-party accreditation will not only instill confidence in attendees and exhibitors that their health and safety are paramount, but it will serve as a benchmark well into the future and be an important factor in determining which venues (and cities) will host events. Poe continues, “The world’s view of cleaning and what that means has changed forever and we must demonstrate we have the right systems in place to deliver clean and healthy environments that are safe for business.”
GWCC continues to be one of the nation’s premier destinations for conventions, trade shows, film production, and much more. “Currently, we have shows scheduled during the last quarter of 2020,” claims Poe. “In late January, we will be hosting the International Production & Processing Expo (IPPE), one of our largest and longest-running annual shows. We have been working closely with show organizers on everything including exhibit floor layouts, food service options, attendee traffic patterns, and overall show and building safety and sanitation protocols to ensure they are equipped with the information needed to communicate to attendees and exhibitors.”
ISSA supplies a wide variety of resources, events, and certifications as well as provides its members, including GWCC, with the highest quality industry information in order to be successful. “Take advantage of it as often as you can,” Poe advises. “The live events industry plays such a vital role in the recovery of our nation’s economy. Gaining consumer confidence in our facilities is key. My wish is that we continue to share information and best practices, seek and maintain GBAC STAR accreditation, and expose the next generation of leaders to ISSA’s resources and tools so that we can recover and get back to doing what we do best—hosting live events.”
About the Author.
Jeff Cross is the ISSA Media Director. He can be reached at [email protected].