Working in the world of meetings and conventions where exciting things are always happening, I tend to take some things for granted. Perfect example was when I recently explained to an out of towner that all of the four groups I had just managed here in Orlando had chosen to have evening events at one of ‘the Big Three’.
“Huh?” was the reply from the puzzled friend.
“You know, Walt Disney World, Sea World, and Universal Orlando. Each client had a special event at one of them.”
“Wow! You can host private parties at those places?”
“Oh yes you can” was my guarded response while trying to explain – in simple, abbreviated terms – what it’s like to be able to plan and execute different special events at one or more of what most people know only as awesome tourist attractions.
So that’s what got me to thinking that there is a whole other side to Orlando that tourists and non-industry people don’t even know about which is the side that those of us involved in meetings, events, and conventions know better than our own neighborhoods. My Orlando is filled with hotel ballrooms that we set for meetings and quickly reset for meals, many times involving thousands of chairs, tables, along with the staff to make it all happen. My Orlando has tons of special venues that we turn into dream events full of unusual themed props and extraordinary food and beverage displays. In my Orlando I seek out private rooms in public restaurants that we convert into meeting space for presentations while attendees get wined and dined. A large part of what I see in Orlando is onstage and backstage areas that we regularly share with celebrities, speakers, and all kinds of entertainment. My view of Orlando also includes luxurious hotel suites we use to entertain VIPs or to launch sales initiatives. The list of exactly where meeting planners go to work and what we do each day is varied and endless. Quite frankly, to be an active participant in this career path means that everywhere you go there’s a bubble in your head saying, “wow, this would make a great spot to host….”
And backstage can get pretty interesting, too. This is what a typical backstage set looks like behind the scenes in order to accommodate multiple microphones and screens, standard audio/visual requirements, sound boards, mixers, video playbacks, confidence monitors, and all the rest. It takes a huge effort to coordinate all these electronics, and needless to say, if the client decides to skimp on necessary components in this area, well, the result is usually predictable. Ever been in a meeting when the mic didn’t work, videos didn’t play, and lights were either on or off but never controlled? Yea, that’s what happens. . .
This is a simple but typical backstage set of a green room used by the speakers to relax and do that final hair/makeup/lipstick check before show time, and yes, we usually have professional make up artists for the guys, too.
The above green room had – within 24 hours – one wildly popular A list movie star who kicked off this annual conference followed by a Wall Street guru who was then followed by a world renown author, animal activist and preservationist who moved in with crates of exotic animals, one of which contained an anaconda. That’s when I expeditiously removed myself from the green room. I have my limits.
Now, ever wonder where all that luggage is stored when you have 5000 attendees checking out of their rooms at the same time? We usually turn large ballrooms into luggage storage spaces on check out day so that sleeping rooms can be vacated – there’s always another group checking in – and guests could attend remaining conference sessions before heading out to the airport. Yes, it’s a whole lotta luggage!
I could go on about ‘My Orlando’ but will save more photos and stories for future blogs. However, I can’t resist this one final shot of what we frequently do when our convention guest count is top heavy with females. Yes, we have to change out the men’s rooms to accommodate more feminine bathroom space, and yes, I always try to convince the client of the importance of attempting to ‘make those urinals pretty.’ Don’t you agree they look much better this way?