Talking Convention Center Trends With Bob McClintock, Executive Vice President of Convention Centers, ASM Global
As meetings and conferences continue their steady return to face-to-face, convention centers are happily welcoming back event participants. However, for the events industry and the myriad venues that support it, the post-pandemic era hasn’t turned out to be synonymous with a return to business as usual. Attendee priorities have changed, and it’s not just event organizers who are having to work harder than ever to lure audiences back to their events, venues are also having to adapt, working harder and faster to meet ever-changing needs in order to fill their exhibit halls and meeting rooms.
To get a handle on the latest and biggest trends impacting the convention venue landscape, Corporate Event News turned to an expert: Bob McClintock, executive vice president of convention centers for ASM Global. Read on to get his take on the trends the leading venue management company and live experience producer is experiencing right now and how it is stepping up to meet those needs at its more than 300 venues across the globe.
What are the biggest trends you’re seeing in the convention facilities landscape right now?
Meetings, conventions and exhibitions are back, and our venues have adapted as today’s planners and organizers are tasked with making their events more engaging and dynamic than ever. Attendees value networking over almost any other aspect. In response, our venues are providing creative spaces, unique room designs and custom food options to provide a personalized event agenda. Data reveals 35% of the workforce is millennials, compelling our venues and event organizers to create more purposeful experiences. Today’s generation of meeting attendees do not want to be ushered into a ballroom to sit and listen.
Trends include fresh event concepts and meetings with meaning, innovation and insight, with an emphasis on the customer journey from pre-arrival through time spent in the destination. Attendees are making their decisions to attend based on the destination and incorporating vacation time, while attendees and exhibitors are making decisions to attend events in a much shorter time frame. Although this poses challenges for venues to fulfill last-minute requests, the upside is that more attendees are coming to our venues.
What are some of the most important sustainability trends you’re seeing at convention venues, and what are some of the most innovative ways that ASM Global is leading the charge?
Efforts toward the elimination of single-use plastics (straws, bottles, etc.) is at the forefront for our clients and event organizers. Many venues are moving from water stations to permanent bottle refill stations and utilizing recycled boxes instead of plastic for water.
Facilities continue to work with their partners and customers to increase the diversion rates, so landfills do not become filled with unnecessary trash. More buildings are adopting or planning green roofs to be more sustainable. Some of this space is being reclaimed for urban gardens that produce locally sourced fruits and vegetables for catered events.
Our clients and event organizers expect sustainability to be a top priority in our venues. ASM Global has partnered with Honeycomb Strategies, a sustainability consultant that works with some of the most iconic organizations, events, venues and destinations, to assist with venue assessments and develop a roadmap for achieving their sustainability goals.
ASM Global is proud to have more than 40 certified green venues. Additionally, 42 of our convention centers have achieved Platinum, Gold or Silver LEED status. For example, the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh has achieved its LEED Platinum certification.
We realize corporate responsibility is good business, and ASM Global’s bold corporate social responsibility platform, ASM Global Acts, powerfully elevates our commitment to invest in people, protect the environment and strengthen communities around the globe.
Additionally, the ASM Global Acts Foundation supports philanthropic and community-based endeavors guided by its sustainability and diversity foundation. The ASM Global Acts Scholarship focuses on serving diverse and under-resourced communities with educational and career development opportunities.
What are some of the biggest changes you’re seeing with convention centers as the industry moves out of the pandemic?
The expectations of event attendees have evolved in terms of technology, and we are committed to elevating the customer experience. ASM Global has added 5G to most of its venues. For example, the Puerto Rico Convention Center offers unparcelled connectivity on 5G architecture, providing a seamless experience throughout the duration of the event.
ASM Global has a strategic partnership with Qualtrics, the leader in experience management (XM) platforms, to launch ASM Global Insights, which is designed to capture in-the-moment attendee feedback that helps venues and organizers deliver exactly what the attendees wants. The tool tracks data points across the customer journey, informing leadership to improve the overall guest experience.
How is ASM Global keeping health and safety still top-of-mind?
As we move away from the more restrictive COVID protocols put in place at the start of the pandemic, we still see customers expecting enhanced levels of sanitation, even if social distancing and masking requirements have been relaxed.
ASM Global enlisted top health experts from around the world to guide the company in formulating an effective program to safeguard attendees, staff and exhibitors. This critical endeavor culminated in the development of ASM Global’s industry-leading and acclaimed VenueShield program, which was launched in April 2020, only one month into the pandemic. Since then, we have continued to keep our focus on providing groups with the highest confidence to produce positive experiences throughout the ASM Global venue network.
In addition to VenueShield, many of our venues have earned GBAC STAR facility accreditation. We are committed to working with our venue owners and to meticulously follow local requirements for keeping communities safe in the destinations we serve.
Have your venues been experiencing any lingering staffing issues and if so, how are you helping to address any shortfalls?
Yes! Adjusting wages to keep up with the current market is critical to retain and attract talent. ASM Global held a successful virtual global job fair to provide opportunities to individuals across our portfolio of venues. In the short term, we will continue to collaborate with vendors, partners and other parties to find talent and implement cross training to increase productivity. We share resources and talent among our venues and have successfully looked outside the industry to attract new candidates to venue management. It is expected that as the pandemic recedes and supply chains become more reliable, manpower will follow suit. To retain and train talent, we launched the ASM Global Academy, which features 1,800 multi-lingual courses to upskill team members and reimagine the guest experience
How is your company raising the bar when it comes to DEI at convention centers?
ASM Global is raising the bar with DEI efforts by focusing on the best ways to attract a more diverse candidate pool when sourcing candidates for roles at all levels within the company. We are creating fair access to opportunities and advancement by recognizing and minimizing the barriers some face in the workplace. Our workforce is continually expanding, and we are committed to identifying key talent to fill our open positions and to create opportunities for team members to feel a genuine sense of belonging and value within ASM Global.
We also drive inclusion practices through our onboarding and training programs, open communication policy, recognition and multicultural celebrations, and company-wide education that is dedicated to unconscious bias, workplace safety, mental health and other related topics.
How is ASM Global designing convention centers of the future?
The convention center of the future will embrace technology to enhance the customer experience. Ideas that once seemed futuristic like walking into a concession area, picking up your items and having the bill sent right to your credit card are not far from becoming a reality. The opportunities are endless, and ASM Global wants to leverage what we are learning from around the world to improve the customer experience for organizers, exhibitors and attendees.
With an unmatched commitment to innovation, we have partnered with companies that will elevate every aspect of service delivery at the venue level for our customers, stakeholders, and owners. Partnerships with DoorDash, Clorox, Honeywell, mobilitie, Anthony James Partners and Qualtrics reinforce our dedication.