When 19,000 attendees descended on Orlando this week for SAPPHIRE NOW and the ASUG Annual Conference — hosted by SAP and ASUG (America’s SAP Users’ Group) and billed as the largest global business technology event — they weren’t dreading long registration and check-in lines at the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC).
Instead, they had been encouraged to pick up their badges at registration counters strategically placed in the baggage claim areas of Terminals A and B at Orlando International Airport. Conference staff were on hand at the airport during the first two days of the event — when the airport registration was open — to help direct conference attendees, who were able to not only skip the lines at the convention center, but make productive use of the wait time at the baggage carousel.
It’s just one of the smart behind-the-scenes initiatives that Keegan Hooks, senior director, SAPPHIRE NOW, SAP events business management office, shared with me and a group of corporate and association meeting professionals who took part in a PCMA Roadshow this week, sponsored by Visit Orlando and the Orange County Convention Center. (Look for more on SAPPHIRE NOW’s innovative initiatives in an upcoming issue of Convene.)
SAPPHIRE NOW has offered the airport check-in option for several years now, and Kelley Butler, director of meetings and events at McDonald’s Corporation — who was among the PCMA Roadshow participants — said that she “totally stole” the “genius” idea for McDonald’s 15,000-attendee Worldwide Conference, held last month in Orlando.
It’s the kind of unexpected option that makes me think that “outside-the-box thinking” should have been ranked higher as a valuable event-manager skill identified by the 150 meeting professionals who participated in a recent Genioso Event Magazine survey. (It ranked 1oth; organizational skills were at the top.) Maybe outside-the-box thinking is really a matter of getting out of your own head and putting yourself in your attendees’ shoes to make sure that they feel that their entire on-site experience — from the moment they step foot in the host city airport — has been designed around them.