Presented with a new reality, the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) developed a plan to enhance the entire attendee experience with safety in mind. Focused on creating a controlled environment, the OCCC implemented its Recovery and Resiliency Plans in July, by successfully hosting the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) Junior National Volleyball Championships and the Together Again Expo.
Representing the return of major events to The Center of Hospitality, OCCC planners thoroughly examined each guest touchpoint to deliver a safe, healthy and enjoyable experience.
Preparations for each event began long before participants arrived at the OCCC. Following an enhanced communications strategy, the OCCC and show organizers openly discussed new plans, policies and procedures to help guide and educate attendees ahead of time.
The implementation of a controlled check-in process played an important role in creating a safe and secure event experience. By funneling attendees through restricted access points, the OCCC managed attendee flow, avoided congestion and administered essential health screenings in the form of temperature checks and surveys.
Considering all touchpoints, planners also designed a new touchless registration process, with a focus on self-service and pre-determined arrival times. For instance, Together Again Expo attendees confirmed their attendance via QR code. Similarly, AAU Volleyball participants arrived at pre-determined times, and were admitted entrance as a team via a single one-way entrance.
Arriving in waves, teams entered the OCCC via a one-way entry point following a successful health screening process during the AAU Junior National Volleyball Championships.
Offering a Safe and Enjoyable Event Experience
Returning for 19 years, the AAU Volleyball Tournament has developed a rhythm for success at the OCCC. No stranger to crowds, the OCCC typically hosts more than 100,000 participants, chaperones and coaches as they gather to compete annually at this event.
With the current climate posing new challenges, this year’s event featured reduced teams and courts, increased distancing between sets, and decreased capacity due to a no spectator rule. Additionally, AAU planners limited the number of ancillary events and cancelled its traditional opening ceremony to avoid congregation points and crowding.
Similarly, with a reputation for hosting world-renowned trade shows for nearly forty years, the Together Again Expo challenged convention center planners, paving the way for the OCCC to guide the industry by implementing plans for hosting events in a post-COVID world.
With ample space at its disposal, the OCCC had plenty of room for physical distancing. Considering attendees, exhibitors and employees, planners designed a floor plan featuring wider aisles, revised physically distanced seating plans, and strategic positioning of furnishings to avoid congregations of people and enhance distancing measures.
Following a countywide mask mandate, all attendees, participants and employees at each event were required to wear a face covering while inside the OCCC, with the exception being that AAU volleyball players could remove their masks on the court while competing.
In partnership with Orlando Health and Visit Orlando, the OCCC also offered its unique medical concierge service to clients. This first-of-its-kind program provides a safer environment for guests by offering a vast network of healthcare services and expertise, to further safeguard attendees and instill confidence.
The Together Again Expo General Session area featured physically distanced seating and one-way aisles.
As a Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC) STAR accredited venue, the OCCC implemented a series of rigorous sanitation protocols throughout the duration of the events. Following a comprehensive sanitation schedule, staff thoroughly disinfected the venue each evening, and introduced numerous enhanced cleaning measures for each event.
Conscious of the concerns and risks associated with physical sports, the OCCC made an extended effort to protect and sanitize its venue between each set at the AAU volleyball tournament, including the sanitation of balls, mats and scoreboards.
At the Together Again Expo, additional sanitation procedures implemented throughout the move-in, move-out and event process including the sanitation of all furniture and seating areas, expo hall disinfection, and enhanced cleaning of frequently touched surfaces.
OCCC employees disinfected the Expo Hall and General Session Area throughout the duration of the Together Again Expo with electrostatic foggers.
With no illnesses or cases reported following each event, the measures taken by the OCCC and show organizers prove to be successful and are a testament to hosting live events under our new normal. Offering a blueprint to navigating conventions, trade shows and events, the OCCC has lead the way for the industry, displaying the necessary tools, strategies and methods to allow us to meet safely today for a stronger tomorrow.