IAVM’s 32nd annual International Convention Center Conference will be held at the Omni Charlotte Hotel, October 3-5. This gathering of the convention industry’s best and brightest will deliver industry updates and trends, professional development through educational sessions and great networking opportunities throughout the conference.
We spoke with Johnna Boxley, CFE, and General Manager for the Spokane Convention Center about ICCC, the industry and the sessions she will be presenting during the conference.
What are you most looking forward to at this year’s conference?
The educational content at ICCC is always current and relevant, but what I look forward to most is catching up with industry peers and friends. Through ICCC I have developed a network of experienced, knowledgeable managers that I can call on for information, to get advice or just to share interesting stories about events in our buildings. Having such a great support system makes my job easier.
For your session, “Staying ahead of the Curves,” who will your panel include and what expertise does each of them bring to the table?
The panel for the ‘Staying ahead of the Curves’ session is a collection of industry leaders that includes Cathy Breden, COO of the International Association of Exhibits & Events; Deborah Sexton, President and CEO of the Professional Convention Management Assn.; Katie Callahan Giobbi, VP of Sales for Minding Your Business and our own Vicki Hawarden, President and CEO for IAVM. Together these women represent all the facets of the event industry – the planners, suppliers and venues.
Without giving away the entire session, what topics in general will the session touch on?
Bringing these organizations together is a first for ICCC. The end goal of each organization is the same – to produce flawless, successful events. That being said each Association has its own view points and perspectives. I predict a lively discussion on current trends as well as the future of the industry and challenges we all face on the horizon. Discussion leads to understanding which leads to better operations and service for the end guests. You won’t want to miss this session!
In your opinion how has the convention and meeting industry changed the most in the past decade?
The real question is what has NOT changed. We all know the reasons the changes occurred – the economy, increase in the number of venues, new technology etc. etc. If we didn’t change our business model we were left behind. Instead of offering space in a big box, we now provide an experience in a welcoming environment. Rate cards have been replaced with negotiations. Overheads are gathering dust as attendees tweet about the session in progress. Instead of answering phones we are knocking on doors to book business. When the building is dark we create events to bring in guests. We have become more entrepreneurial in our vision and actions. It’s been a challenging time, but also a very exciting time to work in our industry. I’ve enjoyed the journey.
How will sustainability impact the way convention centers operate in the future?
A few years ago sustainability was an added value but today planners expect it. We obtained LEED Silver Certification in 2007 and while it helped secure events, a pleasant surprise for us was how much our operational expenses decreased and continue to save us money each year. As more centers realize the value of sustainable practices it will become a norm. Not only is it the right thing to do for the environment, it builds business and saves money.
Are there particular meetings that you’ve hosted at your venue where the focus was on sustainability? How did you modify your operations to accommodate?
Since we implemented sustainable practices, we don’t really have to modify much to accommodate groups that focus on sustainability. In fact, we encourage planners to create green meetings by offering a discount to those that meet our sustainable standards.
What do you think will be the biggest challenge your own venue will face in the coming year?
On July 31st we broke ground on a 90,000 sq. ft. expansion project that will include additional exhibit space, a new ballroom and additional breakout space. Coordinating the construction schedule with our event schedule so as not to impact our guests will be a challenge, but the biggest challenge we face is filling up the new space. Competition for large events is still fierce so needless to say we are ramping up our marketing and sales efforts.
How do you think ICCC can impact how you will operate in your own venue once you return home?
In the big picture, the venue that I manage, the Spokane Convention Center, is on the cusp between being small and medium size. And even though my center is ‘small potatoes’, ICCC is my go-to conference for the latest news and trends in the industry. Over the years I have gotten so many great ideas I was able to actually use to make our operations more efficient and provide a “WOW” guest experience. As an example, we partnered with a local media group to create a Snow Show and traded space for a year’s worth of advertising that we used to build awareness of the Convention Center in the local market.
If you want to experience ICCC for yourself, catch up with Johnna, join her for her session, and network with the rest of IAVM’s amazing convention center members register today for the International Convention Center Conference.
International Convention Center
October 3-5, 2013
Charlotte, North Carolina