Monday, February 7, 2011

Chicago: A More Affordable World Class Convention City!

Note:  Many thanks to Dawn Young, of the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau, for providing me with much of the information in this blog article

It is well documented in the events business that Chicago is perceived as a desirable first tier destination for convening meetings, conventions and conferences.  With a breathtaking skyline, stunning architecture, world class culture, outstanding restaurants and bars, and friendly Midwestern folks, why wouldn’t it be?  :)

McCormick Place South Building Entrance

The proverbial “thorn in the side” for most event professionals has, for many years, been Chicago’s reputation for being a difficult and expensive place to hold an event, due largely to “off the chart” union labor practices, and expense.

Arguably, the pain of doing business in Chicago was most consistently felt at McCormick Place.  In recent years, some legacy conventions, whom had met in Chicago for decades, began to consider (and in some cases select) alternative locations for their future events.

Thanks to legislation passed in 2010, by the Illinois General Assembly, changes of historic proportions, have been made, to the rules for doing business at McCormick Place, and it’s sister facility, Navy Pier!  For more information on the events leading to these changes, please click here.

A couple of weeks ago, in Experient’s downtown office, I participated in a “lunch n’ learn” seminar, led by the sales team at the  Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau.  From that presentation I was stunned by the depth of the changes made at McCormick (and Navy Pier).  I firmly believe Chicago, with its new labor rules, pricing and guidelines, will be able to compete, in the future, with just about any major convention destination.

McCormick Place — A Friendlier Place to Do Business!

So here is what has changed at these two facilities —

  • Standardized Straight Time, Overtime, and Double Time Labor Provisions
  • Expanded Exhibitor Rights including
    • No Square footage maximum for self-directed booth setup
    • Allowed usage of ladders, hand tools and cordless tools by exhibitors and show managers
    • Use of power tools to install all signs, graphics, props, balloons, other decorative items, and Show Manager or Exhibitor drapery – including table skirting!
    • Delivering, setting-up, plugging in, interconnecting and operating Show Manager or Exhibitor electrical equipment, computers, audio-visual devices and other equipment
  • Reduced Mandatory Crew Sizes
    • Official Service Contractor authorized to operate with 2 person crew
    • Official Service Contractor can increase crew size for safety reasons, efficiency, or customer request.
  • Relaxed Allowed Usage of Automobiles and Small Utility Vehicles
    • Allows for loading / unloading of vehicle by Exhibitors or Exhibitor Employees
    • Exhibitors May use manual dollies and push carts to transport booth items
    • No mechanized or hydraulic lifts, carts, or scooters
    • Exhibitor must provide minimum of 2 people
      • (1) individual must be with the vehicle at all times
      • (1) to transport materials to the booth
  • Relaxed Costs and labor requirements for Exhibitor and Technical Services

Image provided courtesy of Dawn Young with CCTB

  • Decreased Catered Food & Beverage Pricing
    • 10% across the board reduction — all menu items
    • More Significant Cuts
      • Coffee (per gallon) – now $36.50++
      • Soda (case and individual items) – now $2.00++
      • Bottled Water (case and individual items) – now $2.65++

Here is a brief video testimonial from an exhibitor at one of Chicago’s largest annual conventions, RSNA (Radiological Society of North America) It will really give you a good sense of the changes.

So, if you have not considered Chicago, and McCormick Place recently, for your Convention, or conference, you just might want to poke around a little, as you may be pleasantly surprised at what you find.

Question:  Have you done an event at Chicago’s McCormick Place recently?  What has your experience been like, with all the labor changes.  Please share with us!

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