Event Managers: Our Convention Center's Superheroes

Each week, the San Diego Convention Center builds a small city. As our President and CEO Rip Rippetoe likes to say, "It's the most important week in the life of our customer. Meeting planners work all year to prepare for their conventions."

With more than 60 citywide conventions being held in 2017, there are definitely a lot of "small cities" under construction. For example, the American Association of Clinical Chemistry had over 20,000 attendees this August. That's nearly the entire population of Coronado.

It takes a team of experienced event managers to collaborate with our customers and organize 615,701 square feet of useable exhibit space, food and beverage, audio/visual, telecomm connectivity and more. Here at the San Diego Convention Center our very own superhero team - the event services department - makes each event a success.

"It takes a lot of work to train somebody to do this," said Tim Pontrelli, Senior Event Manager. "It’s about planning, being solutions driven, thinking outside the box, and thinking of any situation that could happen. It’s not a black and white job."

Meetings and conventions can range from a few hours to a few days and from one meeting room to a full facility. Each event is important and run by a member of our event services team.

There are three levels of event services members: event coordinator, event manager and senior event manager. Director of Event Services DeeAnne Snyder, CMP, brings more than 24 years of experience as the head of the team. Each team member takes pride in their position and their clients. Together, the event managers have more than 160 years of experience combined, and are supported by multiple department assistants and a CAD specialist.

With more than 70 percent of events being repeat business, the San Diego Convention Center's staff maintains relationships with the customers who come into our facility.

Long-time friendships have formed between event services members and repeat customers. In the conventions and meetings industry, many events are on a rotation, returning to San Diego every four to six years. Our event managers try to work with the same groups as often as they can to maintain familiarity.

"I remember working with a meeting planner who unfortunately couldn't come to a site visit in July because she was pregnant and her doctor said she couldn't fly," said Senior Event Manager Jeff Pinkley. "I still check in on her and we discuss life outside of the event. Since then, the baby was born and she'll have her event this October."

Pinkley says he has peers around the country who work in the industry and his job has led to life-long friendships outside of the workplace. Having positive relationships is a large reason the San Diego Convention Center is a leader in the industry.

The most recognizable reoccurring client that we host is Comic-Con International. Pontrelli has been the event manager for 31 Comic-Con's, even before the event called our convention center home. With 130,000 attendees, this event requires "all hands on deck" in order for the event to run smoothly.

"We can lean on each other when we come across an issue or a challenge," Event Manager Daren Smylie said. "With all of our experience with various events under our belt, we each have a library of possible solutions."

There are a few unwritten rules all team members can agree on:

  • We are in the business to succeed; we look for solutions.
  • Thinking on your toes is important; an event's needs can change suddenly.
  • As a customer-centric facility, team members want events to succeed just as much as the meeting planners.
  • Communicate and update your team as often and as quickly as you can for smooth transitions.

With successful events comes long hours. When an event is in full gear, event services team members can work up to 12-hour shifts. The team has not only excelled in focusing on clients' needs, but will go above and beyond to make sure the attendees have a wonderful experience.

With events being booked as far out as 2035, the planning phase of each show is the most important. A lot of the work for an upcoming event is done at site visits, which often begin about a year and a half before the show. The meeting planners gather with their event manager and a lot of the general details of the event are ironed out. This helps everyone involved anticipate issues and address any concerns.

Supporting the entire team of event managers is our Director of Event Services DeeAnne Snyder.

"Exceeding expectations is the everyday philosophy of the San Diego Convention Center’s Event Services Team," she said. "Our message to our customers is, 'If you’re a success, then we are a success,' and it stands true to our core values as a center. Partnering with our customers is key, from national associations and corporate groups, to local meetings. They are all equally as important from a one-room meeting to a full-facility for 30,000 people."

Attendees come and go through the facility enjoying their off time throughout our city. Event services team members make sure they leave happy. As soon as one event ends, we're already preparing for the next one, and our event managers all agree that each event is unique and different from the next.

"The meeting planners have chosen the San Diego Convention Center as their home for the most important week in the year for them," said Snyder. "Our Event Managers realize that every detail is critical and every request is respected."


This story was written by Communications Intern Stephanie Mira, with contributions from Communications Content Specialist Alec Church.

Alec Church's picture
Posted by Alec Church, on October 11, 2017
Events, Meeting Planners

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