As the pro AV industry begins to focus on InfoComm 2021 — which will take place in person Oct. 23-29 in Orlando, FL—we sat down with Rochelle Richardson, senior vice president of exhibition and event services at AVIXA, to discuss the planned health and safety precautions that the organization has put in place for the show.
Editor’s note: U.S. health agencies and regulatory bodies are rapidly updating rules and regulations regarding COVID-19 precautions in public spaces. This article presents AVIXA’s health and safety plans as they stand in late May; policies may evolve in line with national and state guidelines before the show begins in October. For the most up-to-date health and safety updates, visit https://infocommshow.org/health-safety.
SCN: Do you plan on observing current CDC recommendations such as masks and social distancing during InfoComm?
ROCHELLE RICHARDSON: As we bring the community back together in October, we understand that the health and safety of all in attendance is top of mind. As excited as we all are, masks, social distancing, and smart protocols still play a significant role in keeping our attendees, exhibitors, partners, and staff safe.
We have all seen that while the vaccines rollout continues, health and safety guidelines are continuing to change and, in some areas, relax. We will continue to monitor recommendations from local health authorities, the World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for large group meetings and events. In compliance with the health and safety recommendations, we will provide ongoing updates about maximum occupancy levels, requirements for PPE and mask wearing, social distancing rules, cleaning protocols and additional important information.
The current regulations in effect at the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) are the same as will be followed by the InfoComm show, which at this time require face masks to be worn, encourage social distancing throughout the convention center, and limit seating to 50 percent capacity in all meeting rooms to allow space between attendees.
Inside the exhibit hall, exhibitors will be responsible for implementing and monitoring appropriate health and safety guidelines, as provided by InfoComm show management, within their exhibition space. InfoComm show management will be enforcing separate entrance and egress access points, and controlled occupancy of public spaces and education and meeting rooms. Show management will also increase the amount of health and safety event signage for easy engagement and understanding.
We are working diligently through many details with the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) in light of the recent announcement by the governor of Florida with regard to reducing COVID-19 restrictions. Because we anticipate continuing updates regarding COVID-19 precautions until the show in October, we will provide regular updates in the Health & Safety section of the InfoComm show’s website.
SCN: Are there any special cleaning protocols InfoComm will take to sanitize the show floor, bathrooms, etc.?
RR: Just as PPE and social distancing are top of mind, so are the most up-to-date and stringent cleaning protocols and policies. The Orange County Convention Center is a Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC) STAR-accredited venue, recognized as the gold standard of safe venues, and is one of the largest venues in the nation with the GBAC certification.
The OCCC has adopted a three-pronged strategy prioritizing health and safety, including the implementation of the OCCC Recovery and Resiliency Guidelines. These guidelines provide a framework to prevent risk and protect clients, guests, and attendees, maintaining a thorough cleaning, disinfection, and infectious disease prevention program compliant with GBAC standards. The OCCC is also offering a Medical Concierge Program with Orlando Health and Visit Orlando for conventions and trade shows.
The OCCC has increased the number of hand sanitization sites available on the campus and the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting of public spaces, bathrooms, and commonly touched surfaces—including hand railings and door handles. Additionally, the OCCC has enhanced its on-site communications and increased signage with CDC recommendations on the campus.
As part of the InfoComm 2021 show, AVIXA is investing in the recommended GBAC cleaning of the InfoComm exhibit halls and education and meeting rooms each night and the cleaning of high-traffic areas throughout the day.
InfoComm vendors including Freeman (general services contractor), CompuSystems (registration), Production Transport (shuttle transportation), and OnPeak (housing) have enhanced health and safety protocols that are compliant with CDC and WHO directives.
The shuttles used to transport attendees during InfoComm will run at 50 percent capacity for social distancing and go through an extreme cleaning process using sprayers with hospital-grade disinfectant from floor to ceiling, with all surfaces being wiped down.
SCN: What dining options will be available in the convention center? At previous shows, it’s been difficult to find seating. Will this be an even greater challenge with distancing protocols in place?
RR: As in previous years, there are three food courts in the West Concourse with multiple menu options, 25 permanent retail locations, and seated services in the Gary Sain Café. This year, to accommodate social distancing protocols, we will have expanded food and beverage areas on the show floor and are working with the official food and beverage provider, Centerplate, to expand seating in all lobbies and common areas.
SCN: Has the layout of the show changed as a result of the pandemic?
RR: As in years past, InfoComm will be held in the West Building of the Orange County Convention Center within Exhibit Halls A–D, and other parts of the program will be hosted throughout Levels 1–4. As a result of the pandemic, the most significant changes are in the layout of the exhibit hall, which now includes wider aisles, dedicated entrance and exit doors, additional space in the exhibitor on-floor meeting rooms, and increased food and beverage areas to allow for social distancing.
We have also added two lounges in the exhibit hall to provide our attendees with additional networking locations at this year’s show.
We’ve made two other changes in light of the need for social distancing among attendees. We’ve decided not to hold the opening reception—which typically takes place the Tuesday evening prior to the opening of the show—and we’re moving the ribbon cutting on Wednesday to the C-Lobby at the OCCC to take advantage of the larger space.
SCN: Has AVIXA consulted with the area hotels on their COVID protocols?
RR: We work closely with Visit Orlando and OnPeak, the official housing partner for InfoComm, to provide an extensive hotel package offering, with 39 hotels in the Orlando area.
Each hotel brand has established its own COVID-19 cleanliness and safety protocols and we encourage everyone coming to InfoComm 2021 to visit the website of the hotel where you are planning to stay for information specific to that property, which you can find at onpeak.com/covid-19.
InfoComm attendees will have the opportunity to select the best available preferred hotel and easily take advantage of reserving the lowest rates over the show dates.
SCN: What can visitors expect to find in Orlando? If public places continue to have reduced capacity, will it be difficult to, say, find a place to eat?
RR: The Convention Center District is in the heart of Orlando, where you’ll find an abundance of dining, shopping, entertainment, and lodging options. We recommend checking with venues in advance regarding their availability and protocols. If possible, make dining reservations and purchase tickets for events/attractions in advance of your trip to Orlando.
SCN: How important do you think it is to have an in-person InfoComm this year?
RR: It is very important and necessary for many professionals in our industry who rely on InfoComm to be held in person. With the cancellation of the InfoComm 2020 in-person show and the cancellation or postponement of other industry events, many in the pro AV industry are ready and looking forward to coming together for InfoComm 2021 in October.
SCN: What can attendees expect to find at this year’s event?
RR: This year’s show will combine a physical experience with a virtual offering to connect attendees and exhibitors to discover, learn, and network using content and experience areas to engage, align, and support the industry. Our focus will be on integrated solutions in the AV industry including conferencing and collaboration, content distribution and media, digital signage, and learning—appealing to attendees across different verticals.
We continue to offer a comprehensive education program and the opportunity to learn from experts during Emerging Trends Day, more than 60 education sessions, and Manufacturers’ Training sessions. The new Technology Innovation Stage will feature presentations from thought leaders, exhibitor-sponsored presentations, and Tech Briefs on product trends.
Additionally, in collaboration with the Digital Signage Federation (DSF), we will offer the D=SIGN conference as two half-day programs starting the afternoon of Tuesday, Oct. 26, and concluding the next morning.
We are also introducing an appointment scheduling feature for attendees to request more purposeful and focused meetings with exhibitors to help mitigate booth overcrowding, plus smaller networking events so our community can still gather safely.
SCN: Will InfoComm have a virtual presence this year for those who are unable or unwilling to travel?
RR: Although we are excited about the return to in-person events, we understand there may be some individuals who are not able to attend this year’s show in person, and we are taking an approach that ensures everyone in the pro AV community is included. We will offer a virtual experience that will include livestreamed content from the Technology Innovation Stage, access to exhibitor information and resources, access to the content from InfoComm on-demand through Nov. 30, and registration for the InfoComm 2021 Post-Show Virtual Experience.
As we venture into the months leading up to InfoComm 2021, there are multiple ways for our community to engage, such as AV³ a one-day virtual event scheduled for June 17 where we will showcase new technology for the pro AV industry, learn from expert speakers, and gather the community together online. And in the coming days we will announce details about a one-day virtual preview event for InfoComm in the fall.
And finally, the InfoComm 2021 Post-Show Virtual Experience will take place Nov. 9–10. IC21 in-person and virtual attendees will have the opportunity to attend exhibitors’ interactive demos and schedule one-on-one meetings with exhibitors.
SCN: Anything else you’d like to share?
RR: We are elated to be able to come back in person! The InfoComm team has relied on the research conducted by Freeman Events Research team on the impact of COVID-19 on event attendance; Freeman’s latest research indicates that 80 percent of InfoComm attendees have or plan to get vaccinated, and 76 percent plan to return to in-person events by the fall.
We are optimistic about the future and the return to in-person events, and we look forward to seeing everyone at InfoComm Oct. 23-29 in Orlando.