Dane Graziano, senior vice president and COO of Show Management, was the man overseeing logistics at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. He explains here how show personnel dealt with some of the issues raised by Tropical Storm Sandy.
Q: What were some of the challenges presented by Sandy? We heard at least one tent was closed for a day.
A: Assuring that transportation would not be interrupted was one of the challenges we had to successfully manage. With the high waves and winds, sections of Fort Lauderdale beach were closed. We had to reroute some of the transportation to adapt to the road closures. One of the great things about the show is the water transportation, which was not affected at all.
Making the decision to close the show an hour early on Friday was another challenge. Winds and weather began getting worse, and we decided to close the show an hour early on Friday. Experience with other storms helped us evacuate the tents in an orderly fashion while coordinating with our transportation network to assure attendees were able to leave in an organized way. The new personal greeters assisted to direct attendees to our transportation systems, an essential part of the process.
Getting the water out of the tents and drying the carpet for the next day was a challenge we were ready to handle. Vacuum trucks were staged on site and blowers were in place to dry out the tents and carpet. Being proactive, not reactive, enabled us to be ready to handle the water. We were able to have the tents and carpets dried out for the next morning.
Q: I know some events were postponed or relocated, but how do you assess your response in solving these issues on the fly?
A: The safety and security of attendees, exhibitors and our staff is always priority No. 1. After closely monitoring the storm it was decided to move any wind-sensitive events a couple of days to the weekend when nicer weather was expected. The aerial flyover was moved to Sunday afternoon and the fireworks display was moved to Sunday evening. Both events went off beautifully, and we have received great reviews from attendees and exhibitors.
We worked with all exhibitors that had to reschedule parties and events and made sure they all still happened.
Q: Were there any changes made after Wilma in 2005 that may have paid dividends with Sandy’s winds?
A: We always monitor the weather forecasts. If anything, Wilma reinforced how important monitoring the weather is to be prepared for any situation. With Sandy, it was not the wind, but the rain. We staged equipment on site to pump out the water in the areas that needed it. We continually checked and monitored all the tents. We had personnel on site specifically to monitor the integrity of all the tents.
Q: What feedback did you get from exhibitors after the show?
A: Sandy affected various exhibitors differently. There are many exhibitors that reported one of their most successful shows in years. The word on the docks was that most boat sales took place on Thursday and Friday, the days when weather effects were felt the most. The inclement weather was also a great push for convention center activity. We are always amazed by the optimism of our attendees. In any other industry, people would not have come, but our boaters still came.
This article originally appeared in the December 2012 issue.