Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio March
Back to Basics
By Bob Cherny
GETTING EQUIPMENT IN AND OUT
How to site-inspect loading docks, service corridors and
other access points
A growing number of meetings these days require truckloads of
technical equipment: computers, printers, projectors, you name it.
The process of getting this machinery in and out of a facility
presents significant challenges, depending on the scope of the
event. Attention to access issues during the site inspection can
prevent last-minute surprises for you and your production
Equipment almost always comes in through a loading dock, so it is
important to determine how difficult it is to get to the dock. Can
a tractor trailer back straight in, or must it come in at an angle?
Can a tractor trailer get to the dock at all?
At some facilities, a long truck cannot back down a long and
winding road leading to the dock, and straight trucks must be used.
At other venues, even a long straight truck will not make the
corners, and shorter ones must be used. The additional labor needed
to off-load a tractor trailer onto smaller trucks for the final
quarter-mile to the venue can set a meeting over budget and behind
Once at the dock, is the truck able to stay without impeding
other deliveries? Is the dock shared with the banquet kitchen and
several Dumpsters? Is the dock area cluttered with storage that
will make maneuvering trucks difficult? Will the crew have to sit
idly and watch a truckload of equipment thread through a jungle of
golf carts and storage bins? Do the docks have levelers? Not all
trucks are the same height. Is there ground-level or drive-in
access? Docks should have direct access to the meeting room,
unobstructed by ramps or elevators. The closer the dock is to the
room, the less expensive the loading process will be.
Many newer hotels have excellent loading capabilities, but even
those routinely are stretched to capacity. A facility that
accommodates multiple events might have traffic problems in its
loading area even if it has several docks. It is up to the
dockmaster to allocate the space, but if you are sharing a building
with another event, dock space availability should be written into
Some facilities do not have docks reserved for the meeting rooms,
so it pays to walk the route your delivery people will have to
take. For instance, in some places, the way to the meeting room is
through the kitchen. Carrying equipment past the chef is hazardous
to both the technicians and the kitchen staff. Kitchen floors can
be wet and slippery. In this case, check whether the service
corridors are packed with stored kitchen equipment.
The large equipment carts preferred by production companies
often do not fit down the narrow aisles left in many banquet
kitchens or crowded service corridors. If a load-out occurs a
couple of hours after the end of a banquet, and the path to the
truck is through the kitchen, the process will be slowed as
technicians try to negotiate wet floors with rolling equipment
Freight elevators also can slow the setup or breakdown of a
meeting. Few things stop the process as surely as a locked elevator
when the operator is gone for the night. To make matters more
difficult, many elevators have load limits that are easily
exceeded. Does the equipment have to be balanced on the elevator?
Some elevators lock up under an unbalanced load. What if the only
lift access to the room is via a passenger elevator? Have you ever
tried to haul 4-by-8-foot riser tops up two flights of stairs?
If there are access issues, inform your production company.
Together, you can choose the equipment that best accommodates the
meeting's purpose and the limitations of the facility.Bob Cherny is operations manager for Paradise Sound and Light,
a production company in Orlando.
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