Note from Melvin: The holiday season provides us with opportunities to reflect on things for which we are thankful in our personal and professional lives. For many of us who make our living in the travel and tourism industry, we look to the many unsung heroes who make their living in our industry without recognition or fanfare. Yet their roles are vital to our ability to be successful. One such unsung hero is Marcus Travis of the Minneapolis Convention Center. Marcus serves as the Manager of Guest Services and Security Operations. Please take a look at this quick overview of how Marcus and his team serve MCC guests. Thank you for your support of our industry.
Minneapolis Convention Center Safety and Security
Marcus Travis, Manager of Guest Services and Security Operations, has been with the MCC for more than 17 years. In that time, he has overseen major events ranging from the 2018 Super Bowl Experience and presidential visits to rock star performances and luminaries like the Dalai Lama—all in a building that is more public-facing than most. Below, Marcus explains how the MCC is keeping safety and security top of mind.
Safety and security are always top concerns, both for event planners and venue operators. What has the MCC undertaken recently regarding safety and security?
One of the newer developments is that we relocated our Command Center to the ground level. It’s now more forward-facing as far as being connected with where guests walk through our north corridor. We are now more accessible and visible for our guests and can better help with creating a safe environment for events.
What sort of technology upgrades are a part of the new Command Center and how are they helping the team serve its guests and clients?
I feel like technology is always evolving, especially in safety and security. We have upgraded our camera surveillance system and technology. We also have access to different networks throughout the city. We’re connected to over 60 different buildings through the [Downtown Improvement District] communications center which provides us with access to their cameras. But what good is technology if you don't have smart people that are passionate about servicing the community in the Convention Center? So, we work on homeland security training, suspicious activity training, customer service, and de-escalation, because it’s about connecting with people and meeting them where they’re at.
The MCC is unique from other convention center in that it’s skyway connected and it’s generally open to the public from multiple entrances. What challenges does that bring from a security standpoint?
For most convention centers, their design and concept are to be open and accessible and we’re no different in that space. But one of the challenges we have is monitoring access because there are all these different access points. It’s more ground to cover to interact with people coming from different areas. It’s about staying connected. The best security that we have is folks saying, ‘Hello, how are you?’ and acknowledging people as they come through and then making pivots and adjustments where we need to. We’re a building about making relationships, making connections, and fostering partnerships and new business. The most important thing we can do that helps with our security and response is acknowledging and saying hello to people and making that contact that we’re here to help them and to be ambassadors for the city.
How do you balance maintaining a high level of safety and security while also providing a welcoming atmosphere for guests?
It’s making that human connection and not creating a threatening environment. It’s no different than when people go to a restaurant or a movie theater. They want to feel safe; they want to feel welcome. That’s where our service partnership with our security provider comes in. Being accessible, present, and engaged with people is the balance that we need to have. Each event is going to be unique, so we’re always doing something different. It’s about being flexible and tailoring the needs to that event.
What sort of training does your staff receive?
We’re often training our staff to help give them the tools to be successful. We focus our training on crowd management, fire code, suspicious activity, emergency response and other areas. Our staff also does tabletop exercises on topics such as building evacuation, severe weather warning, or active shooter. No event is risk-free. The best thing we can do is to train folks so that when incidents happen, we can respond to ensure people leave here safely.
What do you love the most about being a part of the Command Center?
What I love the most are the relationships. Getting to know the team and helping them be successful. As a leader, my job is to help our team be successful, giving them the tools and resources. I also enjoy playing a small part in the success of an event. The Command Center is the hub of everything – it’s a point of contact for clients, attendees, exhibitors and guests. I'm really proud of that. We saw that when we partnered with the state for the COVID vaccine and testing clinic. We got a chance to play an important role in the community. Our team was so critical to that from the standpoint of talking with guests and educating them on the questions that they had.
What are your feelings on the full return of events to the MCC?
I'm excited to bring events back because we need that energy back in our city. Our employees are excited for that because they want new challenges, they want to use their critical thinking, to interact with these guests and to help create a safe experience. We’re really looking forward to bringing that business back here so we can get other aspects of the hospitality industry back to work and servicing the community.
How is the team prepared now for bringing events back?
We’ve expanded that collaboration with our partners like the Downtown Improvement District through working with their ambassadors and their communication center. We’re partnering with city parking to create a comprehensive security plan because the experience starts when guests get in their car and drive down to Minneapolis. Do they feel safe when they park their car and walk throughout our skyway system? Our skyway system has intercoms, it has cameras. We’re also partnering with other building security teams so we can expand our network in how we respond to public safety issues. It’s about having all of these resources to help people if they have a need or simply have a question. We’re here to help people.
You have mentioned relationships several times. What does that mean from your team's perspective?
Our team’s role with relationship building is that we’re in the people business. Everything we do has to do with the people. It starts with hiring great staff and working with them to foster those relationships that ultimately help them to make an impact here. We’re ambassadors for the city of Minneapolis. We’re helping to tell a story about Minneapolis and the Convention Center. We want people to come back here. Our team may be the first person they talk to on the phone, in an email or face-to-face when they come in our building. We may be the last person that they see when they leave and we have the chance to say, ‘Hey, hope you had a great time here. Hope to see you again. Have a safe trip heading home.’ It's really about relationships that makes this engine run and it always will be.
To read the full Q&A with Marcus Travis about Guest Services and Security Operations at the MCC, go here.