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Walgreens — Winning Well Together

Managers Meeting

SCOPE OF THE EVENT When over 9,000 store mangers huddled together for Walgreens’ 4-day Manager’s Meeting in Las Vegas, the game plan was simple — ‘Wellness’ and what it means to drive healthful, helpful customer care. As the nation's largest drugstore chain, Walgreens provides access to trusted health and wellness services to millions in communities all across America. So, the Walgreens team convened for the company’s biggest meeting of the year — to rally around the meeting theme, “Winning Well Together.”

The common thread that tied all the event logistics together was event driven communications company, Show Department, Inc. Show Department (SDi) worked directly with Walgreens Meeting & Media department, and department director, David Harnish. As show day drew closer, Show Department, in cooperation with a chosen team of trusted partners converged on Las Vegas’ Mandalay Bay Convention Center and the MGM Grand Conference Center & Garden Arena: nearly forty semi-trucks of gear, a crew of hundreds, an onsite media production staff of 23, and over 9,000 Walgreens’ attendees.

To tie all aspects of the show together, Show Department segmented logistical assignments across three designated areas: Media Production & PostProduction; Marketing Meetings & Breakouts; and the General Session Main Event. Jeff Facklis, Show Department’s lead technical director, describes how they were able to deliver to the expectations of Harnish and his team. “With one hand across all three of these disciplines”, he explains “we were able to streamline our workflow, control our timing under short production deadlines, and easily adapt to the staging changes as they came up”. At the direction of Harnish, Facklis along with lead project manager Rich Sullivan, provided the far-reaching arms that guided the process, resources, and countless teams and crews.

PRODUCTION & POSTPRODUCTION In preparation for this massive event, much of the media content had been pre-produced and was ready to roll when all eyeballs arrived in Vegas. But an impressive percentage of the video production, shooting, editing, sound design and graphic elements were also developed and created on site. Based on Walgreens aim to capture the Vegas backdrop and on-location energy, an up-to-the-moment production style provided a here-and-now sensibility — current, timely, and relevant.

To fulfill the creative direction of Walgreens, ProGroup and Show Department’s affiliate, Resolution Digital Studios, L.L.C. handled on-site video production and postproduction for the media content. Production crews arrived days before the event. Eight edit systems, two graphics work stations, as well as a full audio production suite was built on-site. Joe Miller, president of ProGroup, and Fred Booras, lead producer for Resolution’s media production team, oversaw the staff of nine to produce speaker support, video daily reels, event highlights, and key meeting messages. Production teams worked in round-the-clock-shifts — shooting throughout the day, then editing, sound design, and adding graphics to finish overnight so that content was fresh for each morning’s agenda.

MARKETING, MEETINGS & BREAKOUTS While media content was being produced 24/7, and preparations were well underway for the upcoming general session, Show Department was also in full swing handling 50+ marketing meetings and breakout rooms for Walgreens. Hundreds of sessions were held in both the MGM and Mandalay venues and required 80 technical directors, producers, media coordinators and other professionals to work the rooms.

From the smallest sessions of about 250 people to the larger sessions for 2,000 attendees, Show Department managed all of the rooms across all applications: Marketing Rooms, Merchandising Breakouts, Market Meetings, Operations Meetings, Workshops, Meal Rooms, Trade Show Areas, and Awards Dinners.

In addition to the many meeting rooms, an exposition area at the Mandalay spanned more than 358,000sq ft and required over a mile of lighting truss to handle the numerous event stations, marketing workshops, display areas, and store mock-ups. Lighting for this specific area was expertly designed by John P. Marovich and Steve Sargent was the show’s lead technical director.

GENERAL SESSION – DESIGNING THE MAIN EVENT While media content was being produced 24/7, and preparations were well underway for the upcoming general session, Show Department was also in full swing handling 50+ marketing meetings and breakout rooms for Walgreens. Hundreds of sessions were held in both the MGM and Mandalay venues and required 80 technical directors, producers, media coordinators and other professionals to work the rooms.

The corporate day general session took place in the MGM Garden Grand arena. Hosting an “intimate” conference for 9,000+ attendees requires some special accommodations. So, as in years past, Harnish challenged Facklis and his Show Department team to create a stage design that would transform the cavernous arena into an intimate venue.

Show Department started with a 40’ deep stage. At its midpoint, a 40’ runway would lead into the audience and out to a 16’ diameter circular stage at its end. The configuration would bring presenters into the center of the 10,000 plus seating area. With the support of four 15x27 i-Mag screens, and the main and delay 3:1 content screens, everyone would have a great view of the live meeting content, as well as the produced meeting elements.

Facklis and lighting designer Olivier Ilisca then considered the lighting and scenic elements that would complement the stage layout. The team envisioned a proscenium-spoke-circle design. A circular screen would be positioned over the circle stage. Emanating from the circle screen would be 10 truss spokes reaching out to all corners of the room.

The entire design would extend over and into the audience. Based on the concept, Show Department created CAD drawings to illustrate the layout. Between the spokes, directly over the stage, five triangular truss screen sails would be flown — the largest at over 60’ in length.

The screen sails were manufactured by The Screen Works® division of Show Department. They would be used as immense canvases on which Walgreens’ design elements would be projected. Using thousands of square feet of matte white projection screen material, The Screen Works fabricated two large 80’ x 32’ screen sails, two 65’ x 30’ screen sails, a 35’ x 16’ x 33’ trapezoid screen sail, and a 30’ diameter circle screen.

As with all custom screens, each one charts new territory. So many things affect the integrity of the screen, not just the size and shape of the surface, but what will be projected onto it? How will it be flown – the angle, as well as the mechanism by which it’s suspended? Every detail factors into the ultimate performance of the screens. Only experience provides the know how to design and anticipate the issues that come along with this type of custom screen. And so, based on more than 50 years of experience, The Screen Works got busy measuring, chalking, cutting, welding, seaming, etc. They used the stage space of their affiliate, Resolution Digital Studios, as their staging and testing area.

From the time that the screen design was decided until the screens were completed was a total of just three weeks. That included multiple days of testing time–when the screens were just flown in position to assure their performance once on Walgreens’ show site.

Along the truss spokes, and framing parts of the front of house projection screens, would be groups of LED product. These, along with the DL3’s and other media server driven imaging devices, coupled with the massive “projection screen proscenium”, would give designer Ilisca, along with his programming team of Chad Lussier and Patrick Mucha, a massive canvas to create a breathtaking meeting environment.

The stage design had taken shape, and while it offered everything Harnish wanted in terms of audience intimacy, the configuration required particular attention in terms of how the audio would be integrated. In relation to the proscenium and spoke design, traditional placement of large blocks of line array cabinets would obstruct the 180° viewing angles. So, audio designer and engineer Jose Mora meticulously designed a configuration that would deliver effective audio for the Walgreens’ presenters, keynote speaker Colin Powell, as well as the evening’s rock performance by John Mellencamp.