A few minutes … Kelvin D. Moore of the Pennsylvania Convention Center

By Kenneth Hilario  – Reporter, Philadelphia Business Journal

Kelvin D. Moore over the summer took on his duties as the new general manager of the Pennsylvania Convention Center. I spoke with the former Chicagoan about his goals and how the meetings market's changed.

What skills will you bring from your time at Festival Hall at Navy Pier in Chicago? 

My overall approach to convention center management is based more on what I’ve learned in my 25 years of working in the industry, not just my time in Chicago. But my time in Chicago certainly helped to further cultivate my approach.

I’m looking forward to putting to work all of my experiences and lessons learned in my new role here at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

Over the years, my approach has certainly evolved. I’ve developed a core meetings industry philosophy that is focused on the customer.

I support that approach by focusing on the implementation of sound, fundamental business principles that seek to ensure we are meeting the needs of customers and making it easier for them from a logistical and operational point of view.

That core philosophy is based on a story a speaker shared at a conference that I attended probably 15 years ago.

I won’t bore you with all of the details, but the gist of it goes something like this:

The speaker told the story of a trip he took where he was staying in a hotel and had a view of the street corner. On this corner he observed a hotdog stand that was operated by an older man and his grandson.

The man would cook the hotdogs and his grandson would deliver hotdogs and fries to some local businesses. On the first day of his stay in the hotel, he noticed the boy was walking to the offices, but by his last day in town he noticed that the boy was running as fast as he could to deliver the lunches.

As he checked out of the hotel he decided to go talk to the grandfather and find out why his grandson was running to and from the offices to deliver the lunches.

The grandfather looked at the young boy and nodded, and the young boy answered the man’s question. He told the man that when he first started delivering the lunches he got complaints from the people in the offices that the fries were cold.

He figured out that if he ran to the offices that he would deliver the lunch quickly enough that fries would still be hot. As the boy told the speaker, “Mister, nobody likes cold fries. But everybody likes Hot Fries!”

The point of the speaker telling this story was to illustrate a core principle of customer service and of business in general.

Companies that are successful are those that identify their customers’ needs and desires — whether they be their hot fries, ease of ordering, or detailed floor layouts — and then take the time and effort to make sure that they are doing all they can to deliver a product that meets and exceeds those expectations.

Delivering “Hot Fries” — identifying what customers need and then delivering it — is my core principle, and it has served me well throughout my career, including the last 10 years with SMG.

During my time with SMG, I have kind of specialized in taking existing operations and elevating them to the next level. So that is the approach and skill set that I bring with me to Philadelphia.

What’s your short-term goal?

My short-term goal is to complete the transformational pivot that the Center began four years ago when it took dramatic steps to improve its operations and image within the meeting and events industry.

It began with the implementation of a new improved customer satisfaction 

agreement in 2014 that really addressed some of the core concerns of customers — things like allowing exhibitors to have more freedom to setup and dismantle their own booths and increased transparency on costs.

Those changes were so instrumental in altering how Philadelphia was viewed in the meetings and convention industry. So it will be critical for me to maintain and nurture the partnership the Center has developed with the unions that provide the show floor labor in setting up and breaking down the various events we host.

Those changes — and the cooperative relationship that now exists with labor — has really helped open the door to the Center hosting and competing for events that wouldn’t have considered coming to Philadelphia prior to that transformation. 

What’s your long-term goal? 

My long-term goal is to work in lock-step with our partners at the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau to have Philadelphia viewed as one of the premier meeting destinations in North America.

Our part in achieving that objective is to evolve the operation of the Pennsylvania Convention Center into one that is viewed on par with the premier convention centers in North America in cities like Chicago, Orlando, Las Vegas, San Diego, D.C., and Toronto.

Ultimately, my long- term goal is for Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania Convention Center to be at the top of those lists. I want our facility to be recognized as the premiere meetings and convention destination in North America. Getting to that level will require kind of a re-tooling of what I call our operational golf swing.

One could say that we’ve spent that last four to five years focusing on proficiency with the driver. As a result, our driving distance and accuracy have improved exponentially.

Now it’s time to hone in on our approach shots and putting.

The great news is that the team here in the Center are all on board and have really embraced the Hot Fries philosophy. I am very, very excited about the future of the Pennsylvania Convention Center, and I look forward to taking the next phase of this journey with our team.

How has the meetings-and-conventions market changed, and how will you navigate the Convention Center through it? 

Meetings and conventions are fundamentally about people of shared interests coming together to learn, share, grow and socialize with their peers.

So, from a facility or destination management perspective, the core task has always been about creating spaces and environments for these gatherings. Those fundamentals really haven’t changed.

What has changed over time are some of the tools — technology is a prime example — and the attendees’ views of what are desirable environments and spaces.

In that respect, as a convention center manager, my task is to do all I can to be in tune with the evolving needs of event attendees.

We will do that by continuing to engage and listen to our customers and working closely with the PHLCVB and our SMG corporate convention center division to gain a sense of broader industry and planner trends.

What role does the business community play in this space? 

The business community plays a very important role in the overall health and success of any destination. From a micro perspective, there are some businesses that are more organically aligned with the meetings and convention industry.

Those businesses include hotels, restaurants, music venues, night clubs, museums, tour operators and other businesses in the hospitality industry.

They are important in that they provide activities and outlets for convention attendees when they’re not in sessions.

In some ways, those experiences outside of our facility can be just as important in shaping an attendee’s perspective of our facility as a meeting destination as the building itself.

But from a more macro perspective, an overall healthy corporate community is equally critical to a destination’s success.

The corporate community often provides the stimulus needed to develop and maintain thriving public spaces, vibrant arts and cultural attractions and the resulting urban residential base.

But the corporate community also plays a critical role in a destination’s ability to land top-tier major national and international events, such as major political conventions, visits from world leaders, major sporting events and more.

In Philadelphia, we are fortunate to have a growing and vibrant community of hotels, restaurants, entertainment and other hospitality-related businesses that recognize working together benefits all sectors of the local economy.