In February 2020, Hargrove was officially announced by the Democratic National Convention Committee (DNCC) to serve as the Event Management Firm for the 2020 National Convention at the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee. As in 2012 and 2016, we were once again responsible for the infrastructure necessary to make the convention possible.


An event in transition

With boots on the ground and planning well underway, we had to hit the pause button as the pandemic gripped the nation. A series of decisions made by the DNCC as the situation evolved—changes in dates, venue, crowd size, schedule, and even the event format—required us, as their partner, to continuously adapt, redirect, and rescale our support. What the world experienced in August was a compelling, inclusive virtual convention; in reality, the Democratic National Convention was the first large-scale hybrid event since the onset of COVID-19 in the U.S.

With a digital-first mindset, the hybrid part of the convention flew under the radar. At Milwaukee’s Wisconsin Center, the convention’s new ‘Center of Operation and Command,’ infrastructure requirements were altered as the definition of a ‘safe environment’ included new, rigorous health requirements. As if making the convention possible wasn’t enough, with the whole world watching it had to be successful even before the first minute of broadcasting and streaming began.

Partners in safety

What was the secret for success? It was doing what we do best: be part of the solution. We dug in with the DNCC to establish procedures and design solutions to create a safe environment and deliver a successful event for the physical participants. Everything from space planning and structures for daily testing to furniture and equipment for operational areas that was easier to keep clean, we took our existing knowledge of past conventions and our new knowledge from MeetSAFE™ guidelines to develop client-guiding solutions.

The convention-wide commitment and adherence to health and safety guidelines was paramount to our collective success in Milwaukee, as well as in Delaware, in support the local broadcast teams. It enabled the on-site work to get done while ensuring the safety of our team and our client. Staffing and procedures were modified, taking on a village mentality. With staff working in teams both at the convention center and remotely, not only was the health risk further mitigated, but accessibility to critical staff increased, helping to shorten decision making.

Realizing success in the new norm

The 2020 convention was equal parts preparation and reimagining with a foundation of constant collaboration between teams. The successful production of a multi-day, prime-time program from across the country was made possible, and our client enjoyed a potential record-breaking audience across all platforms for their virtual event-defining convention.

What can you take away from the Democratic National Convention to apply to your hybrid event? Be flexible; plan the digital and live components with the same amount of attention and effort, and partner with people who are equally invested in the success of your event. Successful hybrid is about more than just the technical aspects. The behind-the-scenes production is integral to building a solid foundation—and, when well planned, produces the opportunity for and greater audience engagement and success.


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