Brennan O’Donnell has worked tradeshow security for a year as part of Imperial Security, one of the largest security guard companies in the U.S.
Q: What type of training did you have to undergo?
A full orientation that included what security does and doesn’t do, what security is and isn’t, and professionalism. We also do a walk-through with instructions of what we do in each area and why. There’s also training on customer service, conflict resolution, report writing, emergency response and appearance.
Q: Are there any differences in the training programs offered?
All of the training programs are specific to each type of event we service.
Q: What type of specialized training and licensing did you need to be successful at your job?
The job doesn’t require any specific licensing, but knowledge and practice of good customer service is very helpful.
Q: What’s the process like when collaborating with other security personnel, such as the in-house security of the venue and your colleagues at Imperial?
We work very closely with the in-house security staff of the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Considering we work a majority of the events there, we have lots of opportunities to collaborate with [the staff] and form great working relationships. We all work for the client, the show manager and staff, so our end goal is a common one –We want to ensure a successful safe event.
Q: What are your typical duties when handling tradeshow security?
Primarily, they involve controlling access to the show. We watch the exhibits or equipment during off hours and check attendee badges during show hours. Sometimes, we are called to help move a VIP through the building for a keynote address.
Q: How are security guards treated or viewed on the tradeshow floor?
Many times attendees don’t even realize we’re on the show floor. We are typically welcomed and thanked often by attendees and exhibitors.
Q: Why can certain security guards carry guns and some can’t?
At the Pennsylvania Convention Center, we are fortunate enough to have a Philadelphia Police Department substation with police officers dedicated to the building. The building only allows police officers to carry weapons inside. Our company does, however, offer armed security officers for other locations outside of the convention center. These officers undergo specific state police-mandated training and certification.
Q: What’s the most interesting thing you’ve witnessed while working the show floor or the most unique experience you’ve ever had on the job?
There have been so many. To be honest, a lot of the tradeshows blend together after a time. The public shows, [such as] the Philadelphia Auto Show, Philadelphia Flower Show and the Wizard World Comic Con, give us a break from the monotony. We get to experience something different every day on shows like that. My co-workers and I always enjoy that.