Breaking the record for the largest convention in Florida history, the American Dental Association (ADA) drew 49,960 attendees to Orlando for its annual meeting this past fall. When the ADA last met at the Orlando County Convention Center in 1992, the facility had not yet been expanded, and attendees contended with long registration lines.

Determined that this time around the dentists would smile, rather than grit their teeth, the Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) provided an unusual service-60 staff members volunteered to work overtime to help. "We wanted to make sure there were enough people so we could provide the absolute, knock-down best service ever," says William C. Peeper, the CVB's executive director and CEO.

Wearing referee T-shirts, CVB staffers kept registration lines moving, staffed information booths, and distributed materials. Bilingual volunteers helped register international attendees.

The effort was a teambuilding exercise, Peeper explains, as well as an opportunity for staffers to see to fruition what they work toward every day. "It was a lot of fun," says Peeper, who worked the tote-bag distribution desk. "There were no executive/clerical distinctions. We were all mixed up."

The volunteers were prepared by ADA staff, who conducted an orientation about a month prior to the convention. Jim Sweeney, associate executive director, division of conference and meeting services with the ADA, gives bureau staff members high marks for their assistance. In appreciation, the ADA gave T-shirts to the helpers, emblazoned with teeth, toothbrushes, and the line, "I brushed off 50,000 dentists."

This Orlando convention was the ADA's third-largest meeting.