Events Under Construction
Event venues must constantly refurbish and upgrade in order to continue to appeal to their audiences. As event planners, we hope this process does not fall over our event dates! However, sometimes there is no way around it. Either construction drags on longer than expected or we do not have flexibility in selecting the venue or the date. Like it or not, renovations and construction are part of the business and can and should be prepared for. Here are some tips:
Contract – Renovations and construction are important to discuss during the initial contract phase. Hopefully the venue will disclose renovation plans well in advance but if not, always ask. Prior to signing on the dotted line, it is important to know how extensive renovations will be and/or what parts of the venue will be affected. For example, will just certain floors be upgraded or will the meeting space, lobby, restaurant and other areas be included as well? Is it a soft goods renovation (décor and scenic elements such as bedding and lamps) or will walls be torn down and sawdust be flying? Ask to see photos, renderings and timelines. Negotiate with the property to best handle your group needs. Book rooms as far away from the scheduled construction as possible, negotiate a discounted room rate and ask for special concessions such as a financial rebate for the inconvenience. Factor in a clause that provides leeway to cancel, postpone or provide compensation if the construction is running behind schedule or will impact your group further than initially agreed upon.
Disguise – Some construction projects can be thoroughly disguised with a temporary wall or a building wrap. During a recent hotel stay, I went down for breakfast and the restaurant had magically disappeared behind a painted, wainscoted hard wall that blended into the rest of the scenery. If I had not eaten in that restaurant the day before, it would have been difficult to know it was there. Exterior building wraps can disguise scaffolding and offer the additional benefit of being branded or create visual interest. Plants, lighting and scenic drapery can also be used to soften the look. One building company added speakers with sounds of birds and waterfalls to drown out any background construction sounds. Many of these items can be built into the contract negotiations as well.
Communicate – Set expectations for your guests. If necessary, inform them of any intended construction and how it will affect the meeting, such as traffic, parking or hotel check in. Also, if a service that would normally be provided is unavailable due to renovations, make alternate arrangements. For example, if the spa is closed at the hotel, provide guests with a list of nearby suggestions.
Incorporate – Is there a way to incorporate the construction into the theme of your event? This could work if the mission of the event fits with the project. For example, a ground breaking event or an office/hospital/educational building getting revamped. Celebrate the construction as a stepping stone to the finish line. Incorporate tag lines such as “Change is on the way!” or “Building a new future!” Distribute hard hats, show videos of the progress, use clever and bold graphics on the hard walls or invite your guests to make their own mark on the project!
Postpone – If the construction will critically impact the objectives of the event, it may make more sense to postpone, cancel or move the event venue. It is important to weigh all factors. For particularly sensitive topics or serious meetings and/or where disguising the renovations are just not possible, the cost of postponing or moving the event may outweigh the benefits of hosting it at a noisy or chaotic venue.