Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Pillars are Killers

In a previous post,I mentioned briefly the need to be aware of the actual shape of a room when deciding how many people could fit into the space. Just recently, I had this come up in a project I was working on with on of our meeting planners…

We had booked a room for a client’s reception (as part of a larger program), which was located a short distance away from the bulk of the meeting space assigned to our client’s conference but still within the hotel. The distance was not a problem, since folks would have a break between the end of the last session and the start of the hotel. Besides, the room had great lighting and ambiance, overlooked the pool, and was close to the bar – all advantages for this particular event. The room also had pillars, which was not an issue as people would be mingling and, apart from a few announcements that would be made throughout the evening, there was no program to speak of. In fact, the pillars could be used to good advantage in this case. We could decorate them to reflect the theme of the evening, we could place food around them to make natural “centers” around which people could meet, or we could even combine the two approaches.

As happens frequently in the run up to a conference, plans changed… the reception needed to move to a different room (for various reasons) and we started considering the room as a place for lunch. Great idea! People would love the natural light the room offered and there was plenty of space for everyone to fit comfortably. The speaker would have a great backdrop to their talk and…wait a sec…did we just say “speaker”? Yes. The Keynote Speaker would be on right after lunch, with slides… This is not good. The room has pillars, several of them, spaced fairly evenly throughout the room. This would mean that many people would not be able to see the slides (or the speaker) and the speaker would not be able to see most of her audience. We quickly re-looked at our space and found a much better alternative for them to use.

As the meeting planners for this client, we had done a site inspection of the hotel, where we physically looked at the space and walked through the areas we would be using. We were aware of the advantages and drawbacks for the space – the location within the hotel, the room size, the existence and placement of pillars and windows, etc. – and could work around that, finding the best fit for our client’s program. What was a non-issue, or even a plus in one instance, would have been a liability in another. By knowing the space in more detail beyond what was listed on the hotel’s spec sheet, we avoided a potential crisis long before it could become a problem.

- Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director