You did your due diligence and locked in the dates for your big annual convention years in advance, and you just know that the convention center has everything your large group needs to hold a successful meeting.

Then the sky fell in the form of a major renovation that will find your venue transformed into one massive construction site, welcoming your attendees with pounding jackhammers, dust and all manner of unsightly obstructions.

Fear not. If you’ve done your homework and are dealing with a professional convention center operator, chances are your event will emerge no worse for the wear. That is, if you ask the right questions.

On a recent tour of the Greater Columbus Convention Center, Meetings Today spoke with John Page, general manager for SMG for the Greater Columbus Convention Center (GCCC). The GCCC unveiled an impressive $140 million makeover following a 22-month project that wrapped in July 2017, charging Page with the mission of notifying and accommodating 144 meeting and convention clients who would be directly impacted by the project.

Page had a goal of meeting in person with all 144 of the impacted clients, and was actually successful in holding face-to-face meetings with 137 of them, with the other seven accommodated over the phone because of scheduling impossibilities.

Following is Page’s advice for meeting planners navigating a convention center renovation or expansion:

  1. Be proactive. Ask about the funding mechanism and ensure that the funding is secure.
  2. What’s the noise factor related to the project? Can the convention center start and stop the project if needed? Can all or some of the work be done on overnight shifts?
  3. Make sure you have firm contract clauses covering construction projects. What are the things that are permitted and what terms can be made stronger? Are there penalties if the area the meeting is using is not complete? If the project has a timeline, there will be a timeline for various spaces to be completed as well.
  4. What is the impact construction workers will have on the facility and the event? If the work is done in overnight shifts, will the facility be sufficiently clean during the day for the meeting?
  5. What is the expectation? The management of expectations is key. Noise is one aspect of that. Is it different if you’re in a ballroom space or an exhibit hall space? Are there things happening in your concourse space, such as your public thoroughfare?
  6. Dates are critical. Hold the venue to the dates they said construction will happen, so if your meeting is coming in before the project is promised to begin, don’t accept the start date being moved forward so it interferes with your contracted meeting dates.