Back in November, I managed an internal conference at the Del Coronado in San Diego. The extra added challenge of this was that I'd never been to the property before. Usually it's helpful to understand the layout and traffic flow by actually walking the space. It's not absolutely required, but it does help in the long run to alleviate confusion and for better planning.
Thankfully, the staff there was absolutely fantastic at sending mounds of information so that I could make good decisions. One of the things that came up, however, was that both of the lunches and dinners would be outside during the two day conference. Naturally, I asked "what's the rain plan?" and they sort of gave a chuckle and said with a laugh "well, it's San Diego and hasn't rained for five years" but then quickly added that they had several indoor spaces to use should we need them.
For those that have been to the Del, you know the kind of amazing, beautiful space it is. And when I arrived on Monday, November 2, I was instantly reminded how much I loved San Diego - I've never lived there but used to visit often when I lived in San Francisco (1988- 1991) and Los Angeles (1998--2003). Anyway, coming off an intense October (someone described it as "the most intense work month for the company and the events department in the ten years (they'd) worked there"), event just stepping on to the beach allowed a lot of the past stress to simply fall away.
A colleague from the business line hosting the conference joined me for the Pre Con and we got a lot of things sorted out and finalized; we were on track and all was good with the world. Later that evening, friends from around the country reminded me that the Del was the setting for "Some Like it Hot' (setting up the best closing line of any film "Nobody's perfect" when Jack Lemmon reveals that he is indeed a man and therefore cannot marry Joe E. Brown). It was all pretty awesome all in all.
The next morning, it rained. And rained. And the outdoor lunch looked like a not great idea. So I had it set up indoors. But, later in the morning, when the stakeholder asked why the lunch wasn't outside, I explained that it had been raining and so we'd moved it. The stakeholder didn't like the room that the lunch had been set up in and, since it had stopped raining, could we have it outdoors again. So, with 35 minutes before lunch was to be served, I talked with the staff - could they move an entire set up (food, drinks, tables, chairs, etc) outside in that time.
What happened next was remarkable - what seemed like 30 - 40 hotel employees streamed in from everywhere all over the property and, like the well oiled team they are, moved the entire lunch for 100 outside. Not one complaint or side eye (I wish I could say that about every venue I plan events at!) just a staff dedicated to the Solution of setting up the lunch outside.
This is the kind of thing that event nerds like me relish - a remarkably precise team working together to make something beautiful. Kudos!
When it came time to decide about the evening meal's location, the Del offered their Crown Room as an alternate to going outside in what could continue to be on and off rainy weather. These are our industry's tough decisions - if the weather is fine, people would wonder why we weren't outside and if we were outside and it rained, we'd be scrambling. Ultimately the decision to go indoors was predicated on what was going to be the most reliable situation - and the Crown Room was that. I sort of looked up and was like "ok, now you better rain!" to the sky.
Thankfully that decision was proven correct. The evening started off with a reception and, as each attendee arrived, they said the same thing "I'm so glad we're inside, it's so cold and windy out there!" but I wasn't home yet. After some time of cocktails, everyone took their seat and I stood off to the side against the two story tall windows (sure, to get an overview of the room but also to verify what was going on outside. It wasn't until someone gave a toast, that it began to rain. Hard. A smile of satisfaction crawled across my face and it was at that point that I could relax.
The rest of the conference was amazing - the staff continued to be on top of every request, every twist and turn making it an incredibly successful event for the business line. When the executive who runs the business line patted my back saying "great job as always" it of course felt good to get the praise - but it was also good to know that he was happy because, in the service industry, that's what we do - make people feel good.
I hope that at some point I can plan/manage another event at the Del as it will be an honor to work with their amazing -and "perfect" - staff again.