Salvaging a situation that involves entities outside a hotel property can be especially difficult. But Ann Renneker, director of event management at Sheraton Dallas Hotel, was recently able to accomplish that for a 900-person group—and on just one hour’s notice.
The event was a “walk of remembrance”—part of a three-day educational and support conference for burn survivors and their families. The group would walk from the hotel to a public park six blocks away, with police, public safety and fire department personnel and vehicles set along the route to keep streets clear and show support for attendees. The park was fully set with a stage, PA system, banners and seating.
But with the temperature at 95 and a rainstorm possible, the planner decided to alter the plan: Attendees would now walk from the hotel entrance across the street to the Sheraton’s 230,000-square-foot convention space, and gather in a large prefunction area for the ceremony. “The planner underestimated the complexity of the event,” Renneker says. “But her mind was made up, and she figured they’d just make the best of it.”
Renneker’s first calls were to the fire marshal and police commander, who hustled their personnel to close down the hotel’s street; they were even able to get the largest fire trucks there, with ladders crossed high in the air so that attendees could walk under them.
The next call was to her banquet manager, with instructions to gather as many employees as possible to assemble a stage and 900 chairs in the prefunction space. “Then I called our AV team to literally run into our warehouse and get microphones and speakers set up on stage,” Renneker says. By the time attendees gathered in the lobby and porte cochere 55 minutes later, the event redesign was complete. “Everyone walked, the speakers went on as scheduled, and the dedication went perfectly. Even the planner was surprised at the result. We felt like heroes that day.”