Treat guests to three stunning soirees following their daytime sales meetings. These had to be three distinct evening events held back-to-back, that were all spectacular and unique, allowing for exclusive networking opportunities.
The government shutdown of 2019. A year in advance, we contracted three of the city’s historic Smithsonian Museums. All the details were locked in. The plans were moving forward. Until they weren’t. Across the news: “The US government was barreling towards a complete shutdown.” In its wake? The government-owned and -operated Smithsonian Museums. That’s right – all three event locations.
The average U.S. government shutdown lasts about eight days. Once the likelihood of a shutdown hit, we had it on our radar. Even so, we had no reason to panic. The industry had seen shutdowns take a positive turn. However, this client wasn’t planning on visiting just one Smithsonian gem, but three. We wanted to have the right of first refusal on alternative spaces that met the group’s objectives – in the case that the government shutdown unexpectedly lasted longer than usual. It’s a good thing we did.
We placed holds on new venues, and then we called our partners. We placed one group of 400 people in the stunning Washington National Cathedral, a majestic structure that has played a vital role in our city’s history since 1907. The smaller group of 100 would gather at the Anderson House, formerly the winter home of Larz Anderson III, an American diplomat. The final group of 400 would move to the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium, an architectural masterpiece that strikes an eerie comparison to a government building (fortunately for us, it was not.) Soon after, the government shutdown started.
Now, it was time to show off some serious logistics management and re-evaluate load-in schedules, menu selections, labor, delivery, and transform the events to complement their respective venue aesthetics. The National Cathedral, Anderson House, and The Mellon Auditorium were transformed from top to bottom utilizing star-studded entertainment, dramatic lighting, and custom menus. The cathedral posed a specific challenge. The lighting package was much more expensive given the new venue specifications. The solution? We were able to navigate supplier relationships to negotiate a much more significant lighting package for the exact same dollar value the client had seen at the previous location.
We knew what the space needed and made sure the client didn’t feel any aesthetic consequence to the last-minute venue changes. The great heights of the cathedral glowed in raspberry color and lattice shapes, while a DJ spun beats below. Kings tables filled the Grand Ballroom of the Anderson home beneath twinkling red lights and hundreds of single-bud roses and votives. The Mellon Auditorium boasted modern topiary greenery and agate-wash linens paired with gilded bars and modern emerald furniture groupings.
It’s never easy to circumvent obstacles, especially when they impact the entire city. Despite having to pivot quickly on the original venues, our clients were thrilled with all three evenings and the memorable experiences at each one. Our destination awareness, strong supplier relationships and strategic communication plan allowed us to stay on top of the situation.
Our clear deadlines and decisiveness eliminated our client’s uncertainty and offered them a level of comfort during such a shaky period. Despite a historic government shutdown, we were still able to provide the same level of excitement, interactive engagement and unique design the client was aiming for.