The Wellcome Collection’s Daniel Caleb gives his top tips on coping with a refurbishment.
Inevitably in every venue’s lifetime, there will be a time when it needs a little renovation. This could be a small update to keep it current, an extension to increase capacity or in some cases, a complete refurbishment. Although most refurbishments will eventually lead to a better guest experience, resulting hopefully, in profit, the short-term disruption to bookings and overall reputation of the venue has to be carefully managed during this period.
I manage the Wellcome Collection, based in Euston London, where we commissioned a huge renovation of our venue worth £17.5m. The enhanced events spaces, masterminded by architects Wilkinson Eyre, draw on the venue’s theme of highlighting connections between medicine and art.
Our end goal is to underline the venue’s reputation as a destination of choice for medical science organisations and give the venue a new lease of life, thanks in no small part to the dynamic staircase. With its oval shape it is the only one of its kind – a true showstopper and a real feat of engineering.
Leading the Wellcome Collection’s events team during the last year, when the number of events it is possible to hold is drastically reduced, was not without its challenges and we have learnt a lot of lessons. So we thought we would share our wisdom with five top tips for coping during the disruption of a renovation:
1. Keep your team motivated: We provided alternative work avenues for all our staff during the refurbishment; we made sure they could get involved in the social media and overall marketing strategy of the whole venue. This ensured they were challenged and gained some great experience in the process.
2. Maintain relationships with loyal clients: Remembering your previous and returning clients even if you can’t currently offer them an event space is very important. They will remember your attention and customer service and are more likely to return once you reopen.
3. Marketing and advertising: It is important to keep your name in people’s minds even when you’re not functioning fully - utilise social media channels, advertise and use PR to keep your name in editorial. These are great ways to nurture the communication between you and your customer and will mean that your target customers won’t forget about you while you are closed.
4. Reward your staff: Throughout the refurbishment we’ve hosted some great events for our staff to reward their hard work and commitment during a difficult time. We threw a ‘summertime fun’ event, and a cocktail making event, as well as trips to the Tate and Royal Academy. This keeps staff upbeat and reminds them that they are valued.
5. Be flexible: If there is a delay or problem with your renovation (this can happen, despite your best efforts to keep everything on track!) and you find you can’t fulfill an event booking you’ll need to find a solution, fast. Having relationships with nearby venues could enable you to offer alternative spaces, this will serve a dual purpose – it will help cultivate profitable partnerships with venues in the area, and ensure your clients aren’t disappointed. You may even find that if your relationships are strong, you may be able to honour the original rate you offered your client.