Author: Katelyn Narain, Simon Fraser University
More often than not, clients will say to me, “I have an odd request”. To them their request may seem silly, out-there, or anything but normal and they worry that their request may be met with a long string of no’s, a laugh, or a blank stare. However, when it comes to planning meetings, accommodations, and meals on University and College campuses – we encourage being different – because let’s face it, we are. Universities are unique and often provide facilities outside the norm.
Creativity is key when it comes to space because not only do we have conferences taking place on campus, but we are also fully operating Universities and Colleges. There is typically a large variety of meeting space, which can allow for unique setups that provide the solution to many “odd requests”. From classrooms being used as dance rehearsal space, to hallways being used for cocktail receptions, to gymnasiums being used for discos; we take the space we have and turn it into whatever the client requires.
Groups are often looking for both high end and low end accommodation options. They want the higher-end suites for the speakers and the bang-for-your-buck affordable accommodation options for the participants. At SFU and many other universities and colleges, both options are available. Having both types of accommodations available often solves many accommodation (and budget!) issues that clients face.
Because university campuses feed thousands of people daily, no catering request is too crazy for us. In 2012 we had a conference group of over 300 Seniors staying with us with dietary restrictions ranging from being allergic to everything except chicken and green vegetables, to not being able to eat solid pieces of food (we were blender ready!), to being vegan/gluten/soy/lactose/vegetable free. We work closely with our catering departments to accommodate any requests that we receive (from those dietary requests to 5:45am breakfasts to individualized menus) and they always meet the needs of our groups with a smile!
Clients may think their requests are a bit “out there” or challenging, but in most cases we’ve heard it and handled it before. We’ve dealt with groups that wanted to make their conference as green friendly as possible, groups that have needed everything done by paper because they couldn’t use new day technology, and a group that needed to change rooms because of the “aura”.
When working with a client, I always remind them that no request is a dumb request. We’ll do our best to help them out, and even if it really is that odd, we won’t laugh…because let’s face it; something weirder is always around the corner.
Katelyn Narain, Simon Fraser University
Telephone: 778 782 3228