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Overcoming Challenges: The Takeaways

It was no small feat producing the Grand Opening of the Intercontinental Hotel! Three distinctively different brands—Intercontinental Hotel Group, Korean Air, and Wilshire Grand—were represented at the event. It was quite a challenge bringing these companies together to form one cohesive group. We also faced a lot of challenges with regards to last-minute construction and design.

Our success was based on flexibility, skilled professionals, clear communication, thoughtful design, and above all, a great sense of humor. 

This last article in my three-part series gets to the heart of what we as event professionals always want to know more about—the challenges and the lessons learned. Here they all are!   

The Grand Opening event was a resounding success. However, we certainly faced our share of challenges leading up to the event.

One major challenge we faced was working with a new building. Generally, one of the first things we do when starting the planning process is go see the event venue. This gives us a feel for what will and won't work in terms of design and decor, furniture, etc. 

In this case, we weren't allowed to see the inside of the hotel until six weeks prior to the event! This was a massive challenge for us because everything was custom made.

Since we couldn't see the hotel interior, all of the planning for the event was entirely dependent upon the accuracy of CAD drawings and renderings. Unfortunately, we found that the CAD drawings had been changed during the design to execution process and weren't updated. Exits were in the wrong place, doors and power panels were moved, rig points were adjusted—you name it and it was changed. It felt like the building was a moving target and we were shooting blind.

We also faced a lot of challenges regarding last minute construction, infrastructure and equipment, and hotel staff. For example, construction in the ballroom wasn't complete until 10 days before the event.

The Banquet department was also hiring waiter staff mere days before the event. All of the staff on the floor was new, and this was the first event that the staff was running together as a team. In fact, the opening event did not even have a service dress rehearsal.

The building occupancy permit was also issued very last minute—June 16—and the event took place on June 23rd. This meant that the entire infrastructure of the hotel had to be brought in seven days prior to opening day. Offices, hotel room furniture, ballroom A/V equipment, banquet tables and chairs, exterior furniture, catering and service equipment were all still in boxes and had to be unloaded and inventoried days before the event. 

It was around-the-clock effort for the week prior to opening day!

All of the last minute loading/unloading that had to be done was made even more difficult when we discovered that there were no freight elevators at the hotel, only standard occupancy size elevators. To make matters worse, only 50% of the hotel's elevators were operating up until four hours prior to the grand opening. 

Every single part of the hotel had furniture and service equipment being loaded into it, not to mention all of the decor elements for this event! Needless to say, it took a lot of teamwork to pull this off.

Lastly, we faced some challenges when it came to getting Intercontinental Hotel Group, Korean Air, and Wilshire Grand to agree on the overall design of the event. 

For example, Korean Air didn't want to use flowers at the event, but we felt that flowers were a big part of the personality of the hotel. We ultimately agreed to use smaller, artsy floral pieces for the Grand Opening. It was a constant compromise between the three brands!

All of the food was done by the four restaurants in the hotel.

The sushi conveyor belt was a duplicate of the one offered by the hotel’s sushi purveyor.

Caviar as a garnish is trending.

All of the challenges we faced made the event's success that much sweeter. And, winning the Best Event Production over $75,000 at the ILEA Esprit awards in August wasn’t so bad, either!

Photos: Maya Myers Photography

David Merrell will be at Catersource! Click HERE for the most updated information on our 2019 show!

David Merrell


Since founding AOO Events in 1989, the name David E. Merrell has become synonymous with cutting-edge event design for live and staged productions. David is a sought-after producer with a growing list of Fortune 500 and international corporations for product launches, corporate events, celebrity-attended fundraisers as well as intimate weddings.

Throughout the years, AOO has taken home more than 25 awards in a multitude of categories including Best Event Décor, Best Entertainment Concept and Execution, Best Corporate Event, Best Logistics, Best Social Event, Best Wedding, Best Association Event, and Best Non-profit Event. Personally, David has been named “Designer of the Year” and “Marketer of the