Like it or not, there comes a time in the career of almost every planner when you have to deal with the noisy neighbor issues stemming from a group placed in the meeting space next to yours. No matter the size of your own group - big, small or in-between - it happens, and whether your group is the recipient or the instigator of noise, the problem can present challenges. In a perfect world, all air walls dividing ballrooms would be strong enough to cancel out noise factors, but we all know that’s not realistic. The actual truth is that even newer hotels sometimes cut expenses by utilizing shabby partitions leaving sales managers scratching their heads when it comes to client complaints about noise factors. What can be done? Here are a few tips compiled by polling some experienced planners, many who have learned ‘the hard way’.
If silence or an extremely quiet time frame is a really important issue for you (such as for groups administering stressful timed exams or big keynote speeches/opening acts, etc.) then make sure the hotel knows that from the start. You can request things such as only assigning your group meeting space with four solid walls or possibly even paying extra to secure a ‘buffer room’ between you and the next closest meeting. When you are in contract phase everything is up for discussion and could work its way into a signed agreement.
In addition to actual distracting noise coming from inside a meeting room, make sure to also think about traffic flow that may take place in or around your meeting areas. One planner mentioned having to deal with a high school marching band whose bus dropped them off at the conference center entrance located right next to where her meeting was in progress. Their instruments were not in use (can you imagine if that actually happened?), but they were so loud and boisterous the planner was forced to call a quick break during which time she dealt with the passers-by. All that could have been avoided had the hotel enforced their policy for ‘no bus drops at this entrance’ or possibly had someone directing traffic.
As a courtesy to other planners, always discuss any potential specifically timed noise issues with the hotel staff during your pre-con meeting. For instance, if you arrive onsite with the knowledge that you’ve hired a second line parade to open your general session then please make sure other groups are aware of the same.
This excellent tip was suggested by Ann Lohry Smith, CMP, Meeting Management Specialist with Association Management, Ltd, in Ankeny, Iowa: “Always try to configure your meeting space so that your room setups are varied from one room to the next. With careful advance planning you can position staging, speakers, microphones and audience seating facing different directions so that sound systems are not in full competition with each other in side-by-side rooms. When you’re utilizing multiple zones of meeting space, paying attention to details like this can really make a difference in noise carryover from one presentation to another.”
And how about this submission from Kendra McMurray, CMP, CGMP, Sr. Planner and government contract planner for AEIO, LLC: “We use a Quiet Enjoyment clause in our contracts that basically states, ‘Hotel represents and warrants that the Group’s quiet enjoyment of the meeting rooms or other facilities to be used by the Group or its meeting attendees and guests shall not be breached.’ It goes on to request that the hotel keep us informed of other groups that could cause interference, etc. and as with most clauses, it depends on the usage of good faith between both parties.” There are various other versions to this type of clause out there and each group has to decide what language is important to them as well as coming to some type of agreement with the hotel as to how and when this can be enforced.
One final note added anonymously from a planner who once had a big problem. He promptly went to the unattended sound board in the back of the offenders’ ballroom and unplugged everything he could find to solve the noise problem that he felt was “excessive and persistent from the speaker who was a droll.” Well, I guess that’s one way to solve the problem! But, might we suggest first holding a more civil discussion with the planner, the contracted AV companies and necessary hotel personnel to resolve the issue at hand? We thought you’d agree!