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LIPSTICKON A PIG

"I truly appreciated the honesty of the venue salesperson taking me through the site visit. She didn’t try to oversell the venue or distract me"

I recently did an ‘SOS’ site visit to a convention centre in a Canadian city (undisclosed for the purpose of this blog) on behalf of a client who had booked meeting space for its large annual conference in a new bright and shiny convention centre slated to open late in 2017. Due to a potential delayed opening of the new conference centre (go figure – construction is not on time – like that never happens), my client wanted me to go view the existing convention centre as a contingency plan. So, I hopped a plane between Christmas and New Year’s and spent 2 hours on the ground having lunch with the convention centre sales director and then touring the existing (older) building. The first thing the sales person said to me as we entered the building following a lovely lunch was this: “We’re trying to put lipstick on a pig here, so please bear with me”. According to Wikipedia, this phrase is defined as ‘a rhetorical expression, used to convey the message that making superficial or cosmetic changes is a futile attempt to disguise the true nature of a product’. What a hoot! Sure enough there were several cosmetic upgrades in the works. I couldn't help but notice the distinct smell of fresh paint (apparently baby poop yellow walls had been refreshed with a creamy linen colour) and pay phone booths had been recently removed from the corridors (remember payphones!?). The carpet on two floors of the building had been replaced less than 12 months ago too. The new sedate navy-coloured rug was a huge improvement on the psychedelic marigold patterned carpet found on level 1 in a ballroom that obviously hadn’t been privy to the carpet upgrade. As I toured the space, we had a few laughs and I politely ignored the obviously annoying functional elements of the space that would no doubt cause me major headaches if my client ended up being stuck using the existing building for its event - pillars everywhere, low ceilings, depressing lighting and airwall after airwall. The point of this blog is to highlight the fact that I truly appreciated the honesty of the venue salesperson taking me through the site visit. She didn’t try to oversell the venue or distract me from the obviously dated appearance of the meeting space. This was the same person that had toured me (and my client) through the new building (still under construction) a few months earlier - a space that features a bright open-concept layout with all the latest technology built-in, plus stylish and modern décor. The new building is clearly a no-brainer to sell and easy to get excited about. The existing space – not so much. I concluded the site visit and thanked the sales person for one of the most honest site inspection experiences that I have ever had! Then, on the way back to the airport, I quickly typed an email to my client indicating that if we had to execute plan B we could, but it wouldn’t be pretty. Subject title of the email: Lipstick on a Pig.

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