Diffusing Pressure at Refurbishing Project Presentations

Refurbishment projects come with the ultimate question of how to present proposed renovation plans to the Owners. While the design team handles the presentation, the board and property manager(s) should also take some initiative to ensure that the process goes smoothly and gains the community’s support. One concern that is common among board members and property managers when discussing resident presentations is that the meeting will be difficult. While this meeting may be difficult, it does not always have to be. Over the years, we have developed a methodology that has proven successful in navigating this potentially volatile stage of presenting common elements design concepts to the owners.
The first step is to prepare adequately. Before showcasing the design to the owners, ensure that the project is properly designed, costed, and mocked up. Many boards make the mistake of showcasing a beautiful design without confirming that it fits an executable budget. This can establish unattainable expectations and cause much resentment if the project does not go ahead as presented. To avoid this, the project should go through the full stage of design development, specifications, pricing, and value engineering (if necessary), before presenting the final ideas to the community. This exercise also makes it easy to answer questions about the cost of the project and whether condo fees be impacted. The next important point is what to present. It is essential to prepare only
the required information, nothing more and nothing less. Owner’s input is crucial, especially when dealing with a large capital expenditure such as corridor renovation in a high-rise building. However, input needs to be carefully curated, and options narrowed down to two acceptable design options. Having more than two options can trigger more questions, which can make it difficult to arrive at a consensus. The common elements refurbishment project is not a case of “design your own” by the community. Many important components are considered when putting together a design; collectively determined by the board, designer, construction partner and property manager throughout the design process. It is much easier to drive consensus when there are two good options to choose from. A trick of the trade is to ensure that the two options are at the opposite ends of the aesthetic spectrum that the owners may want to see while still working with the key elements in the building.This way, the designer can cast a wider net and understand which way the winds of change are blowing in the building.
Importance of clear visual presentation
– How to present:
At this point, you may rightfully ask: Isn't this the designer's job? You would be correct, of course. However, as a stakeholder, it is wise to have a basic understanding of industry best practices, as well as the benefit of someone else's hard lessons learned.

It is essential that during the interview stage, the board asks the designer to provide examples of their presentation work. This will help you understand how they can effectively present their ideas to the owners. I believe in a threepronged approach when it comes to successful presentations:

Visual – Renderings/Drawings
Tactile – Material Boards/Mock-ups
Audible – Overview of process from the Design or Build Team

It is crucial to remember the sequence of presenting these elements. Just like having all your ducks in a row when it comes to costing the project and understanding the intricacies of the scope of work, it is vital that all the components are finalized and in place before presenting them to the owners.

If mock-ups of typical new elements are included in the presentation process (such as two finish options applied onto two typical suite doors in a corridor renovation), make sure your construction partner completes all aspects of the mock-up to clearly showcase each design. An announcement to the owners should come out to review the proposed designs before the owners meeting with the Design/Build team, and all the visual elements should be in place (mock-ups/material boards, etc.). There should be clear communication to the owners about pur-
pose of the meeting, when the presentation to the owners will take place, and by which day their input/design choice must be submitted to management. We usually allow up to five days (including the weekend) for comments to come back following a presentation, which helps avoid the "bring in the neighbors to comment"

When it comes to the meat and potatoes of the presentation itself, the designer and construction partner will go through the presentation. It is a good idea for the board/property manager to briefly introduce the refurbishment team to the owners along with the board selection process to establish their credibility with the community.

In terms of presentation material, I would be remiss if I coached anyone on what to say during this portion. However, sharing what historically worked for us to deliver successful presentations was to focus on tangible facts as opposed to subjective design aesthetic. I am sure at this moment many of the readers would say, "Wait a minute... Isn't this what you guys do though?" The answer is yes, but not only! When dealing with a condominium
refurbishment, as opposed to building a new art museum, our design is required to answer a very specific set of parameters. The more experienced we are, the better we can define these parameters and how to best address them with our design solution! Of course, we then throw some fairy dust in there - but that's the secret ingredient (wink).

It is a lot easier to drive consensus when we are operating with such terms as maintenance, return on investment,
minimal waste, long life cycle, etc. I have had my share of presentations that derailed as they veered into discussions on whether grey was a warm or a cool color (spoiler – it can be both). This type of discourse is a lot harder to recover from than focusing the community on our process, design that is fit for purpose, and how it will be implemented. Looking "under the hood" of the design process is not the focus of this meeting and needs to be
delivered as such. Another crucial aspect of a successful owner's presentation is to emphasize that the purpose of the presentation is to listen to their feedback. It's important to convey that while the Board members have the final say in selecting the design, they are open and flexible enough to make modifications if needed.
During the presentation, if there's a particular element in the design that generates a lot of criticism, the Board members and Design Team should remain calm and empathetic and reassure the owners that their concerns will be taken seriously. It's important to avoid getting defensive or confrontational, as this can escalate the situation and undermine the purpose of the presentation. In today's post-Covid world, virtual presentations have become an increasingly popular option for Owner's presentations. They offer the convenience of remote access, the ability to showcase visuals, and moderate Q&A sessions, all of which can help streamline the presentation process, minimize distractions and control the communication. With a skilled moderator, virtual presentations can be just as effective as in-person ones. So how do you know if you've delivered a successful owner's presentation? It's not just about getting applause at the end (although that's certainly a good sign). The true measure of success is when the owners in attendance ask, "So when do we start?" This shows that they're genuinely interested in and support the project and feel confident in the Board's decision-making process.

To ensure a successful presentation, it's essential to choose your team carefully. You want to work with professionals who have a proven track record and experience in this field of work and who can guide you through the presentation process smoothly and confidently. With the right team, you can create a memorable
and engaging owner's presentation that inspires confidence and excitement from your building's owners.