When our clients are officially ready to move forward with their building or renovation project, we suggest they hold a groundbreaking ceremony. These ceremonies are short and sweet (typically no more than 30 minutes) and present a great opportunity to introduce or expand on the project, get a little PR, and create some exciting buzz around the community.
There are many different ways to plan this ceremony and a lot of creative ideas that can make it a fun and memorable experience for everyone involved. It’s helpful to coordinate with your architect and construction project management team to leverage their experience, too. Here, we’ll dive into each of the following 10 must-do's to help ensure a successful event:
It’s hard to know the best day to hold a groundbreaking ceremony. After all, you can’t plan for inclement weather. Allow at least six weeks to plan your event and check your local community calendar and other event listings. Try to choose a day of the week that won’t conflict with other events in the area or major holidays. When possible, hold your ceremony during months when the weather is more likely to cooperate in your region.
3-4 weeks prior to your event. Typically, the general public isn’t invited to these types of events, however, you’ll want to consider whether there are prominent business leaders or others in the community who you’d like to attend. Those you’ll definitely want to include are company executives, the account executive, your construction team, other key stakeholders and the media.
Consider who you want to be the voice of your organization at the event. While the default may seem to be your president or CEO, there are other great options to consider to vocally lead your ceremony. Think about other local leaders (perhaps the mayor, a local news anchor or sports figure, etc.) who are articulate and can ensure things flow smoothly, and provide an agenda and talking points as needed. Meet with them a few days ahead of time to go through the order of ceremony to make sure you’re on the same page.
Hearing from key stakeholders adds to the experience for attendees. These individuals should be familiar with the construction project and the benefits it will bring to the organization and/or community. When necessary, provide some talking points, and always give them a time limit for their speech to keep the ceremony on track. Also assign who will be responsible for recognizing and thanking key players who are helping to move the project forward.
Provide an inviting and welcoming atmosphere for attendees and facilitate the flow of guests so everyone knows where to go and what to expect. Also consider parking attendants to direct attendees where to park vehicles, especially if your event is taking place in an open field or area without defined parking areas. Also inform any greeters about potential media that may show up and let them know who to direct reporters to for interviews and to answer questions.
Your groundbreaking could be considered a notable news event. Alert reporters from local news outlets including radio, television and print. Even if you think your project isn’t newsworthy, a news outlet may think otherwise, especially if your project represents a local expansion of the economy, meets a need in the community, or simply has a feel-good story associated with it. Be sure to include your contact information and the who, what, when and where. Follow-up with a phone call a few days prior to the ceremony.
Figuring out logistics is a major part of any event. Secure items such as a tent, chairs, podium, sound, trash bins, bathrooms, wayfinding signage and other details as far in advance as possible. And let’s not forget a generator if there’s no power at the site. Consider outdoor decorations such as a balloon arch or backdrops, or maybe provide food and beverages to contribute to a celebratory atmosphere. Also invest in a photographer or videographer to document your event for social media and other promotional efforts. Check with your contractor for the obligatory shovels, hard hats and safety glasses as they are usually happy to provide them. They can also bring a pile of dirt for an easier groundbreaking and have a few buckets of dirt on standby for use under the tent in case of rain.
Select where on the construction site you want to hold the ceremony and ensure it’s safe and compatible with your plans. If you last visited in fall and your event is in spring, you might be surprised to find there’s a giant mud hole in the middle of your planned location. Confirm your plans will work with the site superintendent.
Consider including a dedicated page on your website that shares the latest news about the project. Include interesting facts and project renderings when possible. Condense important details into a one-page fact sheet that can be handed out at the ceremony and direct attendees to visit the webpage for updates as the project progresses.
Immediately after the event, distribute a press release to spread the word. You can write the bulk of this prior to the event to include known details and just fill in some notable takeaways from the day. Be sure to include a few high-resolution event photos. Post the press release to your dedicated webpage and company social media channels to continue the momentum and create social buzz for your project.
As a commercial construction general contractor, these tips have helped many of our clients plan for this important milestone. Let us know if you have additional ideas to share, and reach out to us if you’re considering hiring a a design-builder, general contractor, or construction manager to build your next project.