Selecting a meeting site for your client is at the very heart of the event’s success, and it involves comprehensive research and preparation.
That includes a thorough site inspection tour, according to Janet Pickover, founder and president of Site Inspections Plus, who has worked for 30 years in event planning and five years as a site selection specialist. The reasons range from being able to see the nicks and chips in a hotel room’s furniture to experiencing a property just as a meeting attendee would.
Even with technology that provides planners with 360-degree views of meeting rooms and other facilities, there is simply no substitute for being there, Pickover said. “There’s so much you don’t see on the Internet.”
A personal inspection should be conducted before a planner commits to a meeting site, regardless of the size of the event. “You should go through every single step in selecting a site. If you have 10 people or 2,000, you should sit there with your master checklist. Everything gets looked at, no matter how many people are going,” she said.
Pickover offered meeting planners the following advice on site inspections, including a do-it-yourself checklist on how to create a customized site inspection evaluation form.
No special treatment: Planners have to think like attendees, and that means they have to experience what the attendee will experience. “I have a colleague who does a lot of meetings, and hotels always want to put her in a suite. She tells them to put her in the same type of room that attendees would be staying in,” Pickover said. In the same spirit, planners need to sample the banquet food, not the restaurant food; they should also check out the retail shops.
Bring the client along: The same venue will affect different clients in different ways. “I have been in the same hotel with two different clients. One will say, ‘I have to get out of here; it’s too busy.’ The other will say, ‘This is fabulous.’”
Take it all in: “Observe, observe, observe, is what I always say. And don’t just pay attention only to your own tour; see if there are dirty dishes sitting in a room or in the corridor. Think about the location of everything in relation to everyplace else. You don’t want to hear an attendee say, ‘If I have to walk one more foot I’m going to cry.’ Check out the elevators to see if you have to wait a long time.”
If it’s broken, ask them to fix it: Don’t be afraid to ask a hotel to fix or change something. “I have sat in meeting room chairs and said ‘I hate these.’ That might be something that can be changed,” Pickover said. “There’s nothing wrong with saying to the hotel, ‘How are you going to handle this?’ They may come up with a good solution. Some get very creative because they want your business.”
Do your post trip homework: Your work isn’t over after the site visit. “You have to do your homework. When you return from your trip, call the references provided by the hotel or suppliers. Ask how specific issues were handled. If they had a problem, how quickly was it fixed? How was the onsite communication during the meeting?”
Please see Part one, Preparing the Way for Successful Site Visits, June 2, 2011.