By Debbie Locklear
Selecting a site for a meeting or event is the most important, challenging and misunderstood phase in meeting planning. Since the space reserved and the flow of the meeting can enhance the program’s objectives and interactions among people, site selection is important.
The challenging aspect of selecting a site is that many pieces of the project may be unknown. It becomes necessary to anticipate and visualize a variety of different structures. Many people misunderstand the site selection process because they see it as a glorious opportunity to be wined and dined. In actuality, the process is a time-consuming, serious and often physically and mentally exhausting process.
Inspections require thoughtful advanced preparation, thorough research, an eye for detail and when visiting sites in one day, an exceptional memory. The follow-up is critical in order to document the verbal commitments made by eager sales people. This step is vital because once a contract is signed, any promises not recorded may be lost.
In order to conduct a successful inspection, it is necessary to know your group’s strong and weak points, the objective and purpose, the budget and attendee needs and preferences. In addition, the number of guest rooms, date patterns and daily agendas are a vital need prior to the inspection. The set-up needs for each session help to secure the proper meeting space, taking into consideration ceiling heights, freight entrances, etc. A facility will also want to know guest room pick-up, rates, meal counts, master account charges and credit records.
Your job will be to find out the facilities’ high, low and average rates, their occupancy levels at various times of the year and week. Inquire about the internal stability of the staff to provide an indication of the facility management.
When the actual tour of the property begins, look at the following areas on the way to and in the guest rooms:
Ask to see the worst room. Make note in your follow-up letter to avoid booking any of your guests in those rooms if necessary. Call the operator and see how long it takes to answer the phone.