One of the most important decisions a meeting planner makes is where to hold the meeting. Hoping that they'll choose an IACC-certified conference center, the International Association of Conference Centres (IACC) has published a list of 10 "insider tips" for meeting planners to consider when they're choosing a meeting venue:
1. Consider attendees' profile and venue preferences.
"Before starting the venue sourcing process, consider that your delegates might have a different view of what the ideal venue looks like," IACC says. "This can have can have a number of benefits and lend to the productivity of your event. Placing a delegate in an uninspiring environment for days on end will lead to uninspiring results in terms of their retained learning. Organizational culture, demographics, and even the countries from which your delegates travel will all play a part in their venue preferences."
2. Expect to get what you give.
"Nothing your delegates ask you for is too much trouble and you will move heaven and earth to accommodate their needs," IACC says. "It is not too much to ask that the venue staff afford you the same standards when dealing with your requests at the inquiry stage. It's not too much to ask and don't settle for anything less; after all, that's why it's called the hospitality industry, right? It doesn't matter how big or small your meeting is, you should leave that meeting feeling that your group was the only one at the venue that day, even if you are one of 10 other meetings going on. If you do not feel this way, tell your conference planner. A good venue will want you to walk away feeling completely satisfied and feeling great about choosing their venue for your meeting."
3. Demand a serious site inspection.
"[On your first site visit] did you get a guided tour of the facilities with a lot of pointing out of the obvious, or did your conference planner see this as a business meeting and a chance to understand your requirements before looking to match these with their venue services and facilities?" IACC asks. "In other words, did they see this as an opportunity to learn what is important for your meeting, or did you get the same 'beauty parade' that every other meeting planner gets, whether they are organizing a training course, board meeting or conference?"
4. Check the Wi-Fi.
"The days are gone when a venue would not offer Wi-Fi and that's a good thing, right? Absolutely it is, but now we're entering into the phase where fast, stable broadband is now an expectation and the average delegate needs to connect two devices at their meeting, if not three. Can the venue cope or will it leave your delegates with withdrawal symptoms that should never be seen?" IACC asks. "Ask the venue what is the speed of the Wi-Fi and check out what the minimum is that you need for your meeting by using an online usage estimator, such as IACC's Broadband Calculator. Do not settle for 'I think it's OK because we do not receive any complaints.'"
5. Look for social media integration.
"Social Media Displays are coming into their own," IACC observes. "At your next conference, consider that there are many different attendee touch points that can both benefit the conference and attendees, beyond hoping that delegates are tuned into their social media app on their smartphone. Creating a Social Media Hub display where all social media platforms come together in one place where everyone can view [them] on a wall is engaging, and delegates can share the moment. It allows people to experience social media in an environment where they can talk about it together and bring it off the very personal smartphone. Cvent SocialWall and Eventstagram for live display feeds are worth a look."
6. Negotiate the right package.
"A good venue expects to mold its product around a meeting planner's needs," IACC says. "No two meetings are the same and a good conference venue allows their staff to be flexible and creative to provide the best meetings experiences. An experienced conference planner will want to know about any challenges that you may be having from a services or budget perspective, so don't be afraid to challenge what is not working for you."
7. Spend wisely and provide the highest impact.
"Not many meeting planners are afforded the luxury of arranging a meeting without a budget," IACC acknowledges. "Conference center teams realize this and are happy to help you find the best way to exceed delegate expectations."
8. Start and end your meeting early.
"This is applicable especially if you have a number of guests that are local and are driving to your meeting," IACC says. "If you start your meeting at 8 a.m. instead of 9 a.m. you allow your attendees the opportunity to beat heavier rush hour. You beat the afternoon rush hour and it will feel like you are giving your attendees an afternoon off if they usually work until much later. Also, you get the first opportunity to partake in shared coffee breaks, and earlier starts might allow you to schedule an early lunch to beat the rush there, as well."
9. Review final charges before you leave.
"All conference centers have their own format of providing you with your final bill," IACC says. "Ask your meeting planner for a face-to-face meeting or a phone conversation to go through the final charges line-by-line, to avoid surprises at the invoice stage. Direct conversation is much better when dealing with explanations of tax structures, gratuities, and attrition charges. If you encounter a property that gives you a feeling that they are trying to find a way out of this post-event meeting, be wary. Ask them about this meeting when you initially book to see what kind of reaction you get. Every professional conference center planner should be pleased to have a chance to review the charges with you as soon as possible, as it helps with facilitating quicker payment."
10. Work with venues who are as passionate as you are.
"It is likely that you are a meeting planner because of your passion for organizing events and bringing people together into an environment where they feel inspired and valued," IACC concludes. "Can you say the same about the venue and the staff you are working with on your RFP? Don't be afraid to ask them what percentage of their overall business are meetings and conferences, as it could provide an indication about how they structure and train their staff for your kind of event. If meetings are their primary focus and they value being certified by associations like [IACC], it is a clear indication that they take meetings seriously and are passionate about being the best getting it right every time. The prominence of the meetings information pages on their website is another good way to figure out their focus."
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