Look before you leap. Seeing is believing. Straight from the horse's mouth. There are dozens of cliches extolling the benefits of inspecting goods or services before you purchase them. The following 10 tips might not lend themselves to short, snappy adages, but following them will ensure a productive site inspection.
* Check out the names of conference centers, resorts, and hotels in the area you have chosen. Each facility will have its own characteristics, but all will be able to provide for your basic needs. Some will offer recreational activities and reception and event settings on site. Most will help you find other facilities or off-site venues that can accommodate your group.
* Do a site inspection. Your first visit as a planner will give you a feeling for the facility and its staff. I say "visit" because it is always good to look the place over yourself before you book the meeting. If that is difficult, ask for the names of some of their most recent clients and check out with those references all the things you would see if you could be there in person.
* As you approach the facility on your site inspection, pay close attention. Does it look the way it did in the brochure, are the grounds neat, were the directions correct?
* How is the service? Do the front-desk personnel, waiters, housekeepers, etc., smile and greet you?
* Check to be sure that the public rest rooms are clean.
* Are the sales and marketing people organized and ready to meet with you? This can tell you how well the staff is trained to serve your group when you arrive for the actual meeting.
* Look at the sleeping and meeting rooms you will be usingand make sure they show you the ones you will really be using, not just an example of similar rooms.
* Ask about any dress codes or requirements at the on-site restaurants. I remember a meeting at one high-end property where the men were required to wear a jacketfor breakfast!
* Request brochures with pictures to send to all attendees so they will know the ambience of the facility. It can also heighten their anticipation of the event.
* If at all possible, ask to work with only one person (or team, if the hotel has a separate planning department) as your contact. But if you will be working with more than one, ask that they all meet with you at the same time. Take detailed notes of everything you have discussed, and make sure to send a copy to every person you will be working with. Try to do it as soon as you return to the office and before the facility managers have filled out any contracts.
Leslie Schultz was a meeting planner before she shifted her career and designed the Garrett Creek Ranch Conference Center, Paradise, TX. The Ranch offers a flexible environment to address team building, leadership development, strategic planning, and training. For more information, please visit www.garrettcreekranch.com or call (972) 680-8679.
Originally published March 01, 2008
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