When considering possible venues to host a meeting or conference, one of the best tools in the planner’s toolbox for making the most informed decision are in-person site visits of the properties. Even if a planner is familiar with the property from other events they may have attended there, walking through the space through the eyes of a particular meeting allows them to map out everything they need as a conference planner, and everything their delegates will need when they come to your hotel.
Here are some things the planners are looking for when on site visits:
- Where is the general session room in relations to guest room elevators, breakout rooms and their conference registration area?
- How about elevator access and stair access? Are there enough to accommodate your group?
- Is there wheelchair accessibility? Are all function spaces accessible?
- Are there adequate washrooms nearby?
- What is the ceiling height? Does the planner need a certain height for exhibits and/or rigging points for AV set up?
- Is it pillar free space? If not, will the pillars impede the flow of their program?
- Is there natural light in any of the meeting spaces?
- What competing groups are potentially in house over your planner’s conference dates?
- Is there a business centre onsite, or a Staples nearby for “last minute conference planner needs”?
Pre/post conference and after hours mingling
- If the planner’s delegates will be doing some “after hours” networking, are there places to do so? Lobby bar? Nearby restaurants and pubs?
- Does the hotel have a hospitality suite suitable for the group?
Amenities and outlets
- Is there an onsite coffee shop for a quick morning stop?
- Is there a pool/spa/fitness centre onsite?
- Are there nearby tourist attractions?
- Do the rooms have coffee makers? Tea kettles?
- Is there wired or wireless internet? What cost, if any?
- Are there any green initiatives in place (ie towel saving program, recycling in room?)
- Are there suites for VIPs?
- Is the bathroom counter space adequate?
- Does the room have a bathtub, or shower only?
Travel and location
- Are most of your planner’s delegates coming from out of town? Are you located near major highways or airports? Parking?
- Is it easy to access during peak hours?
- What are the nearest airports and highways?
No doubt, a site visit can make or break the decision to book a certain hotel for a program. The hotel salesperson’s presentation may be the deciding factor in which they fall if there are properties very similar to each other on the shortlist.
What can a salesperson do to set their property apart from the others during a site visit?
- Know the client’s program; study their agenda before the planner arrives so you understand their needs without fumbling for papers and proposals
- Know alternatives – if something in the planner’s agenda isn’t quite the perfect fit for the property, propose alternatives before the planner has to ask for them. Exhibits won’t quite fit in the foyer? Suggest a smaller meeting room, with coffee stations set up in the corners to ensure flow into the room
- Ask about priorities, and respect the answers – If the planner is not interested in viewing the spa, don’t take them there. Their time is valuable, and you don’t want to break their focus if they are concentrating on the meeting space.
- Guest room overload – if your property has 21 different room types, try to limit showing only 3-4 (unless the planner indicates they’d like to see more).
- Point out differentiators – try to avoid pointing out the flat screen TVs or coffee makers, unless your coffee makers are like nothing a coffee-drinker has ever seen before, or the TV has 3D capabilities.
- Know your client – go back to your client preference form and point out things that would appeal to them. If your guest rooms have a separate tea kettle, I guarantee I will be excited about that 😊
I’ll save my funny site visit anecdotes for another day, but one anecdote stands out regarding differentiators. A hotel salesperson was quite happy and proud to point out some of the details of their guest rooms – coat hooks, luggage racks, Keurig machines. “Its all in the details” he said, however I don’t think he realized the two properties we saw prior to his had the exact same details. When I pressed about a separate tea kettle in the rooms (tea drinkers, you know its true), he said they didn’t have any. So…. perhaps not about the details…. Needless to say it did not leave me with a good impression.
Someday I will write a book about all the funny site visit anecdotes I’ve seen over the years, but by keeping these above tips in mind, you can save yourself from becoming a page in my book 😊
RELATED – Choosing an offsite venue for your event