You’ve developed an RFP for your meeting, distributed it, received proposals from interested properties, created a spreadsheet for comparing properties and have narrowed down the list of all the potentials to the properties that look the best on paper. Your next step should be a site inspection of your top properties in order to determine which one works the best for your meeting.
If you have been working with the local CVB, they will be happy to make all the arrangements for your visit, setting up appointments at each property, picking you up at the airport and accompanying you on your visits. If you didn’t send your lead out through the bureau, you’ll need to make your own appointments. I like to allow at least two hours per property, more if a meal is included.
I use a checklist of items I have defined as being important to my group, so I can make sure I’m looking at the same things at each property, and I provide the checklist to my hotel contact ahead of time so they can tailor the site inspection to meet my needs. If I’m conducting the site inspection with several others, such as conference chairs, clients, etc., I find it can be hard to keep everyone in the group focused. One solution I’ve found works well is to give each person an area of the checklist that they are responsible for collecting information and making notes on for our discussions afterward.
I take a digital camera and a Flip video camera along so I can capture images of the property for use later, when I’m making my arrangements. This is really helpful for capturing the flow of public space and event space, which helps when I’m trying to visualize the layout for receptions, exhibit space or registration areas when I’m back in my office.
When you’re on-site, you’ll want to visualize how your meeting might fit into the facility. Once you’ve seen the entire space, you might need to adapt your vision from what you initially planned. Stay flexible and adaptable, and keep an open mind when presented with options by the hotel staff for how your meeting might work best at their property.
Observe how other meetings going on during your site are staged, noting unusual set-ups, how the space looks set in your preferred manner, and see if you can identify any potential problem areas that might negatively impact your meeting. If you have a chance, visit with meeting planners on-site to see how their meeting is going and get some honest feedback on the property.
Also, try and spend some time on your own in the properties, so you can experience the property as your attendees might. I usually try to come in the night before starting site visits and have dinner or drinks at one property, visit another for coffee the next morning before my appointments start and just observe how the staff interacts with guests. Other important details to note are how the front desk staff treats people and what the self-parking situation is.
Knowing what your attendees value the most in a meeting facility and what you need from a hotel to ensure a successful conference are essential to conducting a successful site inspection. Keeping those factors at the forefront of your decision-making process ensures you’ll find the right property for your needs.