Recently I was participating in a Buyer Education Program in a not to be named city. The program was designed to get large group buyers together to experience the venues, service and options. All were seasoned planners or intermediaries. Following the closing of the program, several of us extended to see some of the area sites and venues. Over lunch, the topic of site inspections arose. One of the planners was looking for a venue for a VIP group and was being escorted by a local DMC. During her stay, she had planned to “experience” and review the same things that her attendee would while attending the event. A credible plan with one exception … as the identified group contact/buyer on a site, she was given “The VIP Treatment.” Nothing was spared and the best of the best was to be shown. Was this what each of her attendees would experience?
As planners and as buyers, we are subjected to the finest of service and product offerings. We are constantly wined and dined in an effort to showcase wares and woo business. All is understood and while we should not exploit our positions, we need to be mindful of what we are trying to accomplish. Rather than submit a checklist of all that needs or should be done, let me share some words of wisdom.
Conduct site inspections with the goal of seeing how you, as attendee will be serviced, not as “The Buyer.” Don’t arrive in the hotel car, instead, take the shuttle or a cab. Hotels are often judged by their front door and front desk experiences. By not advertising that you are a VIP, you’ll get the same treatment as each one of your attendees (or more importantly, the same treatment as your manager or client). How long do you wait to get checked in? Are you greeted with respect? Is the bellstaff courteous? Do you get your bags quickly? Was your room ready? If not, were you assisted with any needs while you waited?
All of these things will make the other items on your list seem unimportant in the long run. You see, if your meeting runs logistically perfect, but your guests have less than stellar personal service experiences, all of the hard work and planning will be long forgotten. Great meetings and events start long before anyone gets to the opening reception or general session.
Let me end with this thought: Anyone can build a phenomenal hotel, but not everyone can run one! The difference between those that do well and those that do exceptionally well comes down to one word … service! It’s what we do, It’s how we are judged and it is how we’ll succeed. Take the time to experience your next event as an attendee. It may change the way you look at business.