Site Selection & Inspection Download Document >>
Once you know what kind of function you're holding (which is not always so simple a question to answer), you can decide what kind of venue will be appropriate.
But first ask: Is there a corporate preference? Hotel? Close to the office? Out of town? Will parking be required?
Again, if possible, look at the history of what your company or group has done in years past and use it to guide your options. Perhaps there were certain locations that attracted more attendees than others. Or, if this is a debut event, it's always helpful to survey potential attendees and see where they'd like the event to be, whether it be a small inn, a major hotel with all the amenities, a convention center or some other unique site. (But remember our earlier caution: Surveying attendees can often be more trouble than it's worth. Once again, know in advance that you can't please everyone.)
Then, consider the pros and cons of that destination. Factor in such issues as entertainment options and tourist attractions for attendees beyond the activities in the hotel or convention center and the image of the facility in terms of what you're trying to convey to investors, top management and, perhaps, the press. Continuing to keep a clear eye on the meeting's ultimate goal is also crucial, says Michelle Issing, general partner at Designing Events, a meeting management company in Baltimore. "If you're hosting an event to impress clients, that's different than if you're an association hosting an event for your members," she says.
In addition, be sure the venue can set up a group registration area for your attendees and that they'll be able to handle shipments before you arrive. You'll want to deliver all your registration materials, booklets, gifts and other materials before the event, and you'll want to find out exactly who will be receiving these items-get each person's name, title and direct phone extension. Make sure the location has space (and enough outlets) for AV equipment in the main room as well as in the smaller rooms for "breakout" sessions.
At this point, it's key to honestly think about who is coming to the event. It matters if the group is comfortable traveling to more out of the way destinations or whether they'd prefer to stay within a certain neighborhood. Your event's locale also depends on the number of people you're expecting and the specifications required by the company. For example, Issing recalls having a tough time finding a venue for one client since the firm wanted to have a laser show to cap off their annual meeting. "With this sort of production, we needed to find a ballroom with a 25-foot ceiling," she says.
Be sure to look for the basics during an on-site visit. Visit the venue when it's at full-occupancy and there are plenty of meetings taking place, as well as when it's empty. Make sure the venue can accommodate your meeting. This is the time to be truly detail-oriented.
No matter what venue you pick, expect to put down a deposit on the space and be sure to ask exactly what's included in the usage fee (for example, meeting space, complimentary breakfasts, coffee breaks and additional meeting space should you need it).
Don't forget to think outside the hotel box. Consider a museum, a downtown glassed-in atrium, a botanical garden, maybe a private club, or even a national landmark.
A Site Selection Tip Sheet
Some of this is going to seem obvious, but then taking care of the obvious should be ingrained into the very fiber of an event and meeting planner.
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