Teaching Others And Why Site Visits Matter
By Christy Lamagna, CMP, CMM, CTSM
• Teach others to think strategically
• Why site visits matter
When introducing a strategic mindset to your office or business, you may find you are not just teaching yourself a new way to do things, but you’re educating those around you as well. That means you need to fully understand why being strategic matters and be firm in your commitment to your professional evolution, as not everyone embraces change. The opportunity to educate both yourself and those around you will happen early and often. Converting doubters into believers is part of the process when becoming a professional event strategist.
After a Discovery Session is held, strategists begin determining what destination and venue is the best fit. There are some who believe, when choosing a destination and a venue, that doing an online search for reviews and photos is the equivalent of conducting an in-person site visit. As a planner with a limited budget and too many miles logged, you may be one of them. Or perhaps it is a higher up who isn’t convinced traveling to see properties and cities is a necessary expenditure. Common objections are that the hotel you are using is part of a chain which has been used before, or that someone in your organization has been to for another event/trip, so there is no reason to visit.
This is where teaching others to think strategically is critical.
There are a host of reasons a virtual site visit, no matter how spectacular the technology, cannot hold a candle to a traditional, in-person site inspection. An easy way to combat the ‘we can see the photos online’ mentality is comparing that suggestion to buying a house based just on the online photos. The magic of a good photographer is fantastic unless you are the one basing your decision on nothing but pretty pictures.
Both the destination city and host venue are integral components of your program. There are many things to consider when choosing both. Let’s start with destination choices. Every group has its own variables in what makes a destination a good fit. However, there are some universal questions to ask when hosting a program that will require air travel.
Key things to know when attendees will be flying to your event:
1. Is the lift to your potential destination sufficient for your entire group to arrive in time for the event?
2. Is the lift the airlines are currently showing the same as it will be during your event? (Often schedules change based on seasonal demand.)
3. If your attendees arrive to the venue on their own after landing, is Uber available? Not all cities allow Uber onsite at airports or at all.
4. What city-wide events, if any, may be scheduled, before, during, or after your event? This may affect early arrivals/late departures, availability of vendors/rental items.
5. Are service charges taxed? This could add a substantial amount to your budget.
Once you have confirmed a location, you’re halfway there. Now it’s time to select a venue. There are literally hundreds of things to look for while on a site visit. Keeping in mind that you may be persuading others that a live site visit is necessary, here are five examples selected to highlight critical program components a virtual tour can’t deliver:
1. What is the quality of the area surrounding the venue? Is there a large construction project underway? Is the neighborhood around the venue safe, desirable, and appropriate? A beautiful property that is next to a construction site may mean waking to the sound of jackhammers. That’s never good.
2. Venues can look beautiful while being simultaneously malodorous. Tropical destinations are especially susceptible to musty smells which, no matter how attractive the rooms, detracts from the experience. Overly fragranced lobbies or public spaces may also be a concern, especially with many who have a heightened sensitivity to heavy scents.
3. Service levels cannot be seen via an online photo. Most posted reviews are from transient travelers, so their experience is not applicable to what your group will be experiencing.
4. How is the water? Water pressure and water temperature to be exact. Hotels that have either minimal water pressure or hot water that never truly runs hot translates to a group of cranky attendees with bad hair. If you don’t think it matters, go to a hotel which has the above challenges and then listen to the conversations people are having over breakfast. Trust me, it matters.
5. Food is an enormously emotional part of people’s lives. If banquet services do not provide the quality, quantity, and assortment of food necessary to keep your attendees happy, it’s going to be a long show. People may eat with their eyes, but pictures of food can’t replace a tasting.
There is an unspoken agreement and understanding between event attendees and event hosts that a quality experience will be provided in return for the attendees’ time and/or money. The host is responsible for choosing a destination that offers a safe, clean, and comfortable environment, and is easy to get to and navigate. It is also expected that the host hotel will meet guests’ needs and provide at the least, basic creature comforts. It can be seen as irresponsible, if you or a decision maker in your organization is willing to put that relationship in jeopardy, and potentially create an uncomfortable experience throughout the event. This is why committing to a strategic mindset and educating others on the importance and processes is so important.
If, for some reason, a site visit is impossible, then a contract with very specific performance clauses is next on your ‘must do’ list. Contract clauses and negotiations are next up on our topics of discussion, so stay tuned to the next issue of Midwest Meetings.
Your suggestions, feedback, and ideas are always welcome. Reach out anytime.