While a journey is a road, not a destination, most meetings are about the destination not the road. Choosing the right destination is critical to a meetings’ success.
Effective event and meeting professionals focus on two key factors in the site selection process:
· Foretelling an organization’s meeting and/or event requirements
· Evaluating a potential site’s ability to meet those requirements
The needs of an event must be identified first and then aligned with sites that can properly accommodate them. Here are several steps to a successful site selection.
1. Identify the meeting objectives
What is the purpose of the meeting or event? Is it to deliver education? To discuss business? To provide an exhibition of products and services? To network? Most meetings serve several purposes.
2. Gather historical data.
Collect past records of this meeting including attendance, amount of meeting and exhibit space used, financials, food and beverage requirements, room block pick-up and schedules. A review and comparison of the past three years of history serves best. If it is a first-time meeting, assemble historical data from similar meetings you conduct. Customer surveys may serve you better than historical data.
3. Establish the physical requirements
The meeting format and objectives will dictate most of the physical requirements.
4. Date of meeting
What are the preferred dates for the meeting? Are those dates flexible? What is the preferred day pattern? What ethnic, federal, religious and state holidays should be avoided? What other conferences or meeting dates should be avoided? Are there any seasonal or peak times that should be avoided?
What is anticipated attendance? What internal or external factors could impact attendance?
6. Sleeping Rooms
What is the total number of sleeping rooms needed? What is the typical arrival and departure pattern? What is the number of sleeping rooms for the peak night? Do you need double beds or any special accommodations like suites? How will reservations be made with the hotel(s)? What has been the average room rate? Are room rates commissioned to a group or third party? Are rebates or housing fees included in the rate?
7. Meeting space
What is the total square footage of meeting space needed for your event? How many meeting rooms are required on a daily basis? How many are needed simultaneously on a daily basis? Are additional meeting rooms needed for breakout groups? How are the rooms traditionally set up? What are the AV requirements? Do you need a minimum ceiling height to accommodate AV? Do you need time for set-up or tear down? Does the meeting space need Internet access or Wi-Fi? Do the rooms need to be in close proximity to each other?
a. Food and beverage events
· How many food and beverage events are held? What types: breaks, breakfasts, lunch, dinner, receptions? What is the estimated attendance at each? What price range do you have for each food and beverage event?
· Will the meeting have a tradeshow? What is the square footage required for the exhibit hall? Do you need column free space? How close are the loading docks? What utilities do your exhibitors require? Are the facility’s workers union employees? How much time do you need for set-up or tear down?
c. Registration and Offices
· What is the square footage needed for registration? Is the designated area in a high-traffic space or away from the general public? Do you need nearby office space? Are adequate utilities available? What additional services such as local entertainment option, restaurant reservations, tours, etc., are needed in the registration area? Do you need this space early for set-up?
d. Special needs
· What special needs does the meeting have such as people with disabilities? Are there any potential language barriers? Does the facility have ample space for loading and unloading buses?
8. Select a destination city and facility type
Many organizations establish a rotational pattern for future meeting sites, moving from one region to another. Consider travel convenience and cost for the maximum number of potential attendees. Then investigate major airline availability, total number of seats, etc. Once a general area is identified, determine the type of facility: airport hotel, conference center, convention center, downtown, resort or suburban?
a. Prepare a meeting request for proposal (RFP)
· There are numerous options to release RFPs to CVBs, hotel chains and multiple sites. Hotels are most aggressive when they know that they are one of a handful of hotels being considered.
b. Review and evaluate sites
· Site inspections are invaluable to judge the appropriateness and condition of the property. For larger programs, CVB’s and hotels may be willing to pick up your air after confirmation. Online features allow for virtual site inspections as well.
c. Select site
· Site Selection Success
Each of these steps plays a key role in selecting a meeting site. How well the meetings needs are aligned with the facility will determine the success of the meeting.