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The Venue Site Inspection: Seeing Is Believing

Venue site inspections are a crucial part of any event. While pictures, recommendations, and online reviews can help you narrow down your venue options, they can never replace the in-person experience.

Recently I visited a newly remodeled hotel that belongs to a reputable brand. The new pictures looked beautiful online. However, when I arrived the hotel just didn’t have the same pizazz as the pictures. Much of this had to do with the age of the building, rather than the quality of the renovations. Either way, I could tell from the first impression this hotel wasn’t going to meet our standards.

Knowing how to conduct a thorough and productive venue site inspection is one of those things that comes with experience. It’s like the old saying, “You don’t know, what you don’t know.”

When I first started, my list consisted of the basics.

  • Ease of navigating the airport
  • Distance between airport and venue
  • Initial impression
  • Quality of service
  • Food testing
  • Quality of rooms and meeting spaces
  • Distance to shopping, dining, activities, etc.

Today, with more than 1,000 corporate meetings and events under my belt, I’ve learned that a site inspection checklist will always be evolving. From first-hand experiences to new world epidemics, conflicts, updates in technology, and trending guest preferences, knowing what to look for and ask during a venue site inspection can feel like a daunting task.

Here are just a handful of examples of lessons I’ve learned first-hand.

  • Put yourself in their shoes: From the moment, you leave for the airport to when you step foot back in your home you should be thinking about and documenting the guest experience. (Click for more on the guest experience)
  • Participate in the activities: You’d be amazed at how many hotels are “close” to major tourist attractions. Take Jamaica, for instance, climbing Dunn’s River Falls is a popular excursion among tourist. Before my site visit, the hotel made it seem as though the falls were just down the street. In reality, the excursion was a two-hour drive from all the major hotels in Montego Bay. Had I not done my homework this would have been an all-day activity my client’s group didn’t have the time for.
  • Document everything: There is so much information to take in during a site inspection that it is imperative to take as many notes and pictures as possible. I’ll often visit four or more hotels in three days and by the time I get home they all start to run together.
  • Ask the locals: One of the many benefits of doing a site inspection is discovering new and exciting activities for your guests. The type of places only the locals know about. For example, on one incentive trip we organized, I learned about an abandoned convent where we were able to host a private event among the ruins. Had I not done the site inspection I would have never heard about this unique venue.
  • Talk to other meeting managers: If another group is hosting an event during your visit, make a point to talk with their meeting manager. They will be the first person to tell you about any challenges they’ve experienced during their stay.
  • Forge relationships: Take the time to meet face-to-face with your Sales Manager, Convention Services Manager (CSM), Head Chef, and Technology Providers. These are the people that will be your lifeline when it comes to organizing your corporate event. It’s important to understand what each role does. For example, your CSM is the one that will know the true capacity of each meeting room. We all know the capacity chart states one thing, but reality could be a bit different.

One of the common misconceptions of a venue site inspection is it’s a vacation for the individuals conducting the visit. The reality is there rarely is any time for lounging on these trips, and while the activities and excursions planned for your guests are often fun, your job is to participate in them even if the weather conditions are less than favorable for that activity.

It’s the knowledge you bring to a venue site inspection and the questions that you ask that aid in your ability to meet or exceed your guests’ expectations.

Until next time!

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