What factor is most important in picking a venue for your meeting? Availability? Price? Location? Quality of service? In this section, we will provide you with the information you need to work through this process.
Types of Sites to Consider
- Conference centers.
- Convention centers.
- Universities and corporate centers.
Number needed, and bed and room types. Your audience profile and history will help you determine how many one- or two-bed, non-smoking or smoking, or ADA-accessible rooms you need.
- Before you begin the selection process, know the format and space needs of your program.
- Try to use the history of a similar meeting to determine meeting-room needs.
- Factors to consider:
- Individual-room HVAC (heating/ventilation/ air conditioning) and lighting controls.
- Flexibility of use, including 24-hour holds on space (with or without a charge).
- Sound systems.
- Access to/quantity of telephones, restrooms.
- Recent renovations.
- High-speed Internet and Wi-Fi.
Determine what kinds of equipment (tables and types, chairs, water pitchers, sign easels, etc.) are available, and how much of a facility’s inventory will be available for your meeting. Request an inventory list.
Many planners work for organizations that would risk convenience or security if some other specific group, or certain type of group, were to meet at the same site or in the city at the same time. Therefore, consider the following:
- Discuss with the site what your organization does, who the participants will be, and who your speakers, if they are high profile, will be.
- Ask what other groups are booked in-house and in the city during your program dates. At some point, you may want to determine what speakers are booked for other in-house groups. If one is a controversial figure, is there potential for demonstrations or picketing?
- Ask how the site coordinates with the CVB and other hotels to avoid booking incompatible groups.
- The obvious: Sleeping-room rates (or at conference centers, complete meeting package rates), taxes, and food-and-beverage prices.
- The not-so-obvious: F&B taxes and gratuities, service charges, and whether these are taxed; phone access fees including fees for high speed and Wi-Fi access; fees for using vendors from outside the facility or not on the facility’s preferred list; meeting room setup and rental charges; and surcharges such as resort fees or energy fees.
Check the Following:
- Automatic External Defibrillators (AEDs) on site, and the number of life-safety-trained personnel on property as well.
- Full-time security personnel and experience.
- Location of hospital and fire/police and other emergency contacts relative to the site and to offsite events.
- Site’s record of reported incidents.
- Compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act and fire-safety laws.
Obtain lists of service providers from the CVB, but also discuss your needs with the site. Types of services you may need:
- Audiovisual equipment/services.
- Business and office supplies and services.
- Interpretation services for persons who are deaf or who speak another language.
- On-property car rental or airline desks.
- Exhibit decorators.
Transportation and Parking
Costs and availability of spaces and services (self vs. valet) may impact your meeting if you have many local participants, day guests or car renters.
Renovation and Constructions
- Ask for details of the last renovation (hard and soft goods).
- Ask about future plans for renovation and expansion, or if the facility will eliminate meeting space or guest rooms in a renovation.
- Ask how the site has prepared to protect your meeting, just in case there is any construction work to be conducted in or around the property while your meeting is in progress, or work not completed prior to the group’s arrival.
Ask to see a list of site policies that may impact your meeting’s financial or operational scope. Here are some items to consider:
- Charges for early departures from, or extended stays in, guest rooms.
- Substituting one participant’s name for another in the room reservation list.
- Per-person daily resort or other fees for ancillary services.
- Additional servers for meals above what a facility’s labor contract specifies.
- Meeting-room rental charges if your group does not meet the hotel’s room block, even if there are scheduled food-and-beverage events.
- Policies governing attrition, cancellation and termination.
- Before deciding on a site, ask to see a copy of the facility’s standard contract, and specifically request to be informed of any language that is not negotiable.
- If your organization uses its own standard contract, provide any clauses that are “must-haves” for your meetings.
- Key clauses to consider: “walking” guests (relocation to another hotel), attrition, cancellation, termination, guest room name substitutions, reservation cut-off dates.