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 meting professionals focus on two key factors in the site selection process:
- Foretelling an organization’s meeting requirements and
- Evaluating a potential site’s ability to meet those requirements.
Eight Steps To Successful Site Selection
The needs of an event must be identified first and then aligned with sites that can properly accommodate them.
Here are eight steps to successful site selection.
1. Identify the meeting objectives.
What is the purpose of the meeting? 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, attendance at each function, 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. Note: in today’s volatile economic climate, 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.
- 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?
- 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?
- 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 ancillary groups? How are the rooms traditionally set? What AV requirements are needed? 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
4. Consider attendee expectations and interests.
Read Meeting Site Selection Cheat Sheet: Attendee Perspective for more information.
5. 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?
6. Prepare a meeting request for proposal (RFP).
There are numerous options to release RFPs to CVBs, hotel chains and multiple sites. Third parties can source your site options and often provide more buying power and klout than direct bookings. Hotels are most aggressive when they know that they are one of a handful of hotels being considered.
7. 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. Use a site inspection checklist like this one from Destination Meetings.
8. Select site
Site Selection Success
Each of these eight 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.
How do a meeting’s objectives impact the site selection process? What additional questions would you add to step three, establish physical requirements?
Other Cheat Sheet Posts that might interest you.
Meeting Site Selection Cheat Sheet: Attendee Perspective
Cheat Sheet For Hiring And Paying Professional Speakers
Go Hybrid: A Live Streaming Cheat Sheet
Meeting Planners Cheat Sheet: Food
Jim Kelley says
Jeff…great post, sometimes we just need to get back to the basics and good core practices. With that said the “network backbone” of facilities is greatly improving, but in many cases not at the rate of usage required by many events for items such as networked meeting rooms, digital signage, web casting, heavy wireless usage etc. No longer it is enough to ask if these services are available…the key is to understand the capabilities and capacities of these services and how they align with your meeting requirements to insure success. Your partners for these services can easily provide you specific ‘technical’ areas to look for.