The Importance of Site Visits for Meeting and Incentive Planners

Most planners travel a lot. They are productive people, making it happen from California to Paris and everywhere in between. Traditionally, sourcing venues starts when a meeting or event is presented (or assigned), we seek out the right venue and then book the perfect space. One secret for finding that just right venue is maintaining a practice of continually seeking out other spaces to site while traveling.

There are many positive reasons to do an additional site or two when you are on the go, but none more important than having your own virtual filing cabinet in your brain of the places you’ve been and seen first-hand. Here are some secrets to developing your own resource treasure trove.

Know what’s in the market

You’re hosting your meeting or event at what’s known as the best hotel in Atlanta…but do you know who their competition is? Have you seen their space? Many suppliers make it a practice to ‘shop’ their comp set. Yet, very few planners do unless we’re sourcing a specific program and city. If your client says, “I heard that XYZ property has a rooftop terrace where we can host a dinner,” you want to be able to confidently respond, “I was actually there last month and yes, it’s outside but it’s a horrible view and wouldn’t work for more than 100 people.” That requires checking out more than just the host venue.

Utilize your partners

Make site visits productive and timely. I love working with my convention and visitor’s bureau and trusted hotelier partners for this. I let them know when I have 2 hours and want to see a variety of (insert group specifics). I give them insight to who could potentially be the client but let them know I am scouting for ‘future’ clients as well. Great CVBs will identify the “where” and help you can see and experience the space in real life, an experience much more powerful than any website floor map or 360-degree view.

Do a quick on-site

Short on time? Can’t get to another location during the meeting or event you’re managing? Then make an effort to take in all of the possibilities where you are. Is a board meeting for 15 people in your future? Cruise by the ballroom when your group is in session to take in what ‘could be’ for another client that hosts galas for 500. Take a walk to the event lawn and imagine the possibilities of events that could happen in that spot. Work with your sales manager at the property to ensure you’ve seen it all. You don’t know if you don’t ask and I love to explore the space on my own to absorb the observations. Note how the staff works, the other events happening and how they are designed…be a sponge. Take it all in.

Read your trade mags

Be aware of what’s up and coming in the market. Is there a new underground venue that you need a password to get into? A new luxe incentive resort in a highly desirable beach destination? You want to know and let your clients know you know…and they need to be there.

While it’s always been about who you know and the value of your network, it’s also about your expertise in your own field and the knowledge of what’s out there because if you know, you know.

Michelle Thornton is director of meetings and incentives with Russell Harris Event Group

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