rants and dine there if you have time to
gauge the service level and attentiveness.
Also, ask for recommendations for a local
restaurant to see if they’re responsive to
all your needs, not just those in the hotel.
These behind-the-scenes interactions give
you impressions that may drive your next
steps and help you decide whether the
property would be a good fit for you and
your client’s needs.
Keep your attendees constantly
involved before, during and after
Complimentary Wi-Fi access in guest
rooms and all meeting spaces is a must for
attendees to not only stay involved with
the meeting, but to also communicate with
friends, families and co-workers during the
event. Excellent Wi-Fi allows them to access
e-mail, social media feeds and share their
experiences instantly, which helps promote
the meeting. It’s important to keep in mind
the attendees’ overall experience, not just
the time they spend in meeting rooms and
at events. A mobile app is another way to engage your attendees and reach them through
push notifications throughout your meeting
and keep them engaged.
Amy McCollum, Senior Program
Be aware of significant trends impacting site selection.
The U.S. economy is showing signs of
improvement and it’s increasingly a seller’s
market in North America with more demand
for space, so planners need to book earlier.
While contracts are getting stricter, the
market is still open to planners seeking a
good deal with concessions and a good
rate. Europe has become more attractive as
the U.S. dollar has gained strength, making
many destinations a good value today that
were cost prohibitive just a few years ago.
Self-check cell and tech connectivity on your site visit.
Connectivity is a very important concern,
and not just for Millennials and Gen-Xers.
All age groups want great connectivity,
NEXT BEST Thing to Being There
including Boomers. I don’t leave anything
to chance and I like reassuring myself
that connectivity is at a high level. During
a walking tour of a hotel or a resort, I’ll
constantly check my phone in the lobby,
hallways and other common areas to make
sure I’m getting good service. I also inquire
about charging stations, and if they’re not
adequate I make a note to bring our own.
Our clients are knowledgeable about what
they want and they’re used to immediate
communication and response. Planners
should thoroughly identify technology
needs before the site visit and make sure
the venue can accommodate those needs
during the meeting and before and after
meetings for attendees.
When planners can’t go on-site to re- view and analyze a prospective venue for a meeting or event, it’s imperative
to use a combination of ingenuity and creativity to execute the task successfully.
One of the exciting tech trends experts
predict will greatly impact site inspections
is virtual reality. Hotels and destinations are
moving to virtual reality to highlight their
products in the most realistic way possible.
Technology companies like Microsoft, Sam-sung and Google are aggressively developing
There are some intriguing new tools already
available. Virtual Discovery L.A. by Meet L.A.,
the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board,
is a virtual reality portal allowing planners
to take immersive, 360-degree tours of 50
meeting and special event venues around the
city. Meanwhile, the Las Vegas Convention and
Visitors Authority offers a downloadable Virtual
Reality app, Vegas VR, which explores various
sites in the city. The Atlanta CVB also recently
enhanced its existing virtual reality site tour app.
On the hotel front, Shangri-La Hotels and
Resorts has fully immersive 360-degree
videos of destinations and iconic hotels you
can watch from your office desk.
Until virtual reality and other technologies
become commonplace, the most popular
approach, according to some planners, is
good old-fashioned networking.
“My main tool is personal reference from
other planners,” said Ann Windham James,
CEO of Imagine Xhibits Inc. “I tap into my network to see who held an event in that location
or site in the last 90 days. This is so readily
available today, especially with LinkedIn.
“I also use YELP frequently,” she continued.
“I have used Facetime and Skype to see a
room real time live, and I’ll call a sales person
and ask them to send me photos of a meeting
room in real time so that I’m not relying on the
website, which could have outdated images.”
Genny Castleberry, director of sourcing
for Spear One, utilizes a variety of tools to
perform a site inspection from her office.
“We use Cvent as our online sourcing tool
because it allows us to identify and search
a variety of properties throughout the world
for our clients,” Castleberry said. “I suggest
engaging with the hotel’s national sales
office and ask for client references from the
properties you’re considering or the CVB to
get firsthand knowledge of their experience
working with these properties.
“Whenever possible, you should ask for a
virtual site visit via Skype or other medium,”
—Edward Schmidt Jr.