Site inspections are the last check before you make your final decision on a hotel for your meeting, event or conference. This step is important because, ultimately, only you know your attendees and what’s important to them. Exploring a potential new venue in person through the eyes of an attendee is crucial to determining if it’s the right location for your event. Here are five tips that will help you make the most of your site visits and prepare for a great program.
#1: Site Logistics
Full site inspections can take a couple hours or even the better part of a day, depending on the size of your program. Tell the sales manager to show you the important things first, then you can loop back for "extras" like the pool, spa, etc. if there's time at the end. The hotel will comp your parking; for an easy transition, use the valet and ask that your car be waiting for you at the conclusion of the site inspection.
The sales manager at each property should handle all the details. Look for people who put extra thought into the experience, such as calling you by name and asking questions about your group's needs; the little things. Watch that the hotel staff you see during the site are engaged and friendly towards guests. If no one is smiling, that’s a big red flag
#2: Understand What Else Is Going on in the Hotel Over Your Dates
This is a big one. Ask how full they are projecting the hotel to be. A full hotel is vibrant and high-energy, but there could be lines at the front desk, restaurants, and valet parking. If it's low-occupancy, you'll have the place to yourself, but restaurants and bars may close early.
Also, what is the mix of business and leisure guests over your dates? Will you be surrounded by other professionals, or by families with kids? If there’s a large group in-house, ask the name or at least the industry. You want to know if it’s a bank meeting, rowdy salespeople, or a sci-fi convention.
#3: Guest Rooms
Be sure you’re shown a standard guest room, since that's what most of your guests will have. Hot buttons for most travelers are: bed quality, Internet access, and a nice bathroom. Maybe also a safe – bonus if can fit a laptop.
Look at the suites that are available or offered to your group. Sales people love to show off the large, swanky suites, but if you aren't going to use them, then why waste your valuable time?
Recommended Resources: On the hunt for your next great event venue?
Download your free copy of our guide to the top 100 venues in the United States!
#4: The Meeting Space
Some key questions about the meeting space to ask every time you conduct a site inspection are:
- What groups are in the meeting space adjacent to yours? If your meeting room has air walls (divider walls between sections of ballrooms) you'll want to know exactly what's going on next door during the time of your business meeting – like team building, or anything with music. Most air walls now are pretty good at preventing noise bleed, but it’s still good to ask.
- How is the meeting space flow from the guest rooms/elevator to your meeting room? And how about from the meeting room to meals? You want to reduce the amount of potentially lost attendees as much as possible.
- Also, take a peek in the closest public restroom to your meeting space. Your attendees will be using them, so nothing tired or (yuck) dirty.
#5: Phone & Wi-Fi
Pull out your cellphone a few times to check your connection – in the hotel room, the lobby, bar, and the meeting rooms. Nothing drives attendees crazier than no cell service, as they all have emails and other work coming in while they're at your event. This is a good reminder ask about the Wi-Fi access the hotel offers in these areas and check the speed.
While you have your phone out, snap a few pictures along the way. Seeing four hotels in one day is a lot, and they'll start running together by the time you get back to your office.
Overall, don't forget to bring along a thorough checklist with these tips and any others that matter most to your event goals and objectives. Take careful notes and ask plenty of questions and your site visit will be a success.
This blog post was originally published in 2016 and has been updated for relevance and clarity.