Selecting sites & vendors by asking better questions

UPDATED: I read an article about which I posted questions and a link at Meetings Today Forum about issues to consider when selecting sites.  Read this and that post and then let's discuss the questions you might ask.

Last weekend, we saw "Red", the Tony-award winning play, now at Arena Stage in DC. If you have seen the play (or watch the clip) you may remember the scene in which the artist Mark Rothko and his assistant  see red so differently and diversely.

Seeing the (thoughtful and provocative) play, I again thought about how we interpret words and concepts and how our interpretations may be very different from someone else's.  If I say "adults learn best in pleasant surroundings" and ask you what that means, you might say it includes "comfortable" chairs, "good" lighting, etc. When asked what "comfortable" and "good" mean, you will likely define it differently than someone else, and if we delve deeper, we may find any number of meanings.

Here's where this all leads: On various discussion boards, a number of people have asked "How do you attract young professionals?" 

Answers followed immediately without knowing attract to what was being asked.

Is it attract young professionals to work for their organizations? to their meetings? as members? as customers? to their web sites and blogs?

We want answers yet we don't provide enough information. And answers are given without asking necessary questions. It's like sending out an RFP for a meeting and saying "I want to book a meeting" with no other information provided! [Ok.. I know this happens! Sales people reading this -- take note! Planners -- send this to sales people to help them know to ask questions.]

How would you respond to these posts?*

- Could someone make a recommendation for a hotel in Orlando?

- I need to find a restaurant in DC.

- We need a speaker for our meeting.

Would you provide the name of your favorite hotel in Orlando? your favorite restaurant in DC? the name of a speaker you just heard?

* Ah! Trick question! How can you make a recommendation for anything or answer a question without more specificity? 

We can provide more information - "I need a DC restaurant recommendation for 40 people, in a private room, within walking distance of the Dupont Circle Metro Q Street entrance. Our budget is $125/pp including tax and service charge. We will (or will not) have a speaker. We want something upscale (or casual), we prefer a local v. chain restaurant" ... - and make it more likely the answers will provide what we need.

We can ask better questions -

How many people will attend your Orlando meeting? What are the demographics? Tell me about the program - the number and types of sessions, room sets desired, if there will be meals, and the duration of the meeting. In what part of Orlando do you want to be? Will people be driving or flying in?


What are the objectives of your meeting? Who is your audience? In what business are they in? Will the speaker be a "main stage"/general/plenary session speaker?  Opening, middle or closing? To what kinds of speakers has your audience responded? not responded? -

before answering.

I was the "who-what-why" kid and am the same as an adult. Thus Q-storming comes naturally. I prefer questions first, answers later.

How do we become more specific in what we ask and ask better questions before we provide answers?

And what does red mean to you?


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