- Arrange a meeting with the hotel general manager and all hotel department heads. This is an opportunity to learn the inside story. Topics for discussion should include employee training, operational procedures and best practices in place for the handling of meetings and incentive programs. This is also an opportunity for the key hotel principles to understand your priorities.
- Set the wheels in motion to negotiate concessions that are important to you and that are to be included in the hotel contract. Face-to-face negotiations are more likely to produce successful results for both parties. If you have a client with you, this is an opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge and negotiating skills.
- If you are planning food & beverage functions, inspect the kitchen and make arrangements ahead of time for a food tasting to sample menu items that you may want to include in your awards dinner, for example, or custom off-menu items suggested by the chef and the food & beverage manager.
- Check the acoustics between function space walls to insure that your meeting attendees will not be distracted by sounds coming from the next meeting room.
- Meet with the audiovisual personnel, either in-house or outsourced by the hotel, to make sure that they understand your requirements. Keep in mind that if you use your own A/V company, the hotel will not be responsible for on-the-spot replacements due to equipment malfunctions.
- Ask about Internet connectivity and charges both in the meeting space as well as in the sleeping rooms.
- Make arrangements ahead of your inspection to have the meeting space set up in the room (or in a room of the same size) to insure that the configuration will work for your program.
- Check the loading and unloading restrictions for coaches, vans and mini-coaches as well as disabled accessibility.
- Some hotels will not allow hospitality desks in or near the lobby. Make sure that your hospitality desk will be located in an area that your attendees can easily find.
- Ask the hotel about signage requirements and restrictions and make sure that your client provides permission to the hotel for their presence to be known by other hotel guests. Some corporate clients are sensitive to signage and need to keep a low profile for security reasons.
- Check drayage pricing, accessibility and security as well as storage space if you are planning on shipping a large amount of materials.
- Make sure you secure easily accessible office space for your program managers and travel staff who will accompany your group.
- Find out the names of other organizations that will be in-house during the dates of your program. Some clients have a list of competitors that the hotel must agree not to book during their program dates.
- Ask for references and/or contact details of planners who have recently held programs at the property. This is a way of checking the hotel's strengths and weaknesses and you may find some red flags.
- If you are planning any outdoor functions make sure that the back up space is adequate and that it will accommodate your décor should you have a theme for the functions.
- Double check the hotel's emergency plans and procedures in the event of a disaster.
- Find out when the hotel was last refurbished, if there are any future plans for refurbishment, construction or other potential disruptions during your program. It is also important to find out if there is any construction planned in the area or buildings surrounding the hotel as this could cause disruptions. This is something that you may have to check with the destination.
Nola Conway is president of Global Destinations Marketing (GDM) in Beverly Hills, Calif., which serves a number of Fortune 500 clients. Conway, who has played a leadership role in the meetings and incentives industry for over 20 years, is responsible for her company's overall
strategic business development, client performance improvement programs
and client meetings management. To learn more about Conway and GDM, please visit their web site at www.globaldestinationsmarketing.com.