Each meeting, and the circumstances under which it is created, is different. There is no one-size-fits-all site selection checklist.
The checklist I use for clients, excluding demographic and day-by-day meeting details, is easily 15 pages long. The responses to the questions asked in the RFPs (requests for proposal) are used to develop site inspection checklists and to determine what will be included in the contract.
Site selection (of a hotel, convention center, conference center or other venue) and the information gleaned form the basis for our recommendations and contract contents.
1. Safety and security of people and property: No matter how great the meeting content is or how stunning the venue, if people and property are not safe, nothing else will matter. Start with these questions and expand to include guest room and other safety concerns related to the specifics of your particular group.
- How many AEDs are on property and in what location?
- How many staff members per shift are trained in CPR?
- Are there landlines in guest and meeting rooms to notify security of emergencies? How quickly can they respond?
- What are evacuation procedures from each area of the hotel?
- When was the hotel last fully inspected for building safety? What were the results? What new efforts has the hotel put in place?
2. Owners, brand and management company: It is possible your organization or company cannot meet in a hotel with non-U.S. owners, or in one with owners who are competitors of your company. It is the one area I consistently see unchecked by planners. Even if there isn’t a dispute that results in legal action, the name of the owner, the management company and the brand (flag) are critical to learn. (Follow the news so you know who may merge with whom, as this can greatly affect hotel procedure.)
- Who owns the hotel and where are the owners incorporated?
- What is the management company name?
- Under what flag (brand) does the hotel fly?
- What is known about an anticipated change of ownership, management company or brand?
3. Competition for space and attention: Other groups or events in the hotel, or the city, can interfere with your group’s ability to operate smoothly, to secure additional space or the availability of off-site venues or services—think a city-wide event while your 100-person meeting seeks ground transportation—or to have the full attention of the CSM. It’s easier to adjust your planning needs if you calculate this information ahead of time before selecting the site.
- What groups are already contracted over the dates desired or proposed for your meeting in the venue and destination?
- What other events are going on in the city or the venue immediately before, during or immediately after your dates?
- When will a convention services manager (CSM) be assigned? How many other groups will that person manage at the same time?
4. Staff and staffing: Long ago, we could be sure that those who worked in a hotel (or other venue) were employees of that entity. No more. Many positions are outsourced and the reporting structure, though you will be told it’s seamless (and it may be), may not be appropriate for your group.
Understanding that the hotel hires people reflective of your group’s participants will help you meet potential diversity guidelines of the meeting sponsor.
- Are all staff employed by the owner, brand or management company, or are some services outsourced, and if so, which ones?
- For how long have line and management staff worked in this property?
- What percentage of the staff—and in what roles—are members of minority groups? Does the company provide fair wages?
- How are staff (“internal guests”) treated?