A site visit can answer the deeper questions that relate to the ultimate success of the event: the staff, the sleeping rooms, the meeting rooms, and the overall atmosphere and ambiance of the venue. Let’s face it – websites are all about pretty pictures and featuring the best side of the property, but that’s not always the reality. What you don’t get online or through a few phone calls with the sales manager is the “real” experience of the venue.
What to look out for when on a site visit
When conducting a site visit, it’s important to follow a comprehensive approach that includes several aspects of the venue. Having a few tools on hand will make your site inspection much more productive after you leave. A laser measuring tool is always handy. Believe it or not, your mobile device is a great tool! You can easily snap photos and videos that can be shared with your client and team. Rather than emailing individual pics around, we prefer to post our images in a photo-sharing website so the entire team can easily see the venue. This will help you get a definite feeling for the best venue that will satisfy your needs. After all, if you’re spending a lot of money on your event, it’s your job to ensure that you get the right venue for the overall success of your event.
Whether you’re looking for something out of the ordinary for a corporate event or a performance venue with a stage and basic lighting rig, the first thing you need to look out for is the surrounding neighborhood to see what the first impression will be by your attendees. Check the registration area, the lobby and its décor and overall cleanliness and condition. Even if it’s an older property, you can tell if it’s being well maintained, updated or refurbished or if there’s noticeable deferred maintenance. Is the lobby furniture and carpet worn, tattered or dirty, the elevators scarred or takeout food boxes left around? Look at who’s in the lobby and restaurants – you want to see what type of clientele the property attracts.
It’s really the on-site meeting with your sales manager that can make or break the opportunity to short-list a venue. During the one-on-one time, it’s important to observe the amount of time they spend with you, space they show you, how they answer your questions and who else you meet along the way. Believe it or not, all of this is very important – it will tell you if they’ve been paying attention and if they understand your event requirements. It’s also a reliable indicator of how important your event is to them, as well as how you and your attendees will be treated on the day of the event.
And let’s not forget the Internet. Overnight guests always need 24/7 high-speed Internet. So, make sure to ask when it was last updated, how fast it is, what the daily or multi-day cost is, and of course, can that cost be negotiated or even waived for a group?
A few other things to consider: What are the hours for room service and restaurants? Is there a fitness center and is there a use fee? What are the hours? How close are the sleeping rooms to the event space?
Your visual inspection of the event space should include much of what you’ve already been looking at – the general condition of the space including when it was last updated, the condition of both hard and soft goods. But just as important, does it meet the requirements of your attendees such as natural light, size, and ceiling heights? What is the “usability” of the space (are there pillars or is the room an odd shape)? Can it accommodate your AV needs? How updated are the air walls and are they soundproof? What’s around it – other event spaces with other groups, the catering kitchen, pool area or kids club, a garden or a parking lot? The overall layout of the space – how efficient is the floor plan for all of your space needs including meal service? How would other groups in-house intermingle with our group?
If guests are local, check to see if there’s adequate parking available, and the cost. In some of the larger cities, valet parking can cost as much as $50 per night at the property, but there might be a public lot next door or self-parking for less than half that amount. If there are other events planned for the same time, is there enough parking for everyone? It’s very frustrating when your guests arrive at a meeting only to be greeted with a sign at the parking lot that says “Parking Full – Overnight Guests Only.” If guests will travel from afar, does the venue offer shuttle service to/from the airport? If not, can private shuttle service, taxis or a car service be pre-arranged? What are the costs likely to be? And what’s the transfer time from the airport to the venue?
When looking at the sleeping rooms for you and your attendees, layout, and size of the rooms are key – is there an adequate workspace? Can the guests move around with ease? Simultaneously, you should look at the overall condition of the room. You’re not only looking to see if the room appears clean but also at the soft goods to see if they are old, stained or frayed. Are the air conditioning/heating ducts clean or filled with dust? Is the room tastefully appointed – color palette and furniture selection, bright and enjoyable to be in? And the bathroom – is it larger than a breadbox? Has it been updated and when? Does it have adequate counter space to layout toiletries? Are the bathtub/shower tiles clean?
Wrap-up and scoring
Expenses are important, and it’s crucial to ensure that your budget won’t be exceeded. But that’s only part of the equation. In order to ensure an optimal event, you need to balance the total estimated expenses against the suitability of location, accessibility, comfort, cleanliness, ambiance and overall feel of the venue. By seeing the property, meeting the staff, asking the right questions, requesting documented proof of past performance, and most of all, negotiating the basics before you sign the contract, you can pick the best venue for your event.
If you find yourself in a position where you’re unable to conduct a site visit on your own, TOAST can help you on your search for the perfect venue as your technical scouts. We know what to look for and what questions to ask when conducting a site visit. This way, we can help determine the best space for your event, and also the advantages and limitations of what’s available.