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Event planners know the importance of visiting an event property, particularly when selecting a new venue for an upcoming event. But what about when returning to a property that you’ve previously contracted for an event? Is it worth the time, and money, required to travel to the destination and complete another site visit? While it may seem easy to “skip out” on the trip, especially when the event itself is a repeat, there are plenty of reasons you should consider returning to the site before signing another contract – or at least as you begin the early stages of your event planning.
Here are 8 compelling reasons to justify that repeat visit.
1. Internal Event Team Turnover – chances are if it’s been a few years since you were last at this venue, some of your internal event staff may be new and unfamiliar with the space. The site visit is important to help the entire team get a full picture of the space. I suggest taking plenty of pictures and even recording a virtual walk-through so that team members back at the office feel oriented with the property as they are planning for their specific functions.
2. Venue Team Turnover – particularly post pandemic, many hotel and conference center staff have turned over. If this is the case, it is important to sit down with the current event team and walk through the entire space together while referencing your event agenda. And, if you signed your contract pre-pandemic, your event size and needs may be different which may warrant shuffling some of your function space.
3. New Event Partners – if you are contracting with new event partners such as audiovisual vendors and expo services, this provides the perfect opportunity for them to join you at the property to walk the space, meet the event team and capture the items they need to ensure a successful event from their perspective.
4. Property Maintenance and Conditions – depending how long it’s been since you were last onsite at this property, you may be surprised at the conditions when you return (for better or worse). I recently returned to a property that I hadn’t been to in several years and some of the space was completely renovated and repurposed. While there were pleasant surprises such as renovated sleeping rooms, some of the onsite dining options were no longer there. If you arrive onsite for your visit and a meeting room looks “tired,” you have time to find a more appealing space that better fits a specific function.
5. Food and Beverage Sampling and Onsite Dining – this is always a key reason to visit a site ahead of time regardless if you’ve been there before. Banquet staff changes, menus get updated regularly, and even your onsite dining options may have changed. Meeting the banquet manager and discussing the unique needs of your event is much easier to do during this visit and also gives you the perfect opportunity to sample the food firsthand. If you know you need some private dining for smaller groups, check out the spaces, and get them reserved as soon as possible if they seem like the right fit.
6. Determine Attendee Flow and Signage Needs – chances are even if you’ve been to this property, the needs of your event have changed, and the attendee flow may be different. Walking through the space, as if you were an attendee going through the program, will help you map out the flow and plan your signage accordingly. You may even get some additional signage and branding ideas that you wouldn’t have remembered from the last time you were there.
7. Visit the Surrounding Area – this is really important if you plan to send attendees offsite for any activities. From your arrival at the airport, to the hotel or conference center, and any other stops along the way, the more information you can share about the experience with your attendees will be helpful (and may even help with event registrations). Consider working with the local Convention and Visitors Bureau for ideas on offsite activities to check out while in town – then curate a list of things to share with your attendees if they have free time during the event.
8. Sponsorship and Hospitality Opportunities – if you have sponsors, touring the property and taking photos of “sponsorable” areas and activities within the event space will be helpful for you sponsorship sales team. Additionally, scoping out unique spaces for them to host sanctioned hospitality events for attendees create win-win opportunities for the sponsor, hosting organization, and the attendees – use this time to get creative!
Overall, the more planning and preparation you can do up front as you plan your event, whether it’s the first offering or it’s an annual event, the more successful it will be for all stakeholders. By making the decision to visit the venue early in the planning stages – even when you’ve been to the space before – is always time well spent. It’s even a good idea that as you negotiate your contract with a hotel, you build in some complimentary room nights specifically for a pre-planning site visit. This doesn’t have to be a long trip, in fact you can likely make this a one-to-two night stop to save on time and cost, but you won’t regret making this trip a priority.
Photo Credit: Pexels.com