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preplanning

You’ve contracted with the perfect venue for your next big gig. Let’s be honest, in this hot market, that contract was signed years ago. Now it’s next up on your calendar and it is time to get serious. With countless details to organize, a running list of questions to ask, decisions that are best made in person and a myriad of fresh ideas that can only be brought to life by seeing a space live – do yourself a favor and setup an in-person pre-planning meeting with the various key players that will be instrumental in the success of your program. After many productive site visits, here are my top tips to maximize this face-to-face time and promise a smooth planning process when you return to the office.

  1. Budget for pre-planning meetings. Make this an automatic line item in your meeting budget!
  2. Pick a date when all parties are available and focused. Give your Convention Services Manager (CSM) plenty of advance notice to ensure the dates you are considering for your pre-planning trip also work well for your key contacts. After all, what good does it do if your CSM has another group in house and isn’t able to be attentive to your needs?
  3. Communication is key. Paint the overall picture for your CSM. Describe your meeting goals and objectives. Discuss the profile of your attendees. Are they a social group or are they all business? What are the takeaways they expect by participating in your program?
  4. Have a set agenda of things you would like to review and share it with those you plan to meet with well in advance. Allow your meeting partners to prepare ahead of time so that everyone is fully equipped to tackle the big stuff!
  5. Create a grid of contracted space — or as I like to do, color code the venue floor-plans and identify the functions that will take place in each meeting space. Whatever your method, develop a system that will allow you to make informed decisions about room assignments, because odds are that your meeting has evolved since you contracted the venue several years back.
  6. Share your meeting specifications well in advance. This includes audiovisual, food and beverage, a program outline, etc. The more your partners know prior to your arrival, the less time you'll spend explaining the meeting basics. For instance, review the banquet menus prior to your site and share your top selections with your CSM. If you don’t see exactly what you’re looking for and want to consider a custom menu, your CSM can engage the chef and the three of you can select the best meal options for your group during the pre-planning meeting.
  7. Checkout a current onsite event. If there are any events taking place at your venue during your trip, set aside some time to scope them out. Seeing how others use the space can go a long way in helping you visualize things like your registration setup, signage plan and more.
  8. Put yourself in the attendee shoes. Use the same transportation system that your guests will as they travel to and from the airport. If your event involves offsite activities or tours, sample those same happenings during your pre-planning meeting to guarantee that it fits your attendee’s expectations.
  9. Review all types of sleeping rooms, not just your upgraded rooms. Of course it’s important to inspect the VIP suites, but these spaces only reflect the experience of a small percentage of your attendees.
  10. Take notes of action items. What do you need to do and what follow-up items do your planning partners have?
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