One of the first tasks meeting planners are charged with is to choose an appropriate venue that ensures a successful event on all fronts. If careful consideration isn’t given to venue selection, it can spell failure of epic proportions. People might remember a terrific keynote speaker for a few days, but they’ll never forgive being shoehorned into a too-tight space with bad ventilation. Get the venue right, however, and you’ve set yourself up for success right out of the gate – with both delegates and those signing the cheques.
CM&E Magazine recently polled a cross-section of meeting planners from coast to coast and asked them how they go about selecting a venue. Here’s what they had to say.
When selecting a venue for meetings and events, which of the following methods do you use most often and why?
Previous and personal experiences with the venue
Ann Clemensen: When dealing with a familiar venue, you gain the value of a pre-existing relationship. A strong relationship with venue co-ordinators ensures a smoother process from A to Z.
Robin Gardner: Previous experience with a venue allows you to match your client’s expectations to the venue based on your own first-hand experience. If you have already developed a relationship with the venue, you don’t have to re-invent the wheel in terms of logistics.
Deborah Schroeder: This is the best way to select a venue – you know the building, the food, the level of service, and most importantly, you know their strengths and weaknesses.
Anne-Marie de Lavison: I trust my instincts. If the past experience has not been good, but the vendor does everything in his or her power to improve a changeable situation, I will definitely reconsider. It all depends on a variety of factors such as service, attitude, quality of the food and meeting and guest room size.
Word of mouth and referrals
Ann Clemensen: The news of a bad experience, even if it was not your own, stays with you. That is why when you have a good experience to share, do so. Talking to colleagues who are familiar with the space and service can be just as valuable as your own perception.
Robin Gardner: The advantage of using referrals is that you’ll likely spend less time doing research and more time focusing on the needs of the client. This can be a huge time and hassle saver.
Deborah Schroeder: When working in a region I’m not as familiar with, I will definitely ask my network for recommendations. I want to know what their experience has been with the venue.
Anne-Marie de Lavison: After personal experience, the next great influence on my selection will be the recommendations of a convention or tourism bureau, a supplier, or a planner whose opinion I respect, and who has actually experienced the venue.
Research – trade magazines, internet, phone calls, etc.
Ann Clemensen: As well travelled as we may be, there will always be a region that is unfamiliar and you must use the general resources available. I tend to start my search via the internet, and not just with the venue websites but by utilizing CVB’s or the many blogs that are now available.
Robin Gardner: Using research tools is a great strategy to learn about new or improved venues or ones for which referrals are not yet available.
Deborah Schroeder: Having to research a venue can be very time consuming, but offers the possibility of discovering a new and fabulous venue, one that might turn out to be the “next big thing.” I find that often the research doesn’t match the reality, so a site visit is crucial.
Anne-Marie de Lavison: I would have a great amount of difficulty selecting a venue that no one has experienced first-hand, simply based on the venue’s publicity and advertising. However, I will also go out of my way to find out more about a venue that in appearance seems to really fit the bill.