No matter your level of experience, there’s always room to make your events better. Given everyday scheduling conflicts, work commitments and budgetary constraints, it’s tough for veteran event profs to find time for their own career training. For novice planners or volunteers, these challenges are more daunting. Imagine planning annual conventions and conferences with housing, meals, transportation and entertainment for thousands of attendees with little to no training or hands-on experience (scary stuff!). With that in mind, seasoned meeting professionals offer up advice to beginner planners to make their day go a bit easier.
1. Talk to your chef before, during and after the event.
Given attendees’ awareness of food allergies, religious diets and a slew of other health restrictions, it’s critical to know who (and what) is cooking in the kitchen. Tell the chef exactly what you need, want and don’t want on your menus. Afterward, let the catering staff know how the F&B worked, for better or worse.
2. Know thy neighbor.
When reserving meeting rooms, ask who’ll be sharing ballrooms and nearby breakout spaces. “We had an auction going on next door to us once that we were not aware of beforehand,” says Jane Turrill, executive and military assistant and conference planner for the Evangelical Church Alliance. “It was loud, and we had to ask them to tone it down.”
3. Photos don’t lie, but they can be misleading.
If you’re based in Washington, D.C., but are looking to book in Washington State, you may not have the funds to do a cross-country site visit. Don’t let a splashy website mislead you into making bad choices. Find a church member or someone else you trust based closer to the destination to scout potential hotels and venues, and then report back to you on the best options.
4. The more details in your RFP, the better.
The more information you can give a hotel about your group’s needs (i.e. guest rooms, meeting spaces, meals, parking requirements, etc.), the less back and forth you’ll have to endure when finalizing your contract.
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