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The importance of “Site Visits” and a few top tips on getting the most out of your show rounds...

You can’t believe everything you see on the internet…

After a recent business trip to the French Riviera I was reminded, yet again, how vitally important site inspections are to the success of any event. Whether the venue has been used in the past or for the first time, for large numbers or an intimate affair; walking the venue and experiencing the service has never been more important. We are living in a digital era in terms of virtual site visits and access to extensive image libraries on venue websites, and even google images can be a great source of research, however, there is quite a lot of misleading representation out there. Unless you have a keen eye for precise detail and a crystal ball predicting time scales it’s become increasingly difficult to identify the genuine state of a venue’s current aesthetics and soft furnishing.

My recent experience is quite comical and I take full responsibility for being so naïve especially since I am a huge advocate for site inspections and insist we arrange show rounds for our clients when the shortlist of potential venues has been decided. But more on that a bit later.

Not only is the physical appearance of a venue hugely important but there are a number of other benefits gained from visiting any potential event venue.

Some comments noted on show rounds vs images on the internet have been:

“Ooh this carpet looks worn and a bit tatty, hmm those windows look like they haven’t been cleaned in ages, the paint is chipped on every corner and doorway, did you notice the stain on the couch in that room…..”

There’s more to a site visit than meets the eye…

For me, the site visit begins within 5 meters of the front door or outside entrance and in some instances the journey from the airport. I have one important viewpoint in mind; the delegate journey. This starts with the sense of arrival and the all-important welcome. The sentiment felt as you enter a venue will often impact a delegate’s perception of the event. A warm and welcoming doorman, concierge or front of house reception can really have a positive influence and set the tone for the day or evening. Another key point to note at this stage of the site visit is that the venue is aware of your arrival and acknowledge that they are expecting you or your client. Being offered a quiet place to sit and a simple glass of water also goes a long way. Being left stood in reception unsure if you are even in the right building can influence the organisers decision and even cost a venue the business.

The proof is in the eating however there’s no such thing as a free meal….

It’s simply not economically viable for a venues or hotel to offer complimentary meals and beverages on every show round. Having experience working within hotels and venues, the number of site visits far out number confirmations so it is hugely important to manage this expectation. I do feel water is an absolute bare minimum and should always be offered at the very first part of the introduction process when meeting with the respective sales person.

This, however is not the point. What is important when visiting a venue is an opportunity to experience some form of hospitality, this makes up the second part of experiencing the product. Whether you have said yes please to a glass of tap water or requested a “Triple, Venti, Half Sweet, Non-Fat, Caramel Macchiato it’s all about how friendly and efficient the wait staff are. This will tell you everything you need to know about how well your delegates will be looked after. Happy, helpful and efficient staff are a direct reflection of the hotel management, culture and overall guest experience. I always find being greeted by the housekeeping team a key indicator of the staff sentiment towards the hotel and the guests.

One size certainly doesn’t fit all…

So we’ve experienced the wonderful sense of arrival, had our caffeine fix and run through the event brief in detail with the venue sales manager. Now it’s time to set off on the site visit. Location location location…is what’s going through my mind. After delegates arrive and have been directed to the respective reception area or pre-drinks space what is the flow of the event like? Does the reception space join onto the main space? Where are the cloak rooms and “WC’s” located? Are the service kitchens located close by? Are the breakout rooms on the same floor or easy to find? These are all the important logistical elements that create a successful event. In most cases where logistics are a concern, there is usually an alternative solution. This is when you can really work out if another room or space may work better or if there is any better utilization of the existing space. For example a terrace in warmer weather using the terrace for coffee breaks or pre drinks reception may be better than the foyer area.

Typically, venues are sold on the standard style and layout of the capacity charts and as event organisers we are always trying to do something new or different that will lead to better delegate experience and levels of engagement. This is a great opportunity to take inspiration from the venue and use the event spaces available to their full potential.

Takeways…

Your own photos/videos are a great way to keep top of mind awareness when viewing multiple venues. Floorplans and capacity charts are a great help with plotting out the event flow too. Having your agent with you on your show rounds means you’ll have great continuity from venue to venue as well as an impartial venue expert with your best interests in mind. Lastly, always set the expectation of what you are wanting to view and how much time you have for the show round. Ensure the venue is showcasing the relevant venues, spaces and bedrooms related to your booking. Site visits have a tendency to drag on for far too long and there is really no need to view every single bedroom type and all the meeting rooms on every occasion.

The “French Riviera” Experience…

I’m not an advocate for using Airbnb for corporate travel, however, I was due to spend 10 days on-site at the client’s expense and wanted to be realistic regarding accommodation costs (and comfort). Not only that but for protracted stays abroad serviced apartments do make an excellent alternative to hotel bedrooms. The traveller can have some creature comforts to hand like a decent refrigerator filled with their personal preferences as well as facilities to prepare meals and it’s generally easier to create a home away from home. With this said, I did as much due diligence as possible reviewing feedback, apartment images and location maps. Google maps is a great tool for better understanding the location and surrounding area. All this research on the internet didn’t really prepare me for what I landed up with but to better illustrate this I took my own comparative image.

Please note there has been no editing or trick photography done here whatsoever.

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Posted in Feb 2018

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