The process of choosing a venue is riddled with questions. Over the course of a career, every planner eventually develops a list of large and small considerations that must be addressed before a contract is signed.
The truth is, mastering the art of site selection takes time, but constantly refining the process will only benefit your groups.
First gather the numbers
Before committing to hosting a conference, create a realistic budget that identifies all expenses and offsets. You need this information before you can choose a site.
In the budgeting process, you must carefully forecast revenues. Be sure to talk to all partners, suppliers and potential sponsors to see if they would be interested and willing to sponsor your event and find out what type of budget they have. Use the results from your survey and your own knowledge of the market to forecast expected attendee revenues. Determine what type of cost offsets you can negotiate with the hotel and other vendors.
People and spaces
If you know your attendee base, consider: Will it be a drive-to meeting or will you need airlift? If the latter is the case, do you require nonstop flights? Based on past events, the current state of your organisation, your industry and the overall economy, what is the expected number of attendees? How many guest rooms will you need? How much square footage of meeting space will you require? How much exhibit space? Breakout rooms for smaller sessions? For example, if you want a captive audience, a remote property might be best.
Go for a visit
During visits, bring a comprehensive checklist of all areas that must be inspected and data that must be gathered. For example, one often-missed detail is the loading dock and the route from the dock to the main session and exhibit spaces. Another critical part of the inspection is verifying that the meeting-room occupancy numbers set by the fire marshal and posted in each room match the numbers on the hotel's meeting-rooms spec sheet. If occupancy numbers in a room are not adhered to, there is a chance your group won't fit.
Crafting the deal
After final site inspections are completed, and the client has rated each venue based on the predetermined criteria, do a comprehensive evaluation of all possible properties, including venue costs, marketing costs, operational costs, room rates, liabilities and risk exposure, concessions and credits, and sponsor and attendee revenues, if applicable. Also, send the report to the client, who chooses which properties to take to the negotiating step.
In the end, you should have a venue and a contract that makes everyone happy. And after all has been signed on the dotted line, don't forget your runners-up and the work they put in to try and win your business.