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CHAPTER 2:

FINDING THE
PERFECT VENUE

So you have narrowed down your selection process to two or three destinations and are ready to send out RFPs to all the hotels that meet your selection criteria… all 125 of them, right? Wrong!


Before filling out your RFP to hotels and venues that will not meet your requirements, do your homework to save time for both you and the potential venue partner. Remember, while it may not take much effort to send out an eRFP, it does take a lot of time for the hotel to respond and for you to review them. This extra step is necessary in the venue vetting process and is guaranteed to pay off.

3 CONSIDERATIONS

LOOK AT MEETING OBJECTIONS AND REQUIREMENTS

While the items listed below may sound like they belong on an RFP, they are high-level considerations you must nail down before submitting an RFP. This information can be used in the proposal or may just help you drill down to the next level.


Goals

What are the goals and objectives of your meeting? Once you can convey them in a clear, concise manner, many venues will become obvious choices.


Style

What is the style of the meeting? Is it a networking function for employees, educational session of like-minded professionals or a large annual association convention?


Also, does the venue reflect the image of the organization? Is it a place your company, its stakeholders and sponsors would be proud to enter? On the other hand, is it too opulent for your guests?


This takes time to assess and requires planners like you to walk a fine line. The venue should not be “too” of anything. Too cheap or too expensive are not words you wish to hear from attendees.


Meeting Space, AV and Food


  • What is your total meeting space requirement? Would a convention center, conference center or hotel work best for your group? How many breakout rooms do you need, and will you want to use outside function space?
  • What type of audio visual equipment will you need, including risers and podiums? Is technical support available onsite?
  • Are there ways to brand your event through the hotel’s marquee or digital signage?
  • Is Wi-Fi prevalent throughout the facility, including outdoor space? Is it free or fee based?
  • What about charging stations? Are they available throughout the space and do they support many types of mobile devices?
  • Look at food and beverage – overall, what is the cuisine? Can you bring in outside caterers, if desired?

If you are like most meeting professionals, you collect convention and conference surveys from attendees at the end of each meeting to garner feedback about what worked and what did not. Now is the time to pull up those results and really learn from them.


In addition, if this is an annual event, take a hard look at your three-year history. Analyze meeting spend in the areas of space, audio visual, presenters, food and beverage, and any other line items of significance.


Lastly, map these results against your goals. How do they line up? Should you be doing things consistently or do attendees want a fresh take?

BREAK DOWN THE BUDGET

LOOK AND ASK FOR HELP

There is an abundance of free resources available as you look for venue guidance to help make meaningful and successful decisions.


Convention and Visitors’ Bureaus can aid you in three major areas:


  1. Gather information and connect with hotels that meet your search criteria
  2. Set realistic expectations about the destination and
  3. Educate you about local demand factors, such as peak times, special conventions and construction projects scheduled for the time of your event

The Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI) blog details perspectives, insights and advice for meeting professionals about locations and venues.


The Convention Industry Council offers the Accepted Practices Exchange (APEX) that promotes development and implementation of industry-wide accepted practices to create and enhance efficiency throughout the meetings, conventions and exhibitions industry. There are many free templates available to evaluate venues and destinations full of great questions.


If you are a member of Meeting Professionals International (MPI), you can search under the community directory and connect directly with other planners, suppliers and university faculty in the city you are looking to explore. As a fellow member you can ask for advice about the best venues and from experienced professionals.


The American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) has a collection of models and samples used by real associations and industry partners designed to generate ideas and save you time when planning your meeting.


Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) offers courses, articles and research on meetings and exhibits strategy as well as the capability to do a search on any specific terms.


There are many LinkedIn groups that you can ask for guidance or suggestions about specific venues within a destination. The following three feature active discussions about anything event management related:




Cvent has two offerings to help planners narrow down their choices:


  1. Cvent Supplier Network offers live chat capabilities with a Cvent consultant and serves as a way for more than 70,000+ planners to find venues, send RFPs and collect proposals through a single platform.
  2. EliteMeetings.com is a free tool for planners looking at luxury destinations. It gives you an opportunity to view 44,000 properties via an exclusive portal. Every member has direct access to a personal assistant who can help with information about a particular destination and finding the perfect hotel for a specific event.
THE NEXT STEP: THE RFP

Now you should be armed with enough information to send out your RFPs. You have completed your homework by looking at your goals, requirements and history, but most of all, you’ve gone deeper into industry ideas and standards. The next chapter will help you craft the perfect RFP to get the responses you desire!

We always solicit hotel feedback from our attendees. We ask them to rate the food, facility, and service. They are also able to provide additional comments if they so desire. This helps us to provide feedback to the hotel, we have concrete opinions should we need to request a credit, and it lets us know what to look for in the future. One hotel recently used had two towers - one had been renovated, one had not. This information was not disclosed and the site visit led us to believe all rooms were equivalent, but we quickly found out that was wrong. We now know to look at multiple rooms on a site visit and ask better questions. Likewise, we can find patterns in responses. We have decided to refrain from using a particular hotel chain indefinitely due to poor quality at the previous three properties of theirs we've used.

Julie-Michelle Davis
Meeting Planner, American Contractors Insurance Group