> Site Selection Overview
> Selecting Venues
Selecting Venues and Facilities
Once the city or geographic area has been decided and you are ready to explore different venues for lodging and function space that would be appropriate for your group, you may find the sheer number of types and services available to be mind-boggling. A brief description for each of the various types is available for you below. If your group is adventuresome and would like a real change of scene, there are very creative options for venues that can enhance the perfect setting for your meeting, event or social function!
You may have to book much further in advance than you would think if your preferred location is in high demand or if your choices are limited due to the need for an exhibit hall or large convention hotels. Trade shows and large conventions are typically booked 2 to 10 years in advance.
If you are booking short term, meaning within the next 90 days, it should be easier to find availability of guest rooms and function space at hotels or resorts due to the challenges they face in the current economy. In some areas of the country, however, hotel and conference properties are still doing quite well so check the availability and verify booking policies early before moving ahead with any other plans.
Social functions -
The function space that many hotels offer for social functions can be extremely versatile ranging from exquisite for a wedding to casual and fun for a fiesta. Many people think only of ballrooms when a hotel comes to mind, but gardens, terraces, suites with magnificent balconies and even rooftops can be themed to create a unique and perfect setting.
You may prefer to hold your function in a free-standing venue that does not offer guest room accommodations, however, and will need to protect a block of guest rooms under separate contract at a nearby hotel or other lodging type. This can be more expensive, particularly if the venue you are considering does not have an equipped kitchen nor an inventory of linens, tableware, glassware, tables and chairs. If that is the case, you will be required to also contract with an equipment rental company to provide all necessary items.
Free-standing venues -
Free-standing venues such as a historic train depot, an aquarium, a church or temple, a lovely outdoor garden or even a zoo are only a few of the possibilities to consider! Local attractions will usually offer areas that can be cordoned for private parties during certain hours of the day or evening. Lodging options are plentiful, too. Your guests may be enchanted to experience the ambience of a historic Bed and Breakfast Inn, or if your budget is tight and your program is educational, you may want to explore accommodations at a university. You may be pleasantly surprised at the quality of a conference center and guest rooms that may be available to you on campus.
Under one roof -
If you are coordinating a meeting or event with multiple functions and the need for overnight guest rooms, holding everything “under one roof” will almost always prove to be the most cost effective way to go. The more revenue your group can generate for one venue, the more negotiating power you will have for amenities and price concessions and the easier it will be on your budget. It may also reduce the risk of attrition penalties that will be included in almost every type of contract providing a recourse to venues, facilities, caterers, recreational facilities and more if attendance falls short and the revenues projected from your group do not materialize.
Conferences or larger meetings -
Larger functions may require research on more than one type of facility to accommodate the various aspects of the program. Meetings with an all day or multi-day agenda will need function space and services for meetings and catered meals or refreshment breaks. Space for exhibits and recreational activities may also have to be arranged in addition to overnight guest room accommodations. Such gatherings are often booked in hotels where all needs can be accommodated, but a convention center may also be necessary if you need exhibit space a very large ballroom or many different breakout rooms. Some conferences can be handled beautifully at a smaller, boutique property even if space requirements are significant. Boutiques can be preferred if the attendees prefer a more intimate environment with more personalized service. With a little imagination you can find the perfect spot for table top exhibits or a large meal function at a boutique property, perhaps in a tented garden area where a networking reception will also be held. Your exhibitors might even sponsor it!
Small meetings -
If you work for a company that plans educational training workshops, board meetings or other types of small meeting, function space may not be your primary concern. Often companies have dedicated space in their own buildings for this purpose. However, if you need to book a meeting short term (within 90 days or so) many hotel or catering facilities will be happy to accommodate you if they have any open space available on your preferred dates. If you are trying to book space beyond 90 days, you may find that the booking policies of the properties you approach prohibit confirmation of your booking until you reach the magic 90-day threshold (and sometimes it can be a 30-day threshold). Learn the philosophy behind this policy, which is called yield management, rather than resisting it. It will help you in your approach to booking the space and guest rooms you need if you understand it.
Regardless of your choice, a personal site inspection before you book is important!
Without a site inspection visit before making a final decision about the city, venue or facility for your upcoming event, it is impossible to judge the current condition of a property and surrounding area and whether or not it will actually meet the unique requirements of your group. You may find unhappy surprises upon arrival that would never be visible from a brochure or virtual tour. A site visit can be a simple one-hour appointment with a sales contact for a tour of a property if you already know the area, but a more extensive visit to experience first-hand the accessibility of the site and the surrounding neighborhood will be important if the area is unfamiliar.
If the properties you are considering for your meeting or event are out-of-town and it is not feasible for you to personally inspect them yourself, recruit a volunteer you trust from the local area to conduct a site visit for you. If necessary, a Destination Management Company from the region can provide this service for a fee. Whoever visits the site must be detail-oriented and have a clear understanding of the critical things to look for, both large and small. Be sure the person chosen is well equipped with a thorough site inspection checklist that includes every detail to be checked and noted. Notes taken during the visit must be comprehensive and accurate to make recall of all important details possible. Without the checklist, the inspection will not be completed and documented properly and a decision could be made to book based on inadequate or misleading information. See also the topic Before You Book for more related info.
About Mobile Star and AAA Diamond Ratings -
The Mobile Travel Guide Star Ratings and the American Automobile Association (AAA) Diamond Ratings are the two most recognized ratings for the hospitality industry. The greater number of stars or diamonds, the higher the quality of amenities, service and environment. All aspects of the hotel’s physical property, services and amenities are considered. Professional inspectors are sent by both organizations to conduct personal, often unannounced, site inspections before a rating is approved. Only hotels are rated by Mobile and AAA. There may be different rating organizations that would apply to Bed & Breakfast and Unique Venue categories.