When considering hosting your next meeting or event at a hotel property, it’s imperative you conduct an in-person site inspection, if possible. Evaluating a hotel can save you time and headaches when detailed planning for your meeting begins. Whether your group is large or small, bring this site inspection checklist with you to set your hotel meeting up for success.
1. Arrange a Meeting with the Hotel General Manager and All Hotel Department Heads
When you arrange a meeting with the hotel general manager and all departments heads, you create an opportunity to learn the inside story. Topics for discussion should include:
- Employee training
- Operational procedures
- Best practices for the handling of meetings and incentive programs
This meeting is also an opportunity for the key hotel principles to understand your priorities.
2. Negotiate Hotel Contract Concessions
Set the wheels in motion to negotiate concessions that are important to you and that are to be included in the hotel contract. Face-to-face negotiations are more likely to produce successful results for both parties. If you have a client with you, this is an opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge and negotiating skills.
3. Inspect the Kitchens and Sample the Menu
If you are planning food and beverage functions, inspect the kitchen and make arrangements ahead of time for a food tasting to sample menu items that you may want to include in your awards dinner, for example, or custom off-menu items suggested by the chef and the F&B manager.
4. Check Acoustics
When inspecting the meeting rooms and prefunction spaces, check the acoustics between function space walls when a meeting is occurring, if possible, to ensure that your attendees will not be distracted by sounds coming from the next meeting room.
5. Meet with the AV Team
Meet with the audiovisual personnel, either in-house or outsourced by the hotel, to make sure that they understand your requirements. Keep in mind that if you use your own AV company, the hotel will not be responsible for on-the-spot replacements due to equipment malfunctions.
Additionally, ask about internet connectivity and charges both in the meeting space as well as in the sleeping rooms.
6. Test the Meeting Room Setup
Make arrangements ahead of your inspection to have the meeting space set up in the room (or in a room of the same size) to ensure that the configuration will work for your program.
7. Check the Loading and Unloading Restrictions
It’s important to inspect the loading and unloading restrictions at the hotel for coaches, vans and mini-coaches. Additionally, check the accessibility of these areas for attendees with disabilities.
[Read next: How to Plan Accessible Meetings and Events: A Comprehensive Guide]
8. Check Hospitality Desk and Signage Restrictions and Requirements
Some hotels will not allow hospitality desks in or near the lobby. Make sure that your hospitality desk will be located in an area that your attendees can easily find.
Also, ask the hotel about signage requirements and restrictions. Make sure that your client provides permission to the hotel for their presence to be known by other hotel guests. Some corporate clients are sensitive to signage and need to keep a low profile for security reasons.
[Related: 4 Reasons to Use Digital Displays at Conventions]
9. Know the Shipping and Storage Details for Event Materials
Make sure you check drayage pricing, accessibility and security as well as storage space if you are planning on shipping a large amount of materials.
Shipping and drayage pricing may differ if you are meeting outside of the U.S. Research these details in advance. If you’re meeting in Canada, read more advice on moving event materials across the border.
10. Secure Accessible Office Space
Make sure you secure easily accessible office space for your program managers and travel staff who will accompany your group.
11. Know the Competition
Find out the names of other organizations that will be in-house during the dates of your program. Some clients have a list of competitors that the hotel must agree not to book during their program dates.
12. Call the Hotel’s References
Ask for references and/or contact details of fellow meeting planners who have recently held programs at the property. This is a way of checking the hotel’s strengths and weaknesses, and you may find some red flags that can easily get missed during hotel site inspections.
13. Identify Outdoor Space Capabilities and Back-Up Options
If you are planning any outdoor functions, make sure that it will accommodate your decor should you have a theme for the functions. Additionally, ensure you have a good back-up event space option that meets your event’s needs, should the weather require your group to move indoors.
14. Know the Hotel’s Emergency Plans and Procedures
Severe weather like hurricanes, tornadoes and fires can unfortunately affect an event unexpectedly. Double-check the hotel's emergency plans and procedures in the event of one of these disasters. In the age of mass shootings, many hotel staff and event planners have to be wary of active shooters, too. Know how to minimize such an incident and discuss the emergency plan with hotel staff.
[Check this out: 9 Active Shooter Risk Management Tips—And A Video That Might Save Your Life]
15. Inquire About Hotel’s Refurbishment Plans
Find out when the hotel was last renovated, if there are any plans for refurbishment, construction or other potential disruptions during your program.
It is also important to find out if there is any construction planned in the area or buildings surrounding the hotel as this could also cause disruptions. This is something that you may have to check with the destination. Tap the assistance of the hotel staff and your CVB/DMO contact to acquire up-to-date information about the area.
Tips for planning incentives? Best practices for working with CVBs? We have a checklist for almost every meeting planning scenario.
Nola Conway is president of Global Destinations Marketing (GDM) in Beverly Hills, Calif., which serves a number of Fortune 500 clients. Conway, who has played a leadership role in the meetings and incentives industry for over 20 years, is responsible for her company's overall strategic business development, client performance improvement programs and client meetings management.
This article was originally published in 2011 and updated in October 2019.