The Most Important Site Visit Lessons I Ever Learned
We hope you’ve been enjoying our Site Visit Checklist Tips this week on our Facebook Page! To add to those staples, I pondered and pondered what great additional revelations I could provide about the somewhat dreaded, but always necessary site visit. Deep in thought, it came to me that it’s not always necessary to come up with the newest ideas, but often, returning to fundamentals works wonders. So, join me if you will on a little journey down memory lane…
It’s 1999 and I’ve just been promoted to manage the Philadelphia office of the training company I was working for at the time. We were expanding and considering hosting some of the training sessions outside of our centers. So that we could make an informed decision, I was hard at work contacting hotels and conference centers to get price quotes on utilizing their space on an ongoing basis for our larger groups. As I honed in on one particular location that had impressed me, the voice on the other line uttered the magic words “well, would you like to come out and see our space for yourself? We’d love to treat you to lunch!” Music to my ears. Any reason to get OUT of the office was good enough for me.
Being my first true experience with site selection, I had no clue what to expect. What I did know, was I needed to make a great first impression (you know, so they knew I meant business!) So that morning I pulled out my favorite suit and my favorite killer 4" heels (they weren’t that comfortable, but what did that matter? We only need to see the one room I was interested in; after that we’d be sitting down for lunch). Well, 1.5 hours later, feet screaming and head spinning I’d learned a few things:
- Site selection is not just reviewing what you thought you needed, but inhaling all of the options that the property has to offer you. We walked around that sprawling conference center viewing every bit of the 40,000+ square feet of meeting space in addition to sleeping rooms – why? Because my host knew, even though I didn’t at the time, that what you think you need is sometimes limited by what you think is available. So often, once you actually step into a venue, see and feel the actual dynamics of the space “live”, your mind gets creative about other ways to get the most out of your program in that location. I’ve even stumbled upon gems like re-purposed rooms that don’t appear on the plans, but were perfect for something my group needed to do that I thought couldn’t be accommodated!
- What you see is not always what you’ll get. Of course prior to the meeting I’d reviewed the floor plans in the brochure, and had an ironclad understanding of the layout of the meeting rooms and breakouts. So. I. Thought. What I learned by walking the site was there was no way to get from the Grand Ballroom to the breakout rooms without going through the Grand Foyer (just outside the ballroom). So, since my group wasn’t using all of the breakout rooms, there was a very good chance that other groups would all have to use as a hallway the same area where we were planning on serving our breakfast and breaks. I wasn’t sure if this would be a deal-breaker, but it was worth consideration (and only able to be considered because I’d taken the time to visit).
Although these are just a couple of examples of some of my first lessons learned, over a decade later, these principles are still at the core of how I approach each visit. Even now with a great checklist in-hand, I believe that the most valuable tool I arrive with is an open mind ready to consider every scenario.
So – what’s on your site visit check-list? Any not-so-obvious tips you’d like to share, or lessons learned?
Image courtesy of orgnmaster