The following checklist was compiled by Janet Pickover, CMP, director of Site Inspections Plus (siteinspectionsplus.com), a service of JR Associates, in Princeton, N.J. Special consideration should be given to the following steps when you can’t conduct a site inspection in person.
- Organization questionnaire. Determine goals and objectives of the meeting and establish facts, such as how many people, meeting room specs, number of rooms, etc.
- Request for proposal. Include all non-negotiable issues and conditions. What are the must-haves?
- Site-inspection questionnaire for the venue. When you can’t visit, it’s crucial this document is filled out completely and accurately. Generally 12 to 15 pages long, it should include questions about the physical plant and property services: number and location of elevators, rest room locations, number of bellmen on each shift, guest room amenities, retail and F&B outlets, A/V capabilities, property ownership/management, etc.
- Security/safety questionnaire for the venue. How do they handle emergency procedures for medical emergencies, natural disasters and personal security issues?
- Ask questions of references with programs of a similar size and requirements. For example, how did hotel staff handle changes to your program? Did you encounter any noise or disruptive problems during your meetings?
- Consult user-generated reviews on Trip Advisor or similar sites, with the following caveats: A) Note the post date. A lot may have changed since those gripes or raves were posted. B) Look for patterns in the reviews, as opposed to isolated incidents. C) E-mail some of the posters for additional feedback, even if they were independent travelers.
- Talk to people in the area who know the venue, especially if you are using a destination management company and other local vendors.
- Network with peers. For example, consult the MeCo community on Google Groups (groups.google.com/group/MeCo). Query fellow professional organization members; many organizations have online forums.
"Tour" the Venue
- Ask to see photos of the property, but remember that pictures posted to the Internet (or in print) are not always an accurate depiction.
- Virtual tours might help in some cases. Look for columns, service doors, windows, a lack of windows, or obstacles that possibly could pose a problem.
- Do a follow-along "site inspection" from your office with the venue salesperson — either online and/or using printed materials. Make sure you have a floor-space diagram and proposed meeting requirements; a completed site-inspection questionnaire, RFP and safety/security questionnaire from the venue; and a prioritized list of questions, depending on the needs of your group and staff.
- If there is anyone in your organization — say, an association member or an employee from another office — who lives near the potential site, ask him to visit the site and be your eyes, ears and nose. Provide specific guidelines for things to watch out for, such as food trays left in the hall, curious smells, long lines at check-in and the noise level of the heating/cooling system.
- Arrive a day earlier than usual so you have time to adjust, change, fix, finalize, recheck, confirm, inspect and reconfirm that everything is as you expected.
- Arrival/departure form. Assess check-in services, parking, car rental, taxi stands, etc., as well as the ease of finding them and any construction issues. You might find problems that weren’t revealed beforehand, in which case, you can still take action and warn attendees.