Organizing the On-Site Office

How to create a practical workplace at your meeting venue.

More Tips
• F&B stash. Make sure beverages --  including caffeinated drinks and pitchers of water -- are always available in the office. Keep healthy snacks like almonds and apples on hand.

• Stress reducers. Infuse the on-site office with a calming plug-in scent, like lavender. Consider hiring a pro to give staff chair massages during downtime.

How to Budget 
Venues often don't charge for an on-site office or for extra office keys. What you typically will pay for are F&B and Internet access (for a large event, when you need a network separate from your attendees' network). Tables, chairs and other elements might be comped or addressed in your contract negotiations.

For large, multiday events, many planners like to set up an on-site office, a space that serves as their hub of operations for the duration of the meeting. This room or area can be used for anything -- completing administrative work, holding staff meetings and even serving staff meals -- at the hotel or venue. Following are guidelines for setting up such an office.

Choose a Space
On-site offices -- typically a meeting room -- should be as close to the main action as possible. But as planners well know, such a space can reverberate with frenzied and harried conversations, so the office should not be set up right next to a meeting room or any other room that will require quiet neighbors.

Be sure your on-site office is big enough to provide a workstation that will accommodate a laptop, Internet and power connections for your entire staff, and visitors such as speakers, company executives and board members. The most popular setup for a mobile office consists of 6-foot-long draped banquet tables set around the perimeter of the room.

This arrangement also permits staff members to post their names on the wall above their station and own the space for the duration of the event.

Stock It Right 
Your office needs likely will vary from event to event, but here are some guidelines of what to consider stocking, and the best way to get those materials on-site.

Laptops, small electronics, sensitive documents, flash drives and other easily lost items are best hand-carried.  

Office supplies such as staplers, paper, ink, scissors, shipping labels, Post-it pads, pens, tape and an emergency kit can be shipped.

Big items that are not cost-effective to ship -- copiers, shredders, industrial color printers, etc. -- should be rented on-site, either from the hotel or a local equipment vendor.

Keep It Secure 
Offices ideally should be secured and locked any time they are unattended. For extra precaution, lock all computers in the room to tables or chairs via cable locks, and alert staff to set their laptops to sleep/lock mode if they need to leave the room.

Make it clear before you arrive on-site who will have access to the office and who will not. Access keys should not necessarily be given to everyone. Consider appointing one or two "gatekeepers," besides yourself, to be the only people with keys. These individuals should have duties that keep them in the room most of the time.

Despite your best efforts to monitor access to the office, we all know that executives, clients and VIPs are liable to stop by at any time. Remind staff to be aware of who is in the room at all times.

Louise M. Felsher, CMP, CMM, is an event producer and writer who specializes in strategic global event marketing. She is based in Pacifica, Calif.