Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio July
Back to Basics
By Martha Jo Dendinger, CMP
SETTING SERVICE GUARANTEES
How to ensure your meeting gets the attention it
Meetings, as live events, are vulnerable to bad or inadequate
service. But the definition of good service is elusive. A large
group might require only a decent room rate, while attendees at a
board of directors meeting might expect round-the-clock attention.
A live person rather than an automated system on the other end of a
phone line might spell service to some; to others, the reverse
might be true.
Taking a hard look at the specific audience profile and meeting
objectives can help flesh out what the event needs. Hosting a
meeting is labor-intensive, so adequate staffing is one key element
in providing good service. Training and communication are equally
important. Planners should keep an eye on the following areas
during site inspections and contract negotiations.
The “front door” of every meeting comprises the registration
process (managed by the meeting planner) and the hotel check-in
(managed by the hotel). A negative experience at either spot can
color the rest of the attendee’s trip.
Making sure enough people are on duty in these areas is
critical. Industry standards for registration suggest one registrar
for every 100 attendees, and a transaction time of less than a
minute per preregistered attendee. For attendees registering
on-site, personnel needs depend on the method used whether the
registrar is interviewing attendees vs. having them complete the
Hotel personnel standards vary according to the type of property
and the level of activity in-house. Discuss the minimum number of
bellmen, doormen, reservationists, room clerks and housekeepers
with the hotel sales contact. Peak times require additional
staffing, so communicate when those hours will be. Ratios vary,
depending on the type of property it is; with convention hotels, I
usually specify one desk person per 100 rooms in the block at peak
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Inadequate service at food functions can be hard to digest; it
pushes programs off schedule and enrages attendees. The Convention
Industry Council recommends one waiter for every three banquet
tables, and one bartender for every 100 attendees.
Most catering managers employ higher ratios and base the number
on the menu and type of service used. American or plated service
requires one server for every 20 attendees; French service requires
one server for every 10 guests, preferably with two servers teaming
up to serve two tables of 10 each, or using busboys and captains.
With Russian service, where the waiter serves to each diner from a
silver tray, the server’s skill is key; the ratio should be one
server minimum per table of 10. A good busboy can assist with 20
For buffets and refreshment breaks, request one server and one
buffet line for every 100 attendees.
THE HUMAN FACTOR
Communication and training are equally important aspects of good
service. Don’t ask if employees are trained; ask
how they are trained.
Most subpar service comes from people who think their jobs are
insignificant or low-paying, and receive little recognition for
their work. Boost morale by greeting personnel throughout the
meeting and recognizing them at the end of each event. Another way
to ensure special attention is to encourage staffers to take
personal responsibility for your meeting: Ask the chef to help
design the menu; ask the sales manager, banquet captains, setup
crew chief, etc., for their suggestions in making the meeting a
It is a good idea to incorporate into contracts a definition of
the service that is appropriate for the meeting and to define
penalties for late or inadequate service.Martha Jo Dendinger, CMP, is an independent meeting planner
based in Atlanta.
Back to Current Issue indexM&C
| Events Calendar
| Incentive News
| Meetings Market
| CVB Links
| Reader Survey
| Hot Dates
| Contact M&C