12 Key Steps to Planning the Perfect Offsite Corporate Meeting
1. Location, Location, Location.
It’s what your guests will remember about your meeting. Choose a location that is convenient, safe and fun. When you announce the location of the meeting, it sets the tone for everything else.
2. Create an Agenda.
This is crucial so you can see which hotels can accommodate your specific needs for guestrooms, meeting and banquet space. As you change your agenda, make sure the hotel can accommodate you changes.
3. Go and Visit the Hotel
This way you can be sure that the hotel you select is able to provide everything you are hoping for. One hotel will stand out as the winner once you take a look around. Do the white glove test on the picture frames in the guestroom hallways. Dirty is unacceptable and this little trick will let you know how clean the rest of the hotel operates.
4. Ask for a Proposal
This allows you to see all of the cost items up front such as guestroom rates, meeting room rental, food & beverage minimum, internet costs, etc. This will allow you to formulate a budget. This is the time to start negotiating everything. And, everything is negotiable.
5. Put a Wish List Together and Ask for Everything
Ask for everything you would like to have the hotel provide such as concessions and upgrades and discounts. See which hotels are willing to negotiate or who wants your business. Don’t do business with a hotel that does not return your calls promptly, won’t give you what you need, etc. It will be a struggle from the get-go. There are always other hotels who would love to have you meet there.
6. Ask the Hotel for References of other Meeting Planners
It’s amazing what you’ll learn that will either confirm you are at the right hotel or send you running to their competition. If hotels hesitate when you ask, run.
7. Negotiate These Clauses Into the Hotel Contract:
No Walk – so the hotel does note relocate any of your guests if the hotel is sold out. No Competition – so that none of your direct competitors are meeting at the hotel during the dates of your meeting (you will have to provide the hotel with a list of your direct competitors). And, No Renovation/Construction – so that no noise or work is being done at the hotel during your meeting dates.
8. Set Up a Pre-Convention Meeting
Set up a pre-convention the day before your group arrives with the director of catering and the heads of any other departments who will be taking care of your guests, such as the front office manager. This will help everyone to be on the same page in terms of the exact agenda and times of each event.
9. Review the Invoices Daily for All Charges.
It’s impossible to remember how many bottles of wine you ordered or how many guestrooms you had per night when the final bill arrives weeks after the event. Plan to do this first thing in the morning after the invoices have been prepared from the day before.
10. Have Emergency Plans In Place.
When you bring a group of people together, stuff happens. Be prepared in advance by having each guests “person to contact in case of an emergency information”, know each guests dietary/medical needs, plan for black-outs, or any other type of “oh my gosh” that could and does happen. Be prepared!
11. Choose Mouth Watering Menus.
The food is the number one thing your guests will talk about during and after the meeting. It’s a lasting impression. Surprise them with fun choices and watch the carbs so people don’t fall asleep in the afternoon meeting. Save the lunch dessert for the PM break.
12. Plan Something Fun to Do in the Local Community
If you can make it a community event, even better. Elementary schools love to send their choir to start your morning meeting with their charming rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. Think of the “fun stuff” to make the “important stuff: stick in everyone’s minds long after your guests go back home.