Let’s face it.  Being in charge of an event is intimidating, especially for you first timers.

As I have said before, no worries.  We got you.

Okay, so we obviously think that it is a no brainer to choose CDEC as your venue.  However, because we are completely customer service oriented, even if you don’t choose us, here are some tips (and there are several) to point you in the right direction towards a successful event.

First and foremost, you must choose your venue wisely.  Customer service is EVERYTHING.  If your first inquiry with a potential property is met with a rude employee, let that be your decision.  If they are rude in the beginning, imagine what it will be like during the whole planning process.  Cross them off of your list, immediately.  (For the record, there are no rude employees at CDEC…just sayin)

Next, schedule a site visit.   It will be a significant advantage for you if you take the time to visit the hotel/conference venue that you are considering for your event.  After your visit, you will be equipped with a visual base which can be utilized towards the planning stages of your conference, including becoming familiar with the distance between sleeping rooms and conference space, the size of the conference rooms, the location of special events, access from the conference location to the exhibit/vendor halls, the cleanliness of the property, and the overall organization and customer service.  If you have been speaking with a hotel representative over the phone, a site visit also allows you the opportunity to put a face to a voice, and to meet your hotel Point of Contact, aka your lifeline, the person assigned to assist you from beginning to end.  This person will be helping you put out any potential fires, so it is really a great idea to meet them (face to face) prior to your conference.

Once you have chosen your preferred venue, it is vital that you designate only one point of contact from your team, and one point of contact from your hotel venues team with all communications going forward.  This way, there are no wires crossed on either end in terms of requests and expectations.

Now is the time where you begin to develop a relationship and a check list with your hotel Point of Contact.  Your first discussion should include the number of guests at your event, how many will be staying overnight vs how many commuters, what day advance guests or event planning team will check in, what day your main body will check in, and what day all guests will check out.  You will also need to discuss requirements in regards to General Session and breakout rooms, as well as audio visual and meal needs, and any additional requirements or preferences.

After your site visit and all of your requests are discussed, your hotel Point of Contact will send you a cost estimate to include everything as it relates to your conference.  (sleeping room, conference room, meal and any incidental costs).  Be sure to keep in mind for budgeting purposes, that this document is only an estimate, as often times you might have guests who add on at the last minute, or any other variety of reasons resulting in increased hotel and meal costs. 

The next step is to take the time to dot every I and cross every T.   Review, review, review.  The best way for an Event Planner to ensure success is to make a check list and start from the beginning.  Your check list should include, but should not be limited to the following: 

Lodging:  When compiling your conference RSVP details, be sure and maintain a spreadsheet to include names as well as arrival and departure dates for each of your guests.  When providing this information to the hotel, a simple worksheet to include last name, first name, check in date and check out date is best.  This type of basic spreadsheet allows less room for error as opposed to color coded sheets providing a multitude of information.  Another best practice is to collect information from the hotel regarding what types of sleeping room amenities are included (wi-fi, coffee pots, hair dryers, bed types, irons, ironing boards, mini fridge, etc).  This way when your conference attendees ask you, you will know the answers in advance.

Audio Visual/IT needs:  Ask all of your presenters to provide you with their audio-visual requirements by a specific due date, well in advance of your conference. Providing this information to the hotel Point of Contact in advance helps to ensure communications around what types of requests might require additional outsourcing.  Often times IT department representatives will inquire as to what types of laptops presenters plan to use in terms of compatible hookups, etc.  Obtaining this information from all presenters will also be to your advantage. 

Meals:  Some of your guests may have food allergies/meal restrictions.  Be sure to inform your hotel point of contact of any special meal requests in advance as catering to these types of requests requires preparedness.  In the event that the specific meal request cannot be accommodated, it is also important that you determine the exact restrictions of the guests who have food allergies, so that a safe alternative may be provided.  You will also need to be sure that you provide the hotel with accurate meal counts to include all guests who will be participating in any of your meal functions.  There are times when guests might not be attending every meal.  Inquire with each guest as to which meals they will be attending, so that you can provide the hotel with an accurate head count.  If you have a preferred linen color, preferred seating, or preferred way of the order in which guests are served during catered event, this will also need to be communicated.

Printing:  Because some hotels do not have large printing capacity on site, make sure that your facilitators prepare all hard copies prior to your event.  In addition, send all applicable hard copies to the hotel “labeled as belonging to your conference” well in advance of your conference date. 

Transportation:  Some hotels provide complimentary shuttle service to and from the airport, if the location is a short distance.  If the venue that you have chosen does not provide shuttle service, and your attendees will be using rental cars, it is important that you provide them with directions for the easiest route from the airport to the hotel. 

Attire:  Not only is it important that you provide communication to your attendees around your organizations preferred dress code for your conference, special events, and potential team building activities, but because conference room temperature can vary, it is also important to advise them to dress in layers, with a light jacket or sweater that can be removed if needed.

Do not be afraid to reach out to your hotel Point of Contact with questions or guidance during your planning stages.  Remember, this is your go-to person.

Once all of the needs are discussed and met, it’s contract time.  When reviewing the contract, make sure that it includes everything that you have discussed, and that both parties have signed the document.  In addition, it is vital that you fully understand any cancellation penalties regarding food and/or sleeping rooms, so that you are prepared.

Okay.  This is HUGE.  As I have mentioned in previous posts, communication is key. If you send one company wide email to all attendees with key takeaways from the above information, including the name, address and directions to the hotel, check in and out times , whether or not a credit card is needed at check-in, registration table location for collection of agenda and materials, a reminder of the conference start and conclusion time, the weather report during the time in which your conference will take place, hotel restaurant hours of operation, whether or not there are snack bar options accessible before and after restaurant hours, vending soda machines, sleeping room amenities, directions, distance from the airport, shuttle service information, hotel parking costs (FYI, CDEC parking is free), wi-fi costs (Yep, wi-fi is also free at CDEC), pool and fitness facility information and hours of operation, gift shop details, special event times and location, attire, and your direct contact information, you will easily eliminate any unanswered questions that your attendees might have.

So, there it is.  There are some additional obvious suggestions related to each individual conference plans, but for the most part we have provided you with every step towards success. 

Oh, wait.  There is one more vital suggestion to ensure that your event will be a huge hit, and that, my friend, is that you that you choose CDEC as your venue.  I mean, hey, we know what to do, and we just shared most of it with you (with the exception of a few of our secret ingredients), so why not allow us to assist in make your event a huge success?!

You’re welcome. 🙂

See you soon!