The Next Best Thing to Being There: 5 Tips for Site Visit Workarounds

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You’ve done your research. You’ve narrowed down the possible locations—using EliteMeetings.com’s handy search engine of course—and now it’s time to take the final, in-depth look at your top two or three venues. Though nothing beats a real, live site visit, there are times when time, budget or distance makes an in-person look-see virtually impossible.

So what to do when you’re not able to get the lay of the land in person? Fake it – as in, get as close to being there as you can, minus trip to the airport. Here are a few, next-best ways to workaround a walk-around:

1) Let your fingers do the walking.
Request venue photos, as many as you can get your hands on, and be specific about the images of the rooms you need to view for the initial review. Politely ask the venue to omit (for now) the close-up beauty shots of candles, floral arrangements, individual table settings, dancing wedding couples, etc., which tell you (and your client) little about the actual space. Ask for snaps of the spaces all done up for an event, and in the raw as well as at night and in the harsh light of day.

2) Be a polite pest.
If despite your best efforts a venue still sends you a few too many beauty shots and not enough event-specific details – like exit doors, kitchen egress, pillars, wheelchair access, coat check, etc., – then ask the venue to take and send you a few cell phone snaps to augment what they’ve already sent. Take it a step further and send them a shot list, outlining exactly what you need to see – so you get the freshest, most up-to-date, vision of the space and how it looks right now.

3) Do a little sleuthing.
OK, now you’ve got professional shots, plus hopefully a few informal supplemental cell phone shots but what do the rooms look like when they’re full of guests? To get a sense for the flow and how well the space handles a crowd, Google up phrases like “launch party at Venue X” or “charity event at Venue X” to see what images pop up. For a warts-and-all look at guest rooms and hotel facilities, check out the traveler photos on consumer traveler sites.

4) Take the venue for a virtual stroll.
If you’re really serious about a venue – as in just about to sign the contract – consider requesting a final walk-thru via Skype or FaceTime. Now I might not necessarily recommend doing this type of walk-thru for massive convention spaces (given the amount of dead air there might be as you “walk” from room to room), but for small to medium spaces, it’s another way to “experience” the space one last time before signing on. Got a nervous or indecisive client? A Skype/FaceTime walk thru can help calm their nerves as well!

5) Hire a buddy, or someone else’s.
Still not quite sure about the space? Then hire a local on the ground. As a last resort, for several far-flung locations, on occasion I’ve hired local colleagues and friends to do a site survey for me. Armed with specific instructions and an appointment with my banquet manager, they were able to quickly shoot the photos and video I needed to make the final call, for about half of what it would have cost for me to jump on a plane and fly across the country at the last minute.

Happy hunting!

Photos: Andrew Shafer Visuals, Shutterstock, Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit

Kate Doyle Hooper

Kate Doyle Hooper

Since establishing her own company over a decade ago, Kate has produced just about every kind of event imaginable, from executive meetings and conferences to live music performances, mobile tours, fashion shows, celebrity gifting suites, and retail events for companies such as American Media, Bloomingdale’s, Conde Nast, Cosmopolitan, ELLE, Harper’s BAZAAR, Hearst, Macy’s, Perry Ellis, Time Inc., Wilhelmina Models and Rodale, to name a few. Kate's editorial and advertising work has been published in Budget Living, ELLE, Fit, Civilization, Conde Nast Traveler, Esquire, Essence, Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, Men's Fitness, Men's Health and Shape, as well as on blog.cvent.com and weekendwalk.com.

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