Venue Wisdom: 3 Secrets for Planning Success


Whenever I get together with my fellow planners, inevitably we talk shop, exchanging war stories about our experiences with one venue or another, which ones we love, who’s got the best facilities, which properties have the most attentive meetings staff and of course, which ones come up short.

Fortunately, most of the time our events come off with little more than the occasional glitch obvious to no one but the planner.  Afterwards, we a breathe a collective sigh of relief, pack up our circus tents and move on to the next town. Often though what we remember most is what we learned along the way, the lessons to apply for next time and of course, the pitfalls to avoid. But no matter where you are in your planning career, it’s important to remember that planning is a two-way street.

Just as we expect the world from our venues (and usually get it), they too expect us to give them what they need to do an amazing job. So, just what are the venues expecting from us? We checked in with a few properties for the inside scoop and a few reminders to add to our lists for next time – so we too can be amazing:

1) Live conversation matters.
Much as we all may love email and texting, as a planner, you’ll get a lot more mileage out of your venue if you add live phone conversations to the mix. It doesn’t always have to be a formal conference call every time either – a quick, check-in chat on the phone can help you cover a lot of ground quickly and lay the groundwork for a good working relationship. Says Ivy Ng, Manager of Event Services for Sheraton Grand Macao Hotel and The St. Regis, “communication – and lots of it – is key! I strongly believe in picking up the phone and speaking to people. Only in that way can you really “understand” your planners better and build good relationships with them.” For Ng, live conversation “is also the best way to ensure we don’t miss out on important details or instructions.” Bottom line: never hesitate to pick up the phone.

2) Know how and when to connect.
At certain points in the planning process texting makes the most sense in terms of speed. Says Michael Macleod, Director of Sales & Marketing, Gateway Canyons Colorado Resort & Spa, texting is taking off “not only because of the immediacy, but also because of the younger more text-centric generation of planners coming up the ranks.” The trick however, is knowing when an email is in order – you can’t plan an entire event via text, so start with live conversations, emails and then switch to text as the event is close to kickoff. For many planners the full switchover to text usually starts a day or two before they touch down in their event city and the countdown clock starts ticking in earnest. Just be sure your team and the venue’s knows when to start making the transition.

3) Get everyone headed in the right direction.
Planners are pretty comfortable with saying what they mean and getting what they want – but if you don’t share the full story with your venue contacts, you’re not setting them up to excel. Much as we all may love bullets, toplines and short bites of info, sharing goals and the ‘narrative,’ – aka the full story – is key. Says Monika Lotter, Director of Catering & Conference Planning at Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago “one of the essentials is to know what each client is trying to achieve for their meeting or event.” For example, with a new product rollout, the key points to focus on may be room design, menu selection and ambience.  For corporate meeting, privacy, A/V and room setup may be job No. 1,” so the more you share the better.

By clearly defining goals and client expectations from the outset, the venue team is ready for action and it “provides us with additional opportunities to enhance the event,” says Lotter.

What does that mean for you? Perhaps a few creative solutions and fresh ideas you may not have thought of. Says Sheraton Grand Macao Hotel and The St. Regis’ Ivy Ing “I love to delve deep into conversation with my planner clients to find out as much as possible, such as who the delegates will be, where they’re from, and what’s needed to make the event a successful one.  By listening to what they have to say, I can do a much better job of planning and providing suggestions.” Bottom line: tell the full story and let the venue be your creative partner.

Happy planning!

Photo credits:

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 and

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