Venue Wisdom: 4 More Secrets for Planning Success
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, they too expect us to return the favor by freely sharing with them the information they need to do an amazing job. In a sense, there’s no such thing as “TMI” in the events business! Knowledge and information are not only power, but are the key ingredients for a fantastic, glitch-free gathering. What else to keep in mind? Here’s the inside scoop from the venue pros who work with planners like us every day:
1) Timing really is everything.
Early on in your discussions with your venue, you need to nail down your timing, particularly as one venue may need less or more time than another to accomplish certain aspects of your program. Ivy Ng, Manager of Event Services for Sheraton Grand Macao Hotel and The St. Regis Macao suggests that planners and venues establish common goals along with a timeline from the outset. “This way, both parties know what the priorities are throughout the planning process” and if there are several teams handling different aspects of the event, everyone is in the loop and headed in the same direction. Another word to the wise planner? “Make sure your venue assigns at least two key people to oversee a major event,” says Ng, so you have the coverage you need – and to guard against unforeseen circumstances, such as weather, illness, holidays, etc.
2) Go ahead, make your menu your own.
Many planners look at catering menus as if they’re written in stone, when in reality, there’s a lot more flexibility than meets the eye. Says Jason Kusel, Director of Food & Beverage, Gateway Canyons Resort & Spa, “More and more meeting planners are wanting menus custom built to their client’s needs. Standard banquet menus are becoming a thing of the past.” In other words, all you have to do is ask. Adds Kusel, “our Chefs have the flexibility to custom build menus for our guests, which for planners means a unique experience that only their group will have.” Bottom line: don’t be limited by traditional menu offerings; look for custom menus to fit your group’s dynamic and budget.
3) Got tools? Use ‘em.
For maximum efficiency, quick event-day communications and less 3-ring binder schlepping, hotel venues have added plenty of web-based apps and digital tools to make planning easier for all, so “take advantage of the tools the venue provides,” says Ng. For example, Sheraton Grand Macao recently added their “eVent Portfolio” app to centralize the team’s document storage and facilitate faster communications throughout planning from initial meetings through load-out. At Starwood there’s the eVent Portfolio to help with on-site, real-time tweaks and at Marriott JW Event Concierge, R.E.N. Meetings Expert and Red Coat Direct app keep immediate assistance in the palm of a planners hand. In short, the days of sprinting across the ballroom frantically searching for a floating A/V guy are over – and not a moment too soon!
4) Know your neighborhood.
Yes, as we all know, budgets can be tight, but planners can save the team time by doing “a pre-planning site visit early on in the process, particularly if you’ve never visited before,” says LaPlaya Beach & Golf Resort’s Director of Conference Services, Robert Keane. If you have visited the property previously that’s great, but you still need a visit to view any changes up close. Barring that, when a visit isn’t possible at a known venue, at minimum says Keane, “meeting planners should always arrive on property the day or two before the program begins.” This will help get you reacquainted with the property and key staff members, give you time to do and review banquet orders prior to ‘doors open.’ Another tip? If budget permits, try to stay the day after the event or catch a very late flight home, to make sure guest have a smooth departure and to get final items squared away with the venue.
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