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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Tips on site visits from the meeting pros

Sarah Kerr, assistant to the chief financial officer for United Technologies Corp., and Roslyn Parker, owner of Affinity Partners Group, have made their share of site visits. Here are tips from the two meeting planners on making the most of a site visit.

Will we all fit in the room?
Ample, appropriate meeting space is top on Kerr’s list. “You have to make sure you are going to fit,” she said. “Always overestimate on your head count because it is better to have more room than not enough.” She allows for more elbow room than many hotels would. “If they say a room seats 100 classroom style, for example, I know that I better have 60 or fewer to fit into that space. I’m just overly cautious.”

Are there food options for everyone?

Kerr gives hotel catering menus a thorough review, especially if most meals will be on site. She looks for hotels and venues that offer variety and that also have ample options for those on a restricted diet.

All guest rooms are not created equal.
During hotel tours, Kerr asks to see as many guest-room types as possible. In older hotels, especially historic properties, rooms can vary widely. “I tell them I want to see their top of the line, their middle and their lowest room,” Kerr said. During site visits for high-profile meetings, Kerr has hand picked the hotel rooms her attendees will stay in.

Keep your eyes, and mind, wide open.

Parker sees as many hotels as possible, including those high on her list and others that she might not know much about. Doing so has resulted in some surprises. In Sedona, a hotel that was not on her radar so impressed her with its service standards, its rates and its facilities, that she booked it for a meeting.

Compare apples to apples.
If more than one company does jeep tours or there are three to four wineries that welcome off-site dinners and receptions, Parker will try to visit them. “In Sedona I visited three wineries and spoke with the owners of each so I could see the personality of each venue. I was there during busy times so I could see in a snapshot their customer service.”

Meet up with your aides-de-camp.

Site visits create personal connections with hotel staff, CVB staff and often, a destination management company. “They are a part of your team even though they are not a part of your team,” said Parker. “The way they do business and the way they are dealing with me in the beginning of the relationship — I can get a lot from those initial relationships.”

Make more than a mental note.
Anyone who has been on a two- to three-day site visit will admit they cannot remember everything. Make notes, take pictures, gather brochures. Parker uses her laptop, iPhone and iPad to record thoughts and experiences. “I spend a lot of time at the end of the day, talking into the recorder to myself,” she said.