So you've decided you want to host a fabulous Intensive, Event or Conference
- now what?!
I've put together the top 10 things, in order, that you need to consider so that you can begin to plan your perfect meeting, event or retreat!
1. Determine event goals and objectives.
To get started, first and foremost, you want to figure out your core goals and objectives.
This may sound like a no-brainer, but, so many people begin to hold meetings and events, because they like the thought of it, but as planning persists, they realize their goals and objectives weren’t clear from the start, making the planning process far more difficult than it needs to be.
- Some things to consider:
- Why are you holding your meeting, event or retreat?
- Approximately how many people? Will this be a large or small event?
- How long will the event be?
- What will the meeting consist of
- What do you hope your guests will get out of this?
- Do you want to make money or break even?
- Is this an event for guest to learn? A chance to relax? A networking opportunity?
2. Decide on preliminary budget.
Based on your monetary goals for this meeting, It’s important to understand your budget once you begin crafting the contents of the event and searching for a location, so that you can be realistic and match your venue with the amount you want to spend.
3. Decide on possible dates.
I always suggest that my clients figure out approximate dates before they decide upon a location so that they select somewhere geographically that matches their event’s goal. For example, you probably wouldn’t want to plan an event in Arizona in August or Florida during hurricane season. It does help to select a few date options, as if you’re flexible, you may fall right into a great deal offered by the venue.
Also, consider your attendees. Based on their work and family schedule, would they be more likely to attend during the week or weekend? During the Summer or Winter?
Bonus tip: If you’re looking for a deal, Sunday through Wednesday are a great choice, as most hotels are far less busy during these days, so not only will costs for rooms be less, but they’ll also be more likely to be willing to negotiate terms of your contract in your favor.
4. Decide on possible location and venue.
There are of course thousands of beautiful cities and hotels across the US, but it’s important to really remember the core goals and objectives of your event itself and what your guests really want.
Based on that, pick a few locations to focus on and then from there, consider venues.
Some things to think about:
- Will your guests want the option to explore outside of the hotel or hit the town in the evening?
- Would they prefer a resort type venue that allows for rest and relaxation?
- Will your guests be bringing their spouses or children?
- Do your guests prefer over the top luxury as found at The Ritz or modern and trendy like you’d find at a W hotel?
Bonus tip: Consider a date during a location’s off peak season. Not only can you save money, but you’re likely to explore the best a town has to offer, without the crowds.
5. Start a preliminary agenda and guest list.
Based on what you know your guests hope to get out of this event, begin to plan what each day will consist of. Meetings only? Some yoga or spa trips? Guest speakers? Workshops? Networking? Outside attractions?
I suggest that to get started, first plan for meals and then work out your daily agendas from there.
Bonus tip: Don’t keep your guests busy every second, it’s exhausting! Your guests will need time to unwind, check emails and check in with family. Allow for time in between big aspects of the meeting to shower, freshen up and even nap if they’d like.
6. Establish fees and policies.
Decide upon what you’ll be charging your guests based on your objective of the meeting. Consider not only the costs of obvious items like venue and food, but little details that add up like their name badges, wifi, notepads and pens, shipping charges, meeting room fees, etc.
Also establish what your cancellation policy is. It must be perfectly clear to guests when they’re registering exactly what is expected of them and what they’ll get back if they do cancel.
Bonus Tip: Hotels have cut-off dates for reservations, but they sometimes may be willing to negotiate a closer date into your contract, if discussed ahead of time. There will always be those people who make last minute decisions, so you want to make sure you can accommodate when that happens.
7. Send and review meeting requirements to sites with requests for written proposals.
Be sure to include all of your meeting room requirements such as wifi, AV equipment and food and beverage needs. The more clear you are about what you need, the better your qualified responses will be. This can take time, so prepare to be patient. It may take up to 30 requests to get your perfect venue, based on your needs and budget. Also be sure to follow up, it will likely take multiple phone calls.
8. Conduct site visits as required.
I cannot stress enough how important this is! Never judge a hotel by their online photos. McDonalds makes those burgers look really good on the commercials, right?
Especially if it’s been more than a year since their photos have been updates, you’ve gotta check in. Hotels change ownership and upgrades are being done all the time. You don’t want your retreat being held while they are tearing up the lobby and redoing all the upgraded rooms!
9. Negotiate it all.
Trust me, hotels will attempt to nickel and dime wherever they can. There’s an art to negotiating the rates you want for all that you need: hotel room blocks, food and beverage, AV, room drop fees, storage fees, resort fees, outside vendor fees, miscellaneous services.
Bonus tip: Everything is negotiable. Pick the top four things that are most important and work on those.
10. Sign off on final contract.
Some things you want to have in your contract:
- A good force majeure clause.
- All fees disclosed.
- Fair cancellation policy.
- No competition clause.
- No construction or renovation clause.
- Lowest room rate clause.
- No walk clause.
- Rebooking clause.
Get EVERYTHING you want in writing. Remember, the hotels contract is written to benefit them!
BONUS TIP: As soon as the contract’s been signed, start building the buzz and getting people excited right away! It’s never too early to get the word out!