With many event planners deciding on a venue only after thorough site inspections, how venues manage the on-site experiences for the buyer is what makes or breaks a sale. By Kristie Thong
Site inspections are one of the most crucial responsibilities of an event planner. As a highly experiential industry, they are critical in giving planners a first-hand understanding and inkling of how a destination, venue or space can be used. Site inspections allow buyers to affirm their event objectives and desired outcomes. They also allow them to see beyond polished marketing collaterals and the promises of venue sales professionals, and offer an opportunity to build trust and business relationships in the industry. On the flip side, site inspections and trial stays give venues a chance to showcase their brand of hospitality when an interested buyer is always a sign that the venue stands a good chance of securing the business.
“Many features key to the success of your event can be missed without a detailed and recent inspection of a site,” says AONIA managing director, Daniel Chua.
Qualified buyers will narrow down a list of venues for inspection, and these venues often have the right initial attributes – the size of an events space, location, aesthetics, brand and service reputation, and sometimes price. While price may be an important factor in the decision making process, it is often not the main factor as experienced buyers will choose to pay for quality and assured success.
Start by getting as much information about the event as possible. Unless the client does not have the answers, no prospective client will hesitate to share details of the event as long as the seller keeps them confidential. Buyers who are not willing to share information will often not get the best deal, while those who do, especially event or destination management companies, should be given priority in the quoting and negotiation process. Additionally, venues and hotels should always send in the best sales and event operations representative to conduct the inspection.
At the site inspection
A good inspection must be carried out professionally and in the right frame of mind, according to Mr Chua. This means showing respect by being punctual, as well as showing respect and behaving with decorum, particularly in cases where hotels usually extend VIP treatment to buyers on a serious site inspection. It is always useful to have a checklist of things to look out for that are specific to the event or future needs. And rather than relying on digitally-enhanced images, Mr Chua feels it is wise for buyers to take photos themselves for a truer interpretation of a venue during inspection.
For venue sales professionals tasked with the inspection, it is important to be immaculately and professionally groomed, while making the buyer feel welcomed and comfortable without any unnecessary small talk. At the beginning, venue representatives should give a quick overview of what the site inspection will entail, keeping in mind the list of areas they have requested to view.
Instead of highlighting the obvious within a venue, buyers will be able to make more informed decisions when venues make references to how the facilities and elements can enhance a delegate’s experience. For example, rather than simply stating that wireless internet is included, go the extra mile to mention any assistance the hotel’s IT department can provide in cases where corporate clients have stricter firewall restrictions.
The site inspection is a good way for venues to get feedback about the property, as well as use the opportunity to introduce key members of the venue to the prospective client. Introducing hotel general managers or event directors and allowing them to share their experiences often give buyers more confidence that their events will be well taken care of.
Event logistics is an important part of the business negotiation and should not be overlooked. Buyers who provide comprehensive details will allow a venue sales professional to ascertain the costs and also prepare the business to accept and manage certain challenges. With safety on the top of any event buyer’s mind, emergency plans should always be discussed, and venues should try to provide one during the site inspection.
Buyers should express appreciation after a site inspection, Mr Chua says, as the site would have expended resources to facilitate a visit.
“This will motivate the person conducting the inspection to keep doing what is often a thankless job.”
Venues should also ask for honest feedback after the inspection, and find out where they stand amongst the choices. To ensure any loose ends are tied after the inspection, venue sales representatives should set a decision date, or ask the buyer if a contract can be issued. m