Related Links

Site Inspection Checklist

Whether they are planning accredited programs or post-symposia parties, HCEA members need to know meeting planning basics. In her seminar, 14 Steps to Planning High-Impact Meetings, Jennifer W. Brown, CMP, partner, Meeting Sites Resource, Newport Beach, Calif., covered everything from needs assessment to virtual site inspections to contract negotiation.

For HCEA attendee Geri Shaffer, manager, conventions and meetings, Aesculap, Inc., the most eye-opening part of the workshop was learning more about the hotel's perspective on meetings, and what information hoteliers need to determine if a particular conference will be a good fit. Those specifications--number of sleeping rooms, estimated food and beverage, meeting space requirements--are the kind of details planners should incorporate into a Request for Proposal.

But most session attendees said they do not use RFPs; instead, they talk to hoteliers on the phone. This is a mistake, said Brown. Hoteliers need accurate figures, so they can determine if your needs match theirs. And putting those requirements in writing minimizes the chance of miscommunication.

Planners also need data in writing. Brown encouraged attendees to use a comprehensive site inspection checklist. The one she suggests runs nine pages; planners take notes on a wide range of details, from the staff's appearance to whether there are temperature controls in the meeting rooms. By summarizing each property's pluses and minuses on a separate form, you can see which venue stands out, Brown said, and make a final decision based on your meeting's needs, not your emotions.

But Brown, who brings 15 years experience as a meeting planner with Price Waterhouse LLP to her programs, also encouraged attendees to go beyond meeting managing 101. "Planners need to get away from being order-takers," she said. She urges planners to demonstrate to higher-ups that their expertise goes beyond logistics, and that they have valuable input into a meeting's goals. Along those lines, Brown stressed the importance of in-depth needs assessments. "One of the biggest mistakes planners make," said Brown, "is they don't dig deep enough to uncover the purpose of the meeting."

Click here for a copy of Brown's Site Inspection Checklist provided courtesy of Meeting Sites Resource, a meeting management firm. Call Brown at (949) 250-7483, or send email to