Deciding "Where" To Have My Event Is Easy, Right?

Today’s post is the 4th in a 5-part series on the 5 W’s of planning an event. Those 5 W’s are Who, What, When, Where and Why. Previous posts have addressed Who, What and When. (If you have not already, I would encourage you to go back and read each of them.) Now it’s time to take a look at what should go into determining “where” to have your event.

How many of you think choosing “where” to have your event is all fun and games? I mean, come on. Don’t meeting planners get to travel to great places and enjoy being pampered by hotels and CVB’s anxious to get their business? Well, yes, that is probably true for those planning large events, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

Whether you’re planning a conference for 2,000 or a retreat for 20, choosing where to have the event is serious business. You can do a great job with the who, what and when questions, but drop the ball on where to hold the event and you’ll run the very real risk of watching all those efforts go spinning down the drain. Definitely not something we want to see happen!

When planning where, the first thing you must decide is whether to hold the event on-site at your church or ministry, or take the event off-site to a Christian conference/retreat center, hotel or convention center. While I would always recommend holding your event off-site, there are advantages and disadvantages to both options. It really comes down to the type of event it is and what it is you hope to accomplish.

I’m sure you’ve all heard it said the 3 most important words in real estate are location, location, location. What works for real estate also works for events. Once you’ve determined to take your event off-site, choosing the location/venue is the next step in the “where” process. It’s critical you select a location and venue that fits your group and their needs. Here are some sample questions you should consider when deciding where to hold your event:

  • How far from home are people willing to travel for this event?
  • Where will my attendees be coming from?
  • Will the majority of attendees be driving or flying?
  • What levels of service do my attendees expect?
  • How much can my attendees afford to pay?
  • Where was the event last year and how did that impact attendance?

Choosing where to have your event should not be taken lightly. Take the time to select a location and venue that best fits your group’s needs, pocketbook and objectives. I promise you won’t be sorry!

What has worked best for you in the past?

 

10 Questions To Answer Before Calling A Retreat Facility

Choosing a location for your retreat can be a time consuming process, especially if you are a first-time planner. However, with just a little advance planning, you can significantly reduce the time spent speaking with prospective hotels and Christian retreat facilities by having the answers ready for most of the questions they will be asking you. Not only will this save you valuable time, but it should also help smooth out the selection process.

View from Glorieta Overlook

To help you save valuable time, here are 10 questions you have the answers to PRIOR to calling a facility about hosting your event:

  • What is the purpose of your retreat? – Answering this question sets the stage for all the others as the purpose goes a long way in determining the type of facility, recreation, meals, etc.
  • What kind of accommodations are you looking for? – Options range from hotel type, dorm rooms with bath on hall, private lodges to rustic cabins with no heat or plumbing.
  • Does your group expect to have private baths in each room, or would they be OK with hall baths or bathhouses?
  • Do you want to cook your own meals, or have the meals provided by the facility?
  • What quality of food does your group expect?
  • How large do you realistically expect your group to be? – Critical to get this one right. Go too large and you risk paying for space/rooms you don’t need. Underestimate and you may be faced with a facility that’s too small for your event.
  • How many meeting rooms do you need? (ie..general session, breakouts, etc)
  • When do you plan to arrive and depart?
  • Do you mind sharing the facility with other groups?
  • How much money do you want to spend? Even more importantly, what is your group as a whole willing to spend? It’s critical to make sure price expectation match up with facility expectations. Otherwise your group may be happy with the price, but not with the quality of what it buys them.

Those of you with a little more time in the planning saddle, any questions we’ve missed? If so, please chime in with your comment and suggestion.

7 Hotel Terms You Should Know

While we would always encourage you to look first at Christian retreat and conference centers in your area, there may be times when you will be booking a hotel for your meeting. Like most other industries, hotels have a language all their own.

With that in mind, here are 7 hotel terms you should know:

  • Back of the house – The areas of the hotel that are generally off limits to guests. These areas include kitchens, housekeeping, laundry, maintenance, service elevators, etc.
  • BEO – Banquet Event Order – The document created for every event on-site involving a meeting setup or catering. Read these BEO’s very carefully before signing as they contain all the details (setup, menus, catering  pricing, guarantees, etc.) for your event. Hotel staff will be working from the BEO’s as they service your event. Be sure that any verbal changes are added to the BEO’s. Otherwise they will could fall between the cracks.
  • CSM – Convention Services Manager – Typically once you have signed your room contract, you will be handed over from sales to operations. In doing so, the CSM becomes your primary contact and many meetings live or die based on the relationship between the meeting planner and their CSM.
  • MOD – Manager on Duty – Since the hotel general manager cannot be there 24/7, every hotel should have a designated manager on duty. This is the person with overall responsibility for the hotel in the GM’s absence.
  • Rack rate – The highest published rate the hotel will charge for a sleeping room.
  • Run of house – Typically when booking a block of rooms, the hotel will usually call it run of house. This gives the hotel maximum flexibility when selling rooms to your group. They can simply sell whatever rooms are available. Should you want, or require, more definition in exactly what room types will be in your room block, be sure to get that spelled out in your room contract.
  • Walk – This refers to what happens when a hotel is oversold and there are no rooms available. Unlike airlines, who will typically ask for volunteers when a flight is oversold, hotels do not ask for volunteers. Instead, when the guest shows up at the front desk they are informed there is not a room available. The guest is then “walked” to another hotel, hopefully nearby. Standard procedure for hotels is to honor all guaranteed reservations by paying the costs for the guest to stay at another hotel. Be sure to inquire about the hotel’s walk policy before signing your contract. If necessary you could then try and negotiate more favorable treatment for your attendees.

Obviously this is not an all-inclusive list. Are there any hotel terms we’ve missed that you think would be important to know?

Taxing Tourists To Promote Tourism?

Promote tourism, pay for new stadiums, make up for budget shortfalls… All of these are reasons more and more state and local governments are raising taxes on those who come to visit.

Taxing the tourist is not a new concept. Whether it be hotel taxes, rental car surcharges, or an additional 1% restaurant tax, governments have longed used these taxes as a way to pay for a multitude of projects. As long as they could somehow connect the project to bringing in more visitors, they could usually get the taxes approved. After all, impact was primarily on visitors, not their constituents.

What has changed now is governments are starting to look at tourism taxes to help make up for general budget shortfalls. This should be of significant concern to meeting planners as these new, or increased taxes, will only drive up the cost of meetings. Below are a couple of articles that are worth reading on the subject of tourism taxes.

Cities That Tax Tourists the Most/Least

Cities Raise Travel Taxes to Bridge Budget Shortfalls

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one way you can reduce or eliminate the impact of these taxes on your church or Christian group…hold your meeting, conference or retreat at a Christian conference center. Depending on the size of your event, this could be a significant savings to both your church/organization, as well as to the individual attendees.

Creating a Stand-out Meeting Experience

Earlier this year, I wrote an article for Christian Camp and Conference Association’s InSite magazine entitled, “A Stand-out Experience” (read article here). The purpose of the article was to provide Christian conference centers with some strategies they could use to compete with local hotels.

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At Ridgecrest and Glorieta, it’s not unusual for us to compete with a secular hotel or conference center for many of our groups. This has become especially true as we’ve added new and upgraded facilities that are equal to, and in some cases, nicer than our secular competitors. However, it’s not the nicer facilities that we believe differenitiate us from other hotels and conference centers. Here are the three things I believe set Ridgecrest and Glorieta apart from our competition and allow us the opportunity to create stand-out experiences for our groups.

Ministry Serving Ministry – Unlike our secular competitors, we are a ministry and we see our role as that of serving other ministries. Our sales and event staffs work hard to build genuine relationships with our group leaders. We want to know what their hopes and dreams are for their ministries and then look to see how we can partner with them to help achieve their ministry objectives.

Spiritual Environment – Ridgecrest and Glorieta were built for the specific purpose of helping to equip the saints. Our mission is to provide the best conference center environment for experiencing spiritual transformation and renewal. This is not to say the Holy Spirit can’t move at a secular hotel or conference center, but that’s not why they exist. Our purpose is to point people towards Christ and to provide a place where, away from the distractions of the world, people can have a fresh encounter with our Creator.

Personal Service – One of the realities of the hotel industry is the larger the hotel, the less personal the service. Even when the service is excellent (Broadmoor example), the great majority of the hotel employees will have no idea why you’re there. Again, not their focus. On the other hand, at Ridgecrest and Glorieta, we have a group of employees who pray each week for the groups and individuals scheduled to arrive that week. We work hard to communicate to all of our employees why a group is on campus and what we can do to personalize the service we offer to each group.

What about you? If you plan or go to meetings/retreats with your ministry or church, what makes them a stand-out experience?