Ask the Expert: Booking a New Conference

With close to 100 years of experience in the hospitality industry among their team, I knew where to turn for “Ask the Expert” advice on booking a new conference.  I recently asked the sales staff at Ridgecrest Conference Center a simple question:  What is the best advice you can give a group booking a new conference?  Their answers were very insightful.

Here is what they had to say:

  • “If I could narrow down a good piece of advice for a new group it would be a site visit.  The experience is good for the planner and the salesperson.  Hopefully it begins a lasting relationship.  Looking and walking the property provides the planner much more than a website can offer.  A site visit introduces the planner to many ideas and options in housing, meeting space, dining hall and recreation.” – Danny Dalton, at Ridgecrest for 35 years, in sales department for 13
  • “When planning a new conference, it is key to surround yourself with a team of volunteers that have multiple gifts and talents that will help you execute the planning!  Ask a lot of questions, gather resources and ideas and expect the unexpected.  Above all things, stay focused on why you are having the conference in the first place!” – Annette Frisby, serving in hospitality for 22 years, at Ridgecrest for 18
  • “Booking a new conference for a ministry can be tricky, so finding the right place and setting is key.  You want it to be a place your attendees truly want to travel to and a place where the staff understands the goal of the event.  The facility needs to understand this is a new conference and will be willing to help the planner in any way possible to help encourage attendance.” – Angela Beattie, 31 years in hotel industry
  • “My advice would be to plan a site visit.  There are so many details you can cover in a 2-hour visit you would never be able to experience just by looking at the website.  For example, how long does it take to walk from the hotel rooms to the meeting rooms?  Does the campus feel safe and walkable?  What kind of hangout spaces are available around campus?  More importantly, how do the staff treat you?  You can book an event at a 5-star resort with beautiful hotel rooms and incredible amenities, but a rude and unhelpful staff will mar your entire experience.  Experiencing excellent customer service in a Christ-like environment makes the difference between a good retreat and a great retreat.” – Lindsay Sloas, at Ridgecrest for 9 years, in sales department for 3

As you can see, location and surrounding yourself with the right team are great places to start when booking a conference.  By conducting a site visit, you can also see firsthand the event space, hotel accommodations, dining facilities and more.

Thanks for the great advice, Ridgecrest team!  If you are interested in booking a new conference with them, you can find more information at


Top 10 Posts – 2nd Quarter 2012

I think it’s safe to say we’ve entered the dog days of summer and I’m already looking forward to fall. This means the 2nd quarter is behind us and it’s time to share our 10 most read posts over the past 3 months. Hopefully this will help you find a worthy post you might have missed in the past…

  1. 3 Steps To More Productive Brainstorming – Brainstorming with your planning team is a great way to ensure you provide an event your attendees will find engaging and worthwhile.  Here are 3 steps to take that will go a long way to making your next session more productive.
  2. What’s A Hollow Square – As in any industry, hotels and conference centers sometimes have a language all their own. Here’s a little help in translating…
  3. 8 Ideas For Promoting Your Church Retreat –  If you don’t also spend time on strategically promoting your retreat, you may end up with a great retreat that no one attends. With that in mind, here are 8 ideas for helping to promote your upcoming church retreat.
  4. Ridgecrest Recipe:  Rutland Chicken – Have you been looking for something new to do with chicken?  Enjoy and then let us know what you think!
  5. 5 Things To Do AFTER Your Meeting Is Over – Everyone has gone home and you want to relax but here are a few things that still need to be done and will definitely help you in planning future meetings and/or retreats.
  6. Creating A Standout Womens Retreat – A podcast interview with Chris Adams and Betsy Langmade, 2 of LifeWay’s long-time women’s leaders sharing what they’ve learned about planning women’s events.
  7. Meeting Planner Survival Kit – Many planners need to be prepared to address last minute needs and emergencies. Here is a starter list of items you need to have in your meeting planner survival kit to be prepared at your next event.
  8. 3 Tips To Creating An Unforgettable Event – Here are 3 tips on how to turn your event into an unforgettable experience.
  9. 5 Tips For Programming Effective Youth Camps – Brian Mills serves as student pastor Long Hollow Baptist Church and is passionate about reaching young people for Christ. Here are his thoughts on how to program your youth camp for maximum spiritual impact.
  10. 7 Tips For Getting The Most From A Site Visit – Once you decide to make a site visit, here are 7 tips to help you maximize your time.

Which post have you found most helpful?


7 Tips For Getting The Most From A Site Visit

How many of you have purchased a car without driving it, or a house without looking at it? My guess is not very many answered yes to either question. I once bought a house without my wife actually seeing it until we moved in. Even though we had been married almost 25 years at the time, I was still pretty nervous until she said it was ok!

Making a major purchase without checking it out can be very risky. The same is true for booking a location for your retreat or conference without first visiting the venue. While time, distance and/or cost can sometimes prevent you from making a site visit, the possible negative impact of not making a site inspection can be far costlier.

Once you decide to make a site visit, here are 7 tips to help you maximize your time:

  1. Communicate, communicate, communicate – Prior to your site visit don’t just talk about dates and rates. Take the time to make sure your contact understands your group and what your meeting goals and objectives are. Share details about previous meetings, what worked and what didn’t. Then, watch and see how they address your needs during the site visit.
  2. Make a list – Prior to you visit, make a list of everything you would like to see while on site and share it with your facility contact. This is a good way of maximizing everyone’s time.
  3. Deal with the hard stuff up front – Don’t wait until the end of the site visit to talk about things like set-up fees, attrition, Internet costs, parking, resort fees and any other “hidden” fees that will drive up the cost over and above the quoted room rates. It could be that sweet deal you’re getting on the sleeping rooms is not such a great deal after all.
  4. Make sure the space fits – If you have any doubts about the space being able to work for your event, don’t be afraid to ask to have a room set to your specifications. Seeing is believing!
  5. Pay attention to the details – How is the information flow leading up to your site visit? How are you handle during the site visit? How’s the follow up? All of these are critical questions and will give you some good insight into how you’re group will be treated during your event. If you find they are dropping the ball leading up to your event, chances are pretty good they’ll do the same when your group is actually there.
  6. Take pictures – Site visits typically fly by and you could end forgetting at least half of what you see, especially if you’re visiting more than one location. Don’t be afraid to stop and take pictures or video along the way. It’s the best way of remembering when it’s time to sit down and make your decision.
  7. Stealth visit – If yours is a large event, you may want to consider making an unannounced visit prior to your site visit. This can be a great way of experiencing the facility the way your attendees will.

What other site visit tips have worked for you? Care to share?