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How to Select the Right Hotel for Your Event

I was working with a client recently to select the venue for their upcoming conference. There were a number of hotels under consideration for this program and my client was going to play an active role in selecting the site. I found that my clients used different criteria than I did when evaluating the properties.

So I thought I'd share some questions and tips to use when selecting the venue for your next program.

Is the hotel conveniently located based on where your attendees are traveling from? For example, if most of your attendees will be flying, then ease of transportation from the airport will be important. If a sizeable portion of your attendees are local, the cost of parking or convenient access to public transportation may be more important.

If you have a large number of attendees from a local university or company, will being close to that organization be a plus? In some cases, attendees prefer to not be close to their place of work, so that they won't be called back to take care of quick emergency. You need to know your group.

Identify what your attendees expect in a location. Do they want to be able to step outside the hotel and find restaurants and shopping? Or does your client prefer a location that offers less outside the door so that attendees won't be tempted to leave during breaks — and will visit the exhibit hall instead!

If your program will include off-site events, think about where they are located in relation to the hotels. For example, if your program includes an event at Fenway Park, then selecting a hotel near Back Bay might be a good choice. If your program includes a dinner cruise, a waterfront property might be a more convenient choice. You don't always know this before the hotel is selected, however when you do, it is an important consideration.

Next, we need to focus on the meeting space itself. No venue will "look" the same as it does on paper. Is there sufficient meeting space and is it the appropriate size for your program? Be sure that the ceiling height is suitable for any audio visual required for your program.

Also consider the flow within the hotel. Are the meeting rooms contiguous or are they spread throughout the property? Think about how your attendees like to use the space. Do they like to find lots of little nooks to have conversation with other attendees? Do they want to feel like they "own" the hotel? That group might not be happy in a large convention hotel despite having all the space they actually need for their program.

Ask the property who else will be using the property during your event. Ask questions to determine if you will you be able to peacefully coexist. This is especially important if you are using only a portion of the ballroom. Find out who will be using the other portion and what the program will be. You don't want hear their program in your general session. It still happens and no one is happy when it does.

Speaking of AV, ask the hotel about any requirements regarding outside suppliers. Hotels typically have an in-house AV company, but you may wish to bring in a company you have worked with before.

The site inspection is the ideal time to ask these questions and to begin the negotiation process. I'll talk more on that in my next issue.

Shelley E. Griffin, CMM, is the founder and president of Griffin Conference Group, which provides comprehensive meeting and conference planning services. Shelley is a respected industry leader with over twenty years experience. For more helpful tips, please visit our web site at