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Five Tips to Improve Your On-Site Communications

When you are on-site during your event, being able to reach your various hotel partners quickly is critical to the success of your meeting.  During the Pre-con of a recent conference, my convention service manager proudly told me about the new system the hotel had implemented.  All requests, for any department, would be texted to one number.  A hotel staff person would monitor this and forward the request to the appropriate person or department.

I thought, that sounds efficient.  I could text in the back of the ballroom if I needed something, I wouldn’t need to step out of the room to place a phone call.  I sent a sample text to ensure that it was correctly entered into my phone and which identified me as the meeting planner for the event.   All systems go. 

As we proceeded to set up our office and registration desk we needed some extension cords.  No problem.  I texted our request, indicated the room they should be brought to, and waited for the necessary items to appear.   20 minutes passed with by with no acknowledgement of my text or the extension cords.  I sent the request again and this time added “please acknowledge that you received this”.  Again, no response.  So I picked up the house phone and made my request.  Ah…success!

This got me thinking… because of this newfangled technology I had not followed my standard procedure for on-site communication. 

Here are five tried and true tips to help make your on-site communications more efficient: 

1.  Test the System
Ask the hotel about their communication procedures prior to the pre-con.  I recommend checking it out during a site inspection or planning trip.
When you are visiting the property, try the Meeting Planner Hot Line number (or whatever the property calls it) and see what happens.  Is the phone actually answered, or does it roll to voice mail?  Do you get someone who can really assist you or just a message taker?  It is helpful to know this in advance—not at 5:00 a.m. when you really need something done.  I wish I had done this with the hotel texting plan.

2.  Get Hotel Contact Names and Numbers
Get the names and cell phone numbers of the key staff people who will be working your event.  Who will assist you when they are off duty?  What time do they arrive on site and when do they leave.  Request that they connect with you when they leave for the day so you know who else to contact.  Make sure you know who will be your contact first thing in the morning and what time he or she will be on-site.

3.  Create an All Vendor Contact List
I make a comprehensive list of every vendor and supplier that is involved in my event.  The list should include the contact name, phone numbers, address and what they are providing for the event.  My own staff sometimes says, but I have the information in my email, computer, etc.  Creating this list puts key information at your fingertips and will allow any staff person to be able to contact a vendor quickly.  That is much more efficient than scrolling through your email in-box or needing to locate the one staff person who has the information in his or her computer.

Give a copy of this to every staff person working on the event and to your CSM.  Keep an extra copy in your staff office, speaker ready room and registration desk.

4.  Keep a Digital Copy Too
Once this information has been compiled you will want to keep it electronically as well.  That way, even if you do not have your event binder with you, the information will be right at hand.  There are many ways to accomplish this.  The easiest is to send the contact list by email to yourself and your staff.  Another option is to send the information to Google Docs which will allow everyone to access that way.   

5.  Check out “Dead Zones”
Ask the hotel about “dead zones” or any challenging areas for either cell phone coverage and Internet connection.   It often happens that access can be spotty in some parts of the hotel or with certain carriers.  The exhibit hall and lower level rooms often have this issue.  Check this out early enough to come up with some solutions.

Recently we had an issue only in one isolated part of the hotel.  Unfortunately that is where we had set up our staff office.  We missed several important calls we were waiting for.   As we walked down the hall we would receive the Missed Calls notice.  If we had checked this out earlier we would have used another room for our office. 

As for the hotel I mentioned at the beginning of this article, the system never really worked for our event.  I provided some feedback to them and they are fine tuning their internal process.
Hope these tips help at your next event.

Shelley E. Griffin, CMM, is the founder and president of Griffin Conference Group, which provides comprehensive meeting planning services. She is a respected industry leader who has over twenty years of experience.  For more helpful tips see her web site at