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Site Selection Smarts

A little upfront legwork and research, and a lot of partnership building will yield better results–and save time

By Angela Kryhul

When it comes to picking the perfect venue, seeing is believing. But how does a meeting planner make a savvy decision if a site inspection is out of the question due to distance or time restrictions?

The first thing a planner should do is contact the destination city’s tourism bureau, advises Julie Connolly, owner of Carte Blanche Events and Jewel Ballroom & Catering in Vancouver. Tourism bureaus keep a list of local destination management companies (DMC) as well as venue search or site selection firms. But be aware that bureaus will only recommend member businesses, Connolly says.

If you want to cast a wider net, find out whether there’s a local chapter of Meeting Professionals International (MPI) or the International Special Events Society (ISES), Connolly adds.

Camille Juraj, CMP, founder and partner of Vancouver-based Select Venues, says meeting planners should always speak to the managers of any short-listed venue in order to establish a personal rapport. Pay attention to red flags, such as a refusal to supply references or photos of recent events, she says, and don’t be shy about asking uncomfortable questions. Probe meeting planners who’ve previously booked the venue for their unvarnished opinion, suggests Jocelyn Flanagan, CSEP, president and CEO of Calgary-based e=mc² events, which also offers DMC services in Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto.

And, if you decide to hire a DMC, treat them as a partner, not an order-taker, Flanagan adds. Articulate your vision, share information and trust that your DMC will do their best for you. “The relationship needs to be collaborative right from the start.”

Pry This on for Size
It’s not always easy to separate fact from fiction when reviewing hotels online. Enter New York-based Oyster.com, a website that provides tell-all reviews of thousands of hotels around the world.

Oyster differs from such review sites as TripAdvisor because it hires journalists to photograph and write unbiased reviews about the quality of everything from bed linens to bathroom tiles. An amusing feature on the site called Photo Fakeouts compares a property’s excessively manipulated images to authentic snaps taken by Oyster investigators.

Oyster has reviewed 3,000 hotels in 264 cities in 40 countries. There are 930,000 unaltered photos on the site, so what you see is what you get, says Kelsey Blodget, editorial director. “We like to say that we’re picky, but not petty.”

While Oyster is geared to leisure travellers, the site is starting to include more information about hotel catering, business centres, and ballroom and meeting facilities, Blodget says. oyster.com

White On!
Event management solutions firm, Cvent, offers a handy white paper on site selection best practices and negotiation strategies. Search “5 Strategies for Successful Site Selection” at cvent.com

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