I started to write this detailing the more than 25 specific (major) issues we recently experienced in the production of a recent client conference not just to vent, but rather to both appeal to the hotel industry to please get it together and also to applaud Mike Gamble and Roger Dow for helping to make that happen.

I decided it made better sense to share some proactive ways to avoid the absolutely abysmal service we experienced.

  1. Watch out for changing staff and the impact on your program.
    As soon as possible in the process, get your BEOs drafted and create a shared folder in which they live so that if there is a change in command, your information is easy to get to and updated.
  2. Provide the hotel with your BEO expectations.
    If you’ve got an example of a prior one that worked for you, share it with the hotel and insist they follow it. It will save you more hours than you can imagine during the planning process and in post-event reconciliation.
  3. Don’t rely on the hotel team to have the right numbers.
    Do the math yourself. We recently discovered a $25,000 discrepancy in the hotel’s favor by checking and double-checking everything.
  4. Insist all of the right people in the room are at your pre-con.
    It’s not enough to have the department leads at your meeting. You want to know who is specifically working on the program and when they will be there and not be there.  Only after the pre-con did we find out that critical hotel team members would not be there on certain days and the impact on our event was palpable in terms of sharing of information and accurate set-ups.
  5. Plan to do your own room setups.
    This wasn’t the first hotel in recently months not to offer this up as part of the planning process. And don’t rely on anyone following what you’ve specified. Get in the room before any tables or chairs have been set and have a specific conversation with the hotel representative responsible for that room.
  6. Go to the front lines and make friends as soon as you arrive; check in with them early and often.
    Establishing your own relationship with the front office manager can avoid lots of issues on-site as people are checking in. The hotel won’t tell you there is an issue but you’ll find out soon enough from the delegate and then it’s too late; the damage has been done. At a not-to-be named industry event just two weeks ago, the main hotel had three people at the front desk checking hundreds of people into rooms at this very large hotel chain – many with no sheets – so the guest got a key and a set of bedsheets.  On your big check-in day, invest in a staff member to stay close to the check-in area so that you can be proactive in helping solve small and large problems.
  7. Check everything yourself; don’t rely on your conference services manager.
    Ordered VIP transportation? Verify with the transport company on your own.
    Distributing drink tickets? Make sure you are only charged for tickets exchanged at the bar; recently, we saw our banquet captain counting the tickets we returned that had not been distributed to guests and his plan was to back that out of the total number of tickets distributed. When we corrected the process, we paid for nearly 300 less drinks than had he done it his way!
    Expecting amenities for certain guests? Ask for a photograph of the amenity in the room or a confirmation as soon as the amenity is to have been dropped.
  8. Plan to hire more people than you have before to support you and your team as good hotel labor is far less than stellar and abundant at the moment.
    Plan to:
    • Advance your loading docks
    • Police trash management
    • Advance meals with your banquet captain at least two hours before every food function.
    • Talk to the venue’s food outlets in advance of the event and let them know when they can expect big influxes of people based on your conference agenda so they can beef up their service

Share your own thoughts here. We can all use some great and proactive ideas!

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