With more than 3,900 hotels, resorts and timeshare properties, with 650,000 rooms in 90 countries, Hilton Worldwide is a leading global hospitality company. (Its brands include Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Waldorf Astoria, DoubleTree and Embassy Suites.) Not surprisingly, Hilton planners coordinate thousands of meetings and conferences every year and have put together a top tip list which will help ensure a successful event.
1. Meeting Dates
Try to be specific. It is difficult to determine availability and rates with only general months or seasons. Decide whether the week before or the week after your preferred date would still be acceptable. Is the pattern flexible – pattern means day of the week and peak pattern is Tuesday to Thursday.
Remember that the cost of the meeting and the guestrooms will be affected by the availability and the pattern.
First of all, try to determine an approximate budget before approaching a meeting planner. There are a wide range of items to consider when putting together a budget. On the list should be food and beverages, audio-visual requirements, the number of attendees, number of meeting rooms needed, number of guest rooms required and any special requirements. Other considerations include entertainment which can range from motivational speakers and stand-up comics to big budget musical numbers.
Transportation is also important. How are attendees going to get from the airport to the hotel and do you need buses to ferry them around to off-site events once they arrive. Finally, will spouses and significant others be coming to the conference. If so, what kind of activities do you have planned for them.
3. Food and Beverages
Need to know the number of people attending and types of drinks you plan to serve. Will it just be soft drinks, wine and beer or will cocktails be included. (Some hotels employ `mixologists’, bar tenders who specialize in preparing and pouring exotic drinks and who are happy to pass along tips and recipes on how to create the perfect drink.)
The quality of the meals can make or break a meeting. Get it right and attendees will rave about the food and the conference – but stringy steak, dried out chicken and overcooked salmon will leave more than just a bad taste in the mouth. It will be the only thing that attendees will remember. Work with the chef to plan tasty, healthy and innovative menus. As importantly, check on food allergies and any other special dietary requirements – the list can be long.
4. Type/Purpose of the Meeting
Is the Conference intended to `pump up the troops’ and motivate them to raise sales and productivity or is it a reward for already good results. Maybe it is the kick-off launch for a new product or just a chance to get all the employees together for some team bonding and networking. Whatever the reasons behind the gathering, meeting planners need to know so they can figure out audio-visual and security requirements as well as the amount of meeting and registration space that will be needed.
Find out how reservations will be made. Will it be through a rooming list, individual call-in or housing bureau. Determine who will be paying for the rooms and if early check-in and late check-out are necessary and available. Make sure that the rooms are equipped with all the amenities – from hair dryers to free, high-speed internet.
Finally, always remember to share even the most minor details with the meeting managers. The more information they have, the better equipped they are to anticipate guests’ needs.