Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Meeting Planner Life: Site Visits

If you've been around Kaliwood a while, you know that I am a Meeting Planner. If you're new, Hello. My name is Kali. And I am a Meeting Planner. And I'm certified. CMP = Certified Meeting Professional (No, this doesn't mean I'm good at meeting people. Although that's always helpful with my job.)

A Meeting Planner is basically an event planner, but in the hospitality world, they call these corporate events "meetings", "conferences", "conventions", etc. Have you ever been to an off-site training as an employee of your company? Have you ever been to a trade show or exhibit hall with booths set up for you to visit? Or have you ever attended a destination event to learn more about your specific industry?  Hotel room nights, education in meeting rooms, dinner in a ballroom, and drinks and dancing at a reception? That's what I do. Plan all of that. From the moment you walk up to the registration table and receive your name badge, to the final seminar you attend, to the last sip of wine you have before calling it a night. Every little detail, all previously thought out and executed by a Meeting Planner (and staff, of course).

Next week I'll be sharing some information about the hospitality industry and the different roles people play. I didn't know anything about this industry until I was in it. I learned as I went. But, for those of you who are majoring in hospitality, or aren't but may be interested in events, my brief overview will outline the different sides of the industry and positions within each one.

But for today, we talk about site visits. One of the fun parts of my job! A site visit is when you travel to the destination of a future meeting. The point of the "site" is to tour all of the venues you are considering using and gather information about them.

Now, some people do site visits to different cities when they are trying to narrow down a location. In this case, the planner would work with the Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) from that city who would take them around and try to "sell" their location.

But once the city is decided, we do a site visit to tour venues. In my case, hotels. A hotel will serve as the lodging for all of our attendees, but will also house all of our meeting space (the rooms where all of the event functions are held.)

Here is the process:

  1. The corporation (me) sends out a Request for Proposal (RFP) to hotels in the area. Miami in this case.
  2. Hotels respond with proposals if they are interested in bidding for our business.
  3. Based on their initial proposals, we narrow it down to ones that are potential options and include them in the site visit itinerary. At this stage we toss out ones that: Are too small (Not enough meeting space), are too big (Our event/guests would be lost. It's good to be the biggest group at the hotel at the time of the meeting so we aren't overlooked.), do not fit our budget (Room rates that are too high will hinder attendees from coming), aren't impressive (our members expect a very nice venue that is unique), as well as many other factors unique to our specific company.
  4. Once we schedule tours with all potential hotels, we head to Miami! Most of the hotels will offer rooms while I'm there, so I will stay in two or more hotels during the visit to get a feel for their sleeping rooms, service, etc. 

My recent site visit was for our Annual Meeting in Dec 2015. Depending on the size of the event, planners contract with venues several months in advance to a few years in advance. Our city for 2015 is Miami. While we were there, we also spent a day in Fort Lauderdale for our event coming up THIS December. Since I'm new, I haven't seen the hotel yet. So it was a good chance for me to meet the staff and tour the space we are using. It will be here before I know it!

Day 1

Arrive at FLL airport. I love seeing the palm trees right away!

Our first hotel pulled out all the stops! Sour candy, Diet Coke, and Bengals! They certainly know the way to my heart!

We stayed in Spa Suites, which is where the players stay when they play the PGA tour at this hotel. They were gorgeous and so spacious! But they are about to undergo a complete renovation so by 2015, they will be even more spectacular.

Once we settled in our room, we went for a full body massage, compliments of the hotel, and then toured the meeting space (where all of our event functions would be held). This particular hotel is undergoing a $350 million renovation so for some of the tour we were in hard hats! But the parts that are already done are impressive.

That night we had a private dinner in a suite. We had a delicious waldorf chicken salad and shrimp cocktail (both served in martini glasses), veil with hollandaise sauce and asparagus, and duck with a waffle! Sounds crazy (especially for a picky eater like me) but I have to say it was so good! Dessert was chocolate mousse, chocolate covered pretzels and Pringles! I love how they got creative with the choices and presentation.

Day 2

We had 2 hotel tours scheduled for this day, but we ended up touring FOUR! That is a lot of walking and talking for one day! It's not typical for me to pop into unsuspecting hotels but due to some last minute circumstances, our dates became flexible and we wanted to take a look at all possible options while we were there. The hotels on Day 2 were in Downtown Miami right on the Bay and on South Beach overlooking the ocean. The views were amazing.

Stopped for lunch at one of the hotels on the ocean. It was beautiful and delicious. Only cost $82 for two people! This is definitely why you tell them you are coming in advance. So you don't have to pick up the bill! :)

People always ask me why these hotels treat us like VIPs when we are on the site visits. Well, this is the time when they are competing for our business. So, throwing in a free room night, a lunch or dinner, or even a massage, can all be worth it if they win our business. It's all a little price to pay for an event that will bring them around half a million dollars in revenue in four days. 

Those chandaliers above: $1 million EACH. And the bow tie tiles in the floor: a design choice by the original architect, who always wore bow ties. I love those historic details.

After the LONGGG day of touring, our feet were killing us and we were ready for bed. I came back to the room to see some cheese/crackers and white wine!

So I immediately ran a bubble bath in the jetted tub and enjoyed some bubbly!

They knew my boss loves margaritas, so that's what she got in her room. How adorable is this set up with the mini Petron bottles and mini shaker? So creative.

Day 3

Like I mentioned, Day 3 was spent in Fort Lauderdale at the hotel  & golf course we will be using in just a few short weeks. Normally, I wouldn't go back to a hotel this close to the event, but since I haven't seen it before and we were already going to be in the area, it was great to spend some time there. We were able to get a good feel for the space and knock out a TON of details with the staff on-site. It was definitely worth it.

We started at the golf course with a quick tour and meeting with the staff. We did the meeting outside on the patio because it was such a beautiful day!

It was so nice being in the 80 degree weather since it was a unseasonably chilling KY week back at home. I just wanted to run and put my toes in the sand!

The ladies at the hotel were so great! That night they took us for drinks at one of the lounges we are using during the event, then to a Mexican restaurant for some table-made guacamole! YUM!

Came back to the room to some strawberries and more white wine! Was so bummed we were leaving in the morning. This wine was only good for about one sip before I crashed!

During our layover in Atlanta on the way home we felt compelled to stop at the Waffle and Beer bar. I mean, look at this, how could we not?? (So glad my boss likes to eat like me!)

It was so great going on my first site visit with my new company. It was invaluable having my boss along as well so I could talk the "meeting language" and she could give the information on our membership since I'm still learning! In the future I'll be doing the site visits by myself, which is normal, but not as fun as sharing with a fellow staff member!

After the long week away it was good to be home! I got to come back to these goobers:

It's great to get away and get spoiled every now and then. One of the many reasons I love my job. But despite what people think, a Meeting Planner career is not all glamorous. I'm in an office 9-5 most of the time. Planning usually happens in my office, not during a beach front meeting with cocktails. 

Also, Meeting Planners get dirty. At meetings we are running around like crazy people behind the scenes troubleshooting issues and making sure things are running smoothly (all while appearing calm and collected to the attendees). We also move, pack, and ship boxes regularly (trust me, there is nothing sexy about slapping packing tape on your 25th box packed with supplies). 

But with every job comes things you love and things that aren't so fabulous. I'm just grateful to say I love what I do and I'm SO glad I found the company I'm with now. It had a lot to live up to considering how much I loved my last one. And I'm happy to report that 2 months in, I'm extremely happy!

I get a lot of questions about my job and this industry. It's a fast-paced, fun, stressful industry that not a lot of people really know about. So, I thought I would start sharing more about my career! Now back to the grind... we have a meeting in 3 weeks people! AH!

Disclaimer: All thoughts and opinions are my own. This blog is in no way affiliated with any institutions.


  1. HOLY CRAPPOLA!! Your job may not always be glamourous, but it suuuuure looks like it is to me! These pictures are amazing!! What great service they gave you, and rightfully so! You guys would be spending big bucks with them, no one where they treated you that way! What a fabulous trip!

  2. I love your job! I've wondered about doing something like this before. I'd love to ask some questions when you get some time!

    1. Absolutely! I'll be doing a general post next week about the industry and the different career options. But shoot me a message anytime with questions!

  3. That sounds pretty stinking fun!! And those waffles...yum. That is so awesome you have a job like that :)


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