Conducting a Standard Site Survey
When an event planner conducts a site inspection and evaluates a property, they often try to look at the property through the eyes of an event attendee. What does the lobby look like and is it clean? Is the front-of-house staff friendly and attentive? What does a typical guest room look like? Are the rooms, hallways and elevators clean and well maintained?
These observations can offer great insights into how the property functions and can also offer a glimpse into how smoothly a planner’s on-site experience with the hotel staff will be. The lobby, bellmen and guest rooms are the first things an attendee will see.
Conducting a Technical Site Survey
Just as event planners try to recreate the attendee experience on their site visits, our production managers recreate the crews’ first experience too. We start outside at the loading dock, take a trip up the freight elevator and experience the long push through back-of-house, passing around or through the kitchen, down long hallways filled with back-of-house staff and then finally into the ballroom.
By focusing on back-of-house, we get a different perspective and can look at the upcoming event from the viewpoint of our production crew. This extra step usually provides some interesting insights.
We recently completed a show at a property that had the worst back-of-house I have ever seen. The freight elevators were in poor condition, the back-of-house was dirty, storage was disorganized and we were not greeted or acknowledged by any staff we passed along the way.
The entire show was one challenge after another as the crew dealt with broken elevators, pre-arranged items such as truck parking, load-in and load-out times and a consistent lack of energy and interest by many banquet and support staff. And we were prepared for all of it.
A few months earlier, our site survey of this particular venue started at the loading dock and included the following:
1. Promises made with the CSM for load-in times and truck parking. However, based on the reaction from the dock supervisor (who we always ask to meet) it was clear that the CSM could promise anything, but this was his dock and you better know his rules.
2. A request to ride the main freight elevator (not just see it) revealed that it was broken. However we were assured it would work for our event. The elevator was clearly not kept clean as well.
3. A walk down the back hallway showed banquet storage that was disorganized and again evidence of a general lack of cleanliness and attention to detail.
Based on the above observations, we went into this event with a plan to deal with broken elevators, a back-up plan if our pre-arranged plans changed at the last minute and the expectation that staff requests (whether from us or the client) would take a long time to be resolved.
The event came off seamlessly and the audience was none the wiser for the challenges we faced. We were better prepared to deal with those obstacles because of the observations from our back-of-house site survey.
Next time you are on a site survey, ask the CSM to take you on a walk through back-of-house. See the dock, ride the freight elevator and walk the path to the ballroom. If those areas are clean and well maintained and the back-of-house staff (away from the guest areas) are friendly and attentive, it might provide some insight into how your last minute request to flip the room will go or what will happen when you need a stage added to a breakout room.