“Checking out the venue unaccompanied can sometimes reveal some eye-popping intel!”

It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it. Yes, I’m talking about site visits again – in-person, online and unannounced.

In January, I blogged about my emergency site visit in December where there was an overload of ‘lipstick on a pig’. And in May, I blogged about love at first site (visit).

I can’t help but talk a lot about site visits because they are such a big part of my life in the events biz.

So, I’m sharing some additional tips (and stories) in my eternal search to find amazing host venues with the most value and that are also bursting with ‘wow’ factor.

FAM Tours

When I try to explain what a FAM tour is to people who aren’t in the events industry, they get very confused. How could it be work to have an all-expenses paid trip somewhere? And I’ll admit, I kind of agree with them … it’s like being paid to be a tourist. You get to see the best of the city and pack in a lot of wining, dining and pillow mints into just a few days. But, behind the perks and pleasantries, there is some serious venue sourcing going on. FAM hosts are very motivated to attract events to their city, and showcase what they can do (which is why they are hosting you on the FAM in the first place). My best tip – don’t waste anyone’s time (including your own). Only accept a FAM invite if you have good intentions.

Virtual Inspections

Virtual inspections are great because they can be enjoyed from the privacy of your office. In my case, office is home, so I often conduct virtual site inspections in the comfort of my lululemons. Virtual tours are a great way to “view” a venue if you are short on time or if the travel is cost-prohibitive. In my opinion, this is a last resort option though. While some venues offer great photos, videos and 360 degree tours, you miss a lot of the details by not actually being there. It can be hard to get a sense of the space virtually, and usually the less desirable aspects of the venue go unnoticed.

One-On-One (In-Person) Site Tours

So, you’ve decided to go see the space! By the time you get to this stage, you’ve likely narrowed down your options to a handful of venues that have made the short list. You may even think you have a good idea which venue you are going with so the in-person site visit is a matter of crossing all your t’s and dotting all your i’s and putting the rubber stamp on the site selection process.

Surprise! Sometimes you uncover some things that are not exactly what you expected. Or, surprise! You talked yourself into this venue being the perfect fit before you even saw it and overlooked some key things. Don’t assume it’s a go … planning the in-person site visit is critical. Have you thought about what specifically you want to see? Have a checklist and ask lots of questions!

Surprise Inspections

I’m from the east coast, so I am no stranger to the ‘pop-in’. I will admit (a time or two), to having stopped in unannounced at a potential venue to check things out on the sly. With FAMs and one-on-one site visits, the venue is expecting you so they are always putting their best foot forward. Checking out the venue unaccompanied and unannounced can sometimes reveal some eye-popping intel.

I remember one time, at a hotel, I popped in to check things out and witnessed the banquet staff trying valiantly to squeeze an oversized sofa into the elevator for a client who was asking for soft furniture to be moved from the lobby to a meeting room. The hotel staff were grunting, swearing and arguing in full view of several conference delegates who were waiting patiently for the next elevator. Yikes!

Unannounced visits definitely give you an idea of what your attendees might actually experience (rather than the VIP experience the sales team puts on when they are expecting you). You shouldn’t base your decision solely on a surprise visit though. Make sure to see the space and talk with the venue representatives before making a decision.

All this to say, we all have a friend who is the most dedicated hostess willing to please everyone, who plans the most chic (and fun) dinner parties, and who swings opens the door to welcome guests to her perfectly designed and decorated space with a dazzling smile and a killer outfit.

Yeah her.

This is the type of venue you want for your event – the hostess with the mostess. Happy hunting!