The perfect spot Featured

8:00pm EDT August 26, 2009

The key to a successful meeting is having the right location. If you’re just meeting for training, you want a place where your employees will be strictly focused. If you’re having a multi-day conference, you may want to break up the meetings with activities and give employees some recreational options.

Bottom line, picking the wrong meeting destination can lead to many problems.

“You’ll have extra costs and unnecessary expenses,” says Margaret Bartlett, groups and meetings manager at Professional Travel Inc. “There can be wasted travel time if the location is too far or inconvenient for employees to reach. This may cause your meeting to be longer, because of the extra travel time incurred.”

Smart Business spoke with Bartlett about the key factors in selecting the right meeting destination and how employee input and feedback can help in the selection process.

What key factors need to be taken into account when selecting a meeting destination?

There are six key factors:

  • The time of year
  • The length of the meeting and how many days will be spent in meetings
  • Travel time, either driving or flying
  • The meeting agenda and requirements
  • Time for miscellaneous activities outside of the meeting, team building activities, group and award dinners, etc.
  • The budget

You have to take into account the time of year and see what destination will best fulfill your needs. This will help determine which destinations are available and which activities you can do. Weather also plays a factor, because you may not want to have a meeting in a place where you will be worried about a possible blizzard or hurricane.

You also have to look at the meeting length. It may be for just one day, several days or even as long as a week. You need to take travel time into account, and the location needs to be feasible, whether employees are flying or driving.

You also want to determine what type of activities, if any, you want during the meeting. You may want to golf or participate in water sports, so you want to pick a location conducive to these activities.

Having a budget is important, even if you’re just having a one-day meeting where employees are driving to the location. This will give you something to base the planning on and help in the destination decision. You can use the relationships you’ve developed in the past with various travel vendors to get deals on transportation, hotel, and other venues or activities.

How do you determine your meeting needs and stay focused on those?

Determining your type of meeting will help in picking the proper destination. If you’re in training, you want your employees focused and not distracted by other activities. You don’t want your employees in some luxurious location thinking about what they’re missing outside the meeting room. The best destination for training will be somewhere remote without activities or other areas grabbing employees’ attention. You may want to make sure there are some other activities at night, but employees may not even be interested in that after a long day of training.

If the meeting is several days or a week, you may want some type of team-building or group activity one night during the week — perhaps some type of dinner or group get-together. The best destination for a longer meeting will have some type of activity to allow employees to refresh their minds and refocus for the rest of the week. Plan a day to go play golf or tour the destination.

How important is employee input, and how can you use that feedback in selecting your next meeting destination?

You can develop an employee committee to help determine the location. The committee will look at the meeting agenda and needs to make sure the right location is chosen. The committee will make sure employees are not just picking a vacation destination for the meeting, because they don’t want them distracted during the training or meeting. Board members will usually get involved when picking the location for a companywide meeting or conference.

Feedback is always important, because you know whether or not the location was reliable. Employees are the ones sitting in meetings and interacting with the surroundings, so they have a better idea of whether the location worked or not. Feedback will also let you know if the location kept employees focused on the meeting or not. If an employee tells you he or she had a great time and loved the location and it was an intense training session, you want to definitely consider this location for a future meeting.

You will also want to hear if things worked with transportation and accommodations at the location. The meeting could be successful, everything could be wonderful, but there may have been major problems with the surroundings, so that’s something to consider for the next meeting. Getting that feedback is important.

What are the benefits of picking the right meeting destination?

You’ll be able to keep within your budget and even see cost savings. There will also be no wasted time for the traveler getting to and from the meeting destination. You will also want to return to the destination for future meetings, saving you time in the planning process.