Conference Planning Guide – Choosing the Site


1. A conference site should probably be selected 2 to 3 years prior to the date of the conference.
*  This allows you to get the site of your choice on the dates that you want to hold the conference. Waiting too long may result in settling on a date that you do not want or holding your conference at a hotel that is not convenient or adequate. There may also be issues regarding costs.

2. Choose a site that is convenient for the President. The President will be required to do much of the work, and most of that work will be required to be done in person at the conference hotel or in the city where the conference will be held.
* If it is necessary to hold the conference at a site that is a distance from the President’s location, then it may be necessary to have a contact member that is willing to do much of the “leg work” for the President.

3. Once the host city has been selected, contact the Chamber of Commerce for that city. They can be invaluable in planning the conference
* The hotel needs to be able to block an adequate number of rooms.
*  The hotel should be willing to hold those rooms until three to four weeks prior to the conference.
*  They should be willing to quote a rate for their rooms, even 3 years in advance.
*  The site should be competitive on rates but rates do not need to be the most important factor in choosing the site. Lower rates but an inadequate or run-down hotel will leave the conference with a poor impression for those that attend.
* The number of rooms can be decided by looking at attendance totals from past conferences for the association.
* Does the hotel offer complimentary breakfasts at the proposed rate?

4. Does the site have adequate meeting and banquet space available?
* Check to see if the staff is experienced in preparing banquets of this size.
* Do they have an adequate menu to select from?
* Are their prices competitive?
* Get a maximum price for food guaranteed in the initial contract, with the final selection to be made as the conference approaches.

5. Will the conference site be undergoing remodeling or expanding during your conference?
* You will not want to work around the dirt and noise of a construction project.
* You will not want to settle for less than the facilities that you requested.

6. The site needs to have a place for a hospitality room.
* The Hospitality Room is to be hosted by the state that will be hosting the next conference.
* Check the hotel’s policy about bringing in outside liquor or required use of their bartender.

7. The site needs to have clean and updated sleeping rooms.
* Ask to tour several rooms to see if they are well maintained.
* Does the facility have a reputation for “cleanliness”?
* Are the rooms maintained and have a good appearance?
* Does the Heat and Air conditioning work?
* Are carpet and furniture in decent condition?

8. Are the site’s facilities up to industry standards?
* Are the pool and Jacuzzi area clean and well maintained?
* Will those areas be open during the conference dates?
* Are the meeting rooms large enough and in good condition?
* Will there be enough rooms to allow for setting up the banquet while still holding class?
* Are there adequate dining facilities at the site or close by to handle conference attendees and their guests?

9. Is the sales and catering staff friendly and willing to work with you?
* Do you feel the staff is looking forward to their opportunity to host your conference/
* Do they answer all your questions in an informative way?
* Are they willing to work with you regarding special requests?
* Can they give you an estimate of all the costs up front?
* What do they expect for guarantees and are those amounts reasonable?

10. Make sure the hotel gives you all of your costs in writing?
* Hotels are famous for “hidden costs”.
* Microphones and sound system
* Video Screen and overhead projector
* Ice and water for meeting rooms
* Electrical cords
* Are gratuities and service charges included in the costs listed?
* Exactly what will the meeting and hospitality rooms cost?
* How many complimentary rooms will you receive?
* Many hotels will give you a number of rooms for the President and a few guests at no charge.
* Can food and drink for the hospitality room be brought in from off-site?
* Many hotels require all food and beverage to be purchased at the hotel.
* What will be the cost for breakfast and snack items provided by the Hospitality Committee?
* Although they will pay for these items, use your judgment in negotiating a deal with the hotel.

* Before Making Final Decision
* Does the appearance and atmosphere of the hotel represent what you want for your conference?
* Arrange an appointment for you and your committees to view the facilities before you sign a contract. Others may see things you might overlook.
* Make sure you can get out of the contract if the hotel fails to deliver as promised.
* Submit all the conference budgets to the Board for their approval before entering into a binding contract with the vendor.
* If you have questions, ask past presidents for assistance.
* You will probably only host one conference. Don’t settle for second best.