If you are new around here, or perhaps if it has been a while since we’ve caught up, as a part of my “day job” I manage corporate events – holiday parties, client conferences, training seminars and, best of all, our sales incentive programs.
This week, I had the opportunity to spend two days in Jamaica at a site visit to kick off planning the 2013 incentive awards trip in Montego Bay. A sales incentive trip is a way to reward your top performers with a company-sponsored vacation that celebrates their successes and rewards them with a spectacular location to relax and lots of activities to fill their days. I will be responsible for 100+ folks attending a 5 day awards program next April at a fantastic resort in Montego Bay. Believe me, tons of planning goes into making sure every aspect of their experience is above and beyond their hopes and expectations.
I thought it might be interesting for you guys who haven’t been behind the scenes in event planning to read a bit about what we do in advance of an event.
For a site visit at a venue (specifically a Jamaican resort in this instance), the top priorities are to:
- See every inch of the venue that your guests will come in contact withto be the most knowledgeable host possible and also to anticipate their questions, needs and concerns and whenever possible, alleviate them before they ever occur.
- Meet and form a relationship the staff– from the sales representative, resort event coordinator, wait staff, bartenders (hugely important for this kind of trip!), food and beverage managers and chefs, all the way to the grounds keepers and water sports managers. This will definitely help you plan, but these folks will be instrumental in the actual implementation of your event. Work out the kinks now, and make friends with them. Treat them with respect and greet them with a smile and you (and your guests) are likely to receive the same treatment in return.
- Experience the resort as your guests will.This includes eating at the restaurants, ordering room service, walking the beach and sometimes even sitting by the pool, cocktail in hand. Hard life, I know. But seriously…your sales rep can tell you that the pool bartender will cater to your every need all day long. But when you are there, beach towel in hand, does he actually offer you a refill on your beverage or a bottle of water? It’s like mystery shopping. You learn so much!
- Tour the nearby town and attractions.I have had huge success working with destination management companies in country that have all the local knowledge on where to dine off-site, what cultural experiences your guests can have (craft markets, museums, factories, churches) and what type of activities are most popular and safe to experience off of the resort. In Jamaica, I’m particularly intrigued by the river rafting and bobsledding!
- Address any issues, confirm topics discussed in writing and move forward with a contract.The most productive site visits end with a contract. But of course, not all will. Some resorts or venues barely live up to their 3.5 star ratings, sales reps always over-hype their venue and the food may be nearly inedible. If that happens, move on…swiftly. You are never obligated to contract post-site visit if you are not satisfied with the venue or service (exception: if you’ve contracted in advance of the site). But hopefully the venue will exceed your expectations. The site visit is the property’s opportunity to shine. If they do, hopefully you will be able to reward them with a nice contract for service!
I would never feel comfortable planning these events without a full site inspection. When your guests’ experience (and your “day job”) is on the line, it is always worth the time it takes to settle all of these details in advance.
Next up: a recap of my time in Montego Bay!