The Basics: What is site inspection and why is it important?
When it comes to planning events, a site inspection is perhaps the most crucial aspect event planners need to consider. Finalizing a venue may sound like a no-brainer to you at first. However, it encompasses a lot of other important tasks under it. Event planners need to put in a lot of effort before they head out to the location.
Event planners need to talk to their vendors and ask in-depth questions whilst catering to customer requests to get everything right for the event. Thus, having a site inspection checklist in hand helps expedite the process and ensure accuracy.
So, what is the checklist?
In simpler terms, a site inspection checklist is a planning instrument that helps event planners finalize a site for their next business event.
Examining a prospective venue in person helps you discover the benefits and limitations of a place better. You can make more informed decisions so the rest of the planning goes smoothly.
An exhaustive checklist also lets you keep tabs on the minutest of details, removing all possible kinks from the process. Moreover, companies update these lists as the need arises and also use them to help familiarize new hires with their duties.
Getting started with site inspection: Key aspects to consider
The Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected the event planning industry to grow by 11% in the US. This suggests that more and more players are set to vie for the top spot. For this reason, you need to choose your battles wisely.
In such circumstances, it greatly helps to keep up with the latest marketing trends.
One way to do this is to follow a site inspection checklist that may give you an edge over your competitors by helping you make faster decisions.
Here are a couple of aspects you must consider before you get on with drafting a site inspection checklist.
Although it is ideal to start planning early, it isn’t always practical to rely on the initial arrangements you made.
Event venues often need last minute adjustments so it’s always a good idea to visit the venue a day before the actual event happens.
Decide on an adequate time that you need for adjustments based on your team collaboration efforts and vendor response rate.
2. Inspection fees
Event planners typically contact sales representatives at a property to schedule a time for the site inspection. After this, convention service managers conduct on-site tours.
Convention service managers ensure that the site has adequate provisions for food, housekeeping, and security. Most of the times, you can get a free on-site inspection done. However, this isn’t always the case.
In such circumstances, it’s a good idea to call the property personnel and ask for the concerned fee prior to inspection. This saves you planning time later and even gives you an idea of how you should chalk out your budget.
3. External reviews
When visiting a venue, event planners must be clear on what they want from a location and whether it meets their criteria.
The first tour is generally to shortlist or cancel out a location from your list of potential venues. However, sometimes a visual site inspection may not reveal the whole story to you.
In such a case, it always helps to gather and glean over external reviews from previous clients of a location.
How does one prepare for a successful site inspection
A site inspection checklist comes in handy when you’re at the venue, but is it all that you need? Certainly not.
To thoroughly conduct a site inspection, you must prepare beforehand and consider some important aspects while you’re at it.
This may seem a little too overwhelming but it drastically helps in the long run and saves you the ordeal of conflicts later.
Here is how to go about it:
- Research it all: Make it a point to survey all possible nearby options and get detailed information about them. You can even go for virtual tours or client testimonials to shortlist sites for physical inspection.
- Get feedback: After the inspection, gather your team to discuss their individual feedback. This is important as you can incorporate any useful recommendations or requests while finalizing a deal.
- Give out business cards: You can use these for both networking purposes and purchase decision-making. Giving a business card to a site sales representative means you can easily contact them later if a second site tour isn’t possible.
- Get the right tools in hand: While going for an on-site inspection, make sure you have a good camera or a smartphone to take pictures of the venue. This helps when you carry out the feedback session with your team. Go over the relevant pictures and discuss where a venue needs improvement.
- Inspect designated areas: It does not help to squander your time inspecting the whole site, especially in cases of large venues. You can pick designated areas you want to examine and communicate these to the sales representative. If you label these areas as ‘must see’ locations, it can further steer clear any confusion between you and the vendor.
Compiling a site inspection checklist
When it comes to compiling a site inspection checklist, event planners should take stock of several factors. These range from basic information to detailed logistics and IT tasks.
An extensive checklist enables planning and production teams to avoid last minute layout changes. It also saves you from unanticipated costs. Here’s what to include in an ideal site inspection checklist:
1. Basic information
- Finalized inspection date
- Name of the location
- Type of the location e.g. marquee, pier, etc.
- Location address
- Site manager’s contact information
- Availability duration of the venue
2. Site specifics
- Ratings and reviews
- Any potential instance of construction activities on-site
- Compliance with health and safety regulations
- Cancellation policy
- Attrition/delay penalty
- Added costs like taxes or hidden fees
- The amount and due date of advance deposits
- Neighboring sites
- Architecture and decor
3. Event logistics
- Distance between the central metropolitan locations to the venue
- Applicable parking fees
- Availability and capacity of meeting spaces like conference rooms
- Directional signage
- Accessibility of entrance and exit pathways
- Recreational services for guests
- Acceptable payment methods at the venue e.g. nearby ATMs
- Designated registration areas
- Conflicting events going on in a nearby vicinity
- Permission for getting the venue branded for your event
- WiFi usage policy
4. Food and beverage
You must also consider the estimated cost, quality, and type of the following:
- Breakfast (full/continental)
- Coffee, tea or cold beverages
- Service charges
- Any discount or special packages
5. Prepare your own site ratings (1 being the lowest and 5 the highest)
- Design creativity
- Staff behavior
6. Audio Visual
- List of vendor-provided AV items
- Quality of available equipment
- AV availability in conference rooms
- On-site AV support on the day of the event
- Rent rates, if applicable, for IT/AV equipment
7. Additional checklist for conference rooms
- Space availability
- Rental charges
- Set up/branding charges
- Site aesthetics
- Temperature control
- Nearby elevators and entrances/exits
- Restroom proximity
- Catering services
What else to look for?
Once you are ready with a thorough site inspection checklist, you should ask your site vendors a few questions to ensure the smooth running of an event.
Here are five questions that’ll prove useful in this regard:
1. What is the legal seating capacity?
Apart from private homes, most venues come with a specified legal occupancy limit. Having an idea about this enables you to tweak your guest list beforehand and sidestep any last minute cancellations.
This proves even more helpful when ticket sales are involved. With a fixed capacity in mind, you can save up on printing and ordering costs of branded merchandise.
2. Which permits are required for the event?
Whether it is closing down the normal venue activities for a day or building a temporary structure inside, vendor approval is a must.
It is always a good practice to find out what the requisite preliminary arrangements are in such a case. You can even contact the site manager and ask about the concerned permit procedure.
This way, you generally get an idea of where to get the permits from and how much would they cost.
3. Are the vendors suitable for your event?
Apart from examining the location itself, you must also ensure that the vendors are reliable to avoid future conflicts. It helps to read reviews and see how other planners rate them.
The right vendor can even be consulted for lighting, catering and backdrop recommendations. You can benefit from their experiences and glean insightful tips to make your event more stellar.
Cooperative and friendly vendors may even offer you good discounts, give free food samples, and make adjustments as you request.
4. Will you have access to a storage area?
While finalizing a location, event planners often forget that the production and planning crew may need a place to store their equipment.
In the best-case scenario, you should have a small storage area available next to the main site to hoard all the items relevant to your event. If such a space isn’t available, then think about how you can get a stockroom set up without affecting the whole layout.
5. How late can events run?
Even if an event has a fixed time duration, there may be instances when it has to run until late. This may bleed from power outages or delays.
To account for such a situation, an event planner must confirm until how late they can run their events and whether they’d be charged for it.
Event planning 101: The Do’s and Don’ts
We’re not out of the woods just yet. When it comes to the last stage of planning an event, an event planner should keep a couple of universal guidelines in mind.
The whole “planning” thing can get a little hectic so here are a few do’s and don’ts to help you stay in line with best practices.
- Plan early: Give yourself ample time to plan before the actual event happens to get everything right to the T. It also means that you can get the right people to attend the event by sending out invitations early.
- Have a backup ready: You can never be certain about anything as an event planner. The speaker can malfunction at the last minute, it can rain or the AV equipment may fail to connect. To tackle such unexpected situations, it always helps to have a backup ready. The best way is to do a test run prior to the event so you can arrange alternatives early on.
- Stay within your budget: The list of event planning expenses is rather long and includes venue costs, food, and sometimes even hotel rooms. Every team has a budget and not sticking to it could mean low ROI for your company. For this reason, keep the specified budget in mind before you make any choices and set some money aside for last minute expenses.
- Cut corners: While budget is extremely important, you cannot compromise on quality. Try to optimize quality whilst cutting down on costs and don’t rely on items with substandard quality.
- Skip the site visit: Some event planners opt for virtual walk-ins through 3D management tools. This may save you time but an actual site visit is the only way to determine whether a venue can deliver to your needs.
- Forget to make a site inspection plan: This mistake can prove far more detrimental than most event planners realize. Without a unanimously agreed-on site inspection plan, there are higher chances of last-minute issues, delays and budget deficits.
Good event planners keep their stakeholders on-board
Running a comprehensive site inspection is key to picking the right location and managing your event successfully. You must ensure that you’re using the information you have collected in the right way.
For this, you should get your entire team on-board. Give them regular updates of your site inspection findings and keep collecting their feedback.
Furthermore, schedule internal meetings with all the relevant stakeholders to ensure everyone is on the same page. These may include your clients, site sales representatives, decor and power vendors etcetera. This also helps you to incorporate suggestions from all the key decision makers.
Keeping your team on-board and lending an ear to their opinions ensures every stakeholder is satisfied. This also ensures that your event runs as seamlessly as possible.
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