Alesha Neely is a senior manager of operations for CES, the world’s largest and most influential tech event, which is owned and produced by the Consumer Technology Association. She is the venue lead for Tech West, which includes the Sands Expo and Venetian venues. Before CTA, Alesha worked for SmithBucklin, an association management firm.
How to Make Your Site Visits More Efficient and Effective
You’ve chosen your city and now need to schedule a visit to meet important contacts at your venue and start planning your event. From working on events of all sizes in my previous career, and now as senior manager of operations for CES, I’ve learned many critical pieces of knowledge along the way.
Here are some tips that have worked best for me.
Determine a date for your site visit.
Six to eight months out, work with your facility contact to decide on timing and think through the vendors you will want to meet. Who will have a large role in special areas on the show floor? Who will you be working with a lot in the coming months by phone and email? It helps to put a face to the name early on in the planning process. Once the site visit date is determined, send save the dates for the full time you will be there and include all the vendors needed for each meeting. You can always update and provide more details as needed later.
Create an agenda with your facility lead, and stick to it.
That may sound like an easy task, but a million things will pop up to derail your plan. Use mealtimes to build relationships. It is important to get to know your vendors. This not only makes planning more fun throughout the process, but it also helps you to get past barriers and find the root of challenges to solve problems quickly in the future.
Save time to tour the venue.
At least a week to two weeks out, create and share a list of exactly which areas are of most interest to you (signage placement, ballrooms, exhibit space, etc.) Invite electricians, riggers, caterers, general service contractors, etc. to join you on the tour to ask questions while you are viewing the space. You don’t have to see all the space if you are familiar with it already, but make sure you don’t leave without having a complete understanding of the main entrances and how attendees will arrive and travel through the building.
Schedule one-on-one meetings with vendors.
Even if it is only 10-15 minutes, try to squeeze these in so you can review your prepared questions. Start first with the topics that are most important to your event. Don’t forget to schedule breaks to give your mind a few minutes rest or address any business back home. Don’t be afraid to table big discussions and pick them up over the phone if it makes more sense to finish later. Use any extra time to get a jump start on signage plans and specs.
Sample Site Visit Agenda
8 AM Meet for breakfast with facility lead and/or general service contractor
9 AM Tour of facility
11:30 AM Vendor meet and greet and provide any important show information
Noon Lunch with all vendors
1:30 PM Catering meeting
2:30 PM Internet meeting
2:45 PM Electrical meeting
3 PM Break
3:15 PM General service contractor meeting
4 PM Internal discussions and planning - create signage plans, update specs and schedules
Finally, send a follow up thank you note to everyone you met with, especially those who provided a hotel room or meal during your stay. Include any action items, deadlines and next steps along with your contact information to keep everything moving toward a successful event.