The Brancatelli File



December 15, 1994 -- Like it or not, the day may come when you are asked to plan a meeting for your company or your client. Don't panic: there are some simple tips that will help you ease the burden.

If you are asked to pull together a small conference and all the attendees are in the same area, keep the arrangements simple. The banquet room of a nearby restaurant should do fine. But be sure to select a restaurant where you've had personal experience and know that both the food and the service are good. After all, if the restaurant botches a quiet dinner for two, there's no reason to assume they'll be any more efficient serving a party of twelve.

If the meeting is more complex and requires more specialized services and amenities--audio/visual equipment, for example, and ballroom-type seating--take your business to a local hotel. Meetings and conventions make up a substantial portion of any hotel's revenue, so even small properties have a meeting planner on staff. The planner can guide you through the basics and help you make all the necessary arrangements. The hotel also owns--or has access to--most of the equipment you will require. If meeting attendees need overnight accommodations, chances are there will be special discounted room rates available, too.

Should the meeting you're planning involve a substantial number of out-of-town visitors, consider moving the event to the airport. Simple meetings can be held at an airline club lounge, since facilities such as the United Red Carpet Club, the Continental Presidents Club, and the American Admirals Club have conference rooms for rent by the hour. More complex meetings can be arranged at an airport hotel. The advantage of an airport venue is clear: out-of-town travelers are spared the agony of traveling off the airport grounds, and that often enables them to return home the same day they arrived.

If your meeting is intended to gather participants from a number of different cities, airport hotels again make an excellent choice. Consider planning the meeting at facilities located at the "hub" airport of a major airline: Atlanta or Salt Lake for Delta Airlines, for example, or Minneapolis or Memphis for Northwest Airlines. This will allow all your participants to converge on a central airport with a minimum of disruption. It will also allow you to negotiate group rate airfares from one airline. (Most offer special rates for groups of ten or more).

Should you be asked to plan a full-blown, multiple-day meeting or seminar that includes dinners and accommodations at a resort, call in the professionals. Many hotel chains--and even some airlines--now have centralized services that can arrange every facet of a meeting: site selection, transportation, food service, accommodations, leisure activities, and the details of every event. Marriott, for example, calls its service the Marriott Meetings Network. Hyatt calls its program the Hyatt Meeting Connection.

This column originally appeared in Home Office Computing magazine.

Copyright 1993-2008 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.