Do you need to do a site inspection for an event you are planning or managing? Are you unable to go in person? Have you considered a virtual site inspection?
In the age of deep digital resources, a meeting professional and hosting organization can accomplish most of the preliminary inquiry process for property suitability by simply visiting a venue’s website. Most properties make the following readily available:
- 360 Degree Photos
- Floor Plans
- Capacity Charts
- Menu Pricing
- Reservation Audits
All these resources are available without getting out of your chair. Why not take that a step further by scheduling a virtual site inspection?
What is the Impact of a Virtual Site Visit?
Every meeting, conference, festival and summit organizing team needs to see the space where they will convene their participants and determine if it is right for the type of event they are holding. Recently our conference management team had a site visit in Denver, Colorado. Instead of flying out to Colorado we decided to schedule a virtual site inspection. This decision saved MeetGreen time out of the office and for our client it saved on billable hours for onsite selection activity.
- $1,500 in travel expenses
- 18 hours of time out of the office
Striving for green meetings with every decision we make, we also calculated the carbon footprint to see our environmental impact: 2,348 lbs. of carbon emissions saved, the equivalent of planting 27 urban trees. Now that’s a triple bottom line savings!
What Does a Virtual Site Visit Look Like?
A virtual site visit should be designed to inform the participants and entails the same actions as a regular site inspection.
- The virtual participant(s) still “meets” the facility representative at the agreed-upon time in the lobby of the hotel or meeting facility.
- Introductions of all of the tour participants and discussion about the important components to view.
- Floor plans distributed to the virtual participants beforehand help them gain a quicker understanding of the layout for the walk through. In addition, these floorplans identify exits, hallways and room capacities. Most venues now have floorplans available online, so this it is easy to gather this information.
- A tour ensues of the various features and use areas with questions and information exchange while touring the facility.
- Directions from the virtual participants will direct the person with the device focus in on the necessary details. Questions can be answered immediately for the entire team.
The only difference is that one or more of the participants are seeing the tour on a screen from their office desk. Make sure to include any back-of-house areas such as the kitchen and recycling area as well.
What is Needed For a Virtual Site Visit?
In order to prepare for a virtual site inspection you will need a device, an internet connection, an app or video capabilities, and a willing partner on site. We provide guidance with each of these below:
If you are the person who is visiting remotely the first piece of equipment you will need is a computer, tablet or phone. You will also need someone at the physical site using their phone or tablet to connect with you.
A trusted wifi connection or your cell phone’s data plan to connect you online. In fact, the virtual site visit is an excellent opportunity to put the wifi to its paces at a facility. Bad or inconsistent wifi cannot be hidden or glossed over when it is vital to a successful site visit. It is surprising how many times this simple practice will find trouble spots in a venue.
App or Video Capabilities
You will need to use Skype or Google hangouts for the video to make this work. Either of these work very well for this purpose since they are mobile friendly platforms. For relationship building, we suggest having video turned on so all participants can see one another. Another suggestion for a video option is if you and the other attendees are iPhone users you could use FaceTime for your video tour as well.
A Willing Partner
A sales manager who is willing to try something new is also key. Having virtual guests is a novel concept for your facility partner and we have found that any reservations about the virtual arrangement melt away after the first few minutes. Many of our clients love to use technology to assist in these tasks so they can also remain at their offices.
As a side note, every time we have done a virtual site visit, we have had a representative from either our team or the client organization on-site to physically walk during the site inspection and be the eyes & ears for what one can’t get from a digital device. Of course there are limitations to any technology but the important thing to ask is whether the benefits outweigh the savings for all parties involved.
When Does It Work?
Virtual site visits work in many circumstances such as:
- Preliminary site inquiries
- Known properties (perhaps for a conference that is returning to the same venue)
- Meetings with simple agendas
- When time constraints do not allow for multiple cities to be viewed on one day
When Does It Not Work?
Conversely, there are many times when a virtual site visit just will not do.
- For large or multi-dimensional conferences, it is clearly important to “walk the space”
- Conferences with extensive installations
- Off-site events
- Lack of familiarity with surrounding areas
These are just a few examples to consider when thinking about a virtual site visit. For your next event, try it out! You could be on the cutting edge of the next best thing for you, your company, and your client! Video technology is certainly here to stay and, as meeting professionals, we should think creatively and use it to our advantage whenever possible.