Section 5.5 Site Selection/Site Inspection Notes
Conference Manual Section 5.5 Selecting a Conference Site
Selecting a Conference Site
There are 2 types of site selection:
This is just a preliminary process and should be used only when local groups are required to present a city to an oversight committee for further consideration before issuing an RFP.
Some conference oversight committees require local committees to present a city to them prior to moving ahead with the formal RFP process. This requires gathering information regarding availability, general rates, F&B costs A/V costs and ACM's tax exempt status in a particular state. The conference committee is not yet at a point where sending an official RFP is appropriate.
To determine site feasibility
- ACM will issue a feasibility request to a specific hotel or a single city.
- The request will include preferred dates, a general outline of the meeting and sleeping room requirements based on history. The committee is expected to review and endorse the requirements prior to release.
- Information from the city will be collected by ACM, summarized and forwarded to the local group so that they may present it to the oversight committee
- Once the information is presented and accepted by the oversight committee, ACM will proceed with a formal RFP as directed.
This process takes place when a committee with decision-making power for site selection is ready to issue a formal RFP.
- With input from the committee, ACM will issue a formal RFP to 1-3 cities as requested by the committee.
- The request will include preferred dates, a specific outline of the meeting, food & beverage and sleeping room requirements based on history. The committee is expected to review and endorse the requirements prior to release.
- Information from each property including availability, rate and concessions will be collected by ACM, summarized by city and forwarded to the committee with a site recommendation.
- The committee is expected to review the summary, discuss, select a site and communicate its decision to ACM. If a local site visit is needed prior to the decision, ACM will make arrangements for a local committee member to meet with the hotels as appropriate.
- Based on the committee decision, ACM will proceed with negotiation, finalize the terms and execute the contract on behalf of the conference and sponsoring SIG.
Frequently Asked Questions on Site Selection
Why should we work through ACM on site selection?
ACM has been assigned high level national sales contacts at convention bureaus and hotel chains (Hyatt, Hilton, Marriott, Starwood, etc.) and has established relationships with these organizations. These single points of contact are expected to educate their local salespeople to recognize ACM's total business rather than just one conference. Rates and concessions are expected to reflect that total business.
What's special about ACM's buying power?
ACM's buying power is based on 145 conferences and workshops as well as 50 committee meetings and special events annually. By utilizing national sales representatives who understand that total business, no matter the location, ACM can secure the best possible rates, concessions and terms for each meeting. ACM's business is important to the conference industry and as a result the relationships that ACM has built with these representatives carries through from the RFP process to the post-convention meeting.
What input does the committee have in the site selection process if handled by ACM?
The committee will be asked to approve the meeting and sleeping room specifications, will select the cities to send the RFP to and will make the final decision determining the site based on the proposals received.
How long will it take for ACM to issue the RFP and receive responses?
ACM will provide the committee with a meeting specification outline based on history for its approval. Once approved, ACM will issue the RFP giving the cities and hotels 3 weeks to respond. The committee will have a summary of potential sites 1 week following the response date.
Why does ACM limit the RFP distribution to 3 cities?
ACM limits the distribution of the RFP to 3 cities to provide a competitive incentive and to ensure the cities consider the lead seriously and submit a strong proposal.
How does ACM secure the meeting specs and room block information for the RFP?
ACM gathers history on technical program specifications, sleeping room usage, a/v and food & beverage expenses from previous years. RFP's are developed based on that history.
Why is the peak night sleeping room block usually ½ of the expected attendance?
This is due to attendees taking double rooms, not following the standard arrival/departure pattern and staying at properties outside the hotel block.
Why does ACM send the RFP to convention and visitors bureaus (CVBs) as well as chain hotels?
ACM uses CVBs to secure proposals from independent properties not affiliated with international chains and also wants the CVB to know that ACM may be bringing business to their areas.
What happens if there are no viable responses?
ACM will discuss other potential sites with the committee and will reissue the RFP to other cities based on direction from the committee.
Can the committee designate an individual to do a site visit?
Yes. The designee should contact ACM to arrange a formal site visit with the appropriate hotels and contacts. If visiting a single facility, ACM will work directly with the sales manager of the hotel to arrange your visit. If multiple facilities are to be visited, ACM will work with the convention and visitors bureau to arrange your schedule.
What are considered the "dos" when representing ACM during a site visit?
Do contact ACM to make formal arrangements on your behalf with the city and hotels
Do wear comfortable shoes and plan to see as much as possible in a short period of time
Do request a visit to only those facilities that meet the specifications of the conference
Do have a complete understanding of the meeting and sleeping room specifications
Do be prepared to answer questions about attendance and attendee behavior
Do expect the hotel to show you all meeting space, a variety of sleeping rooms, the business center, health club and on-site restaurants
Do keep a list of additional concessions you'd like ACM to request on behalf of the conference following your visit
Do prepare a check-list so that you can evaluate each property equally
Do view floor plans that outline room capacity. Remember that room capacity on a plan is often exaggerated and that those numbers rarely include audio visual equipment which cuts into the capacity
Do prepare an evaluation report following your visit
Should I attempt to negotiate during the site visit?
No. ACM is in the best potion to further negotiate upon your return. While visiting, be sure to keep a list of additional concessions you'd like ACM to request on behalf of the conference.
Will the hotel or the city provide a complimentary sleeping room during my visit if an overnight stay is necessary?
It is customary for the hotel to provide a complimentary sleeping room if an overnight stay is required.
Our conference can secure rates just as good as ACM's through my company or university. Why have ACM negotiate the contract?
Rates aren't the only consideration in negotiating a contract. Concessions and terms are also very important. Standard ACM concessions include 1 complimentary room for every 40/50 sleeping rooms, lowest group rate during the time of the meeting, no meeting space rental fees, limited attrition fees and penalties, mutual indemnification and other concessions and clauses which protect ACM, its leadership, and the conference itself.
What if the committee simply explores possible locations, narrows down the possibilities and then asks ACM to negotiate?
Introducing potential business even without the intent to negotiate a contract puts a volunteer leader in the position of acting as an agent for the organization. A salesperson will immediately be assigned based on the location of the individual making the query. That salesperson will be reluctant to give up the "lead" once they start providing assistance to secure that business. Turning it over to ACM once the contacts have been made puts the organization in a difficult position and reduces ACM's negotiating power.
What if the committee chooses to deal with the city, select a hotel and forward the contract to ACM for final negotiation and review?
It's difficult and time consuming for ACM to step in and negotiate the terms of a contract without being involved from the beginning of the selection process. To benefit from ACM's leverage, the organization should be the point of contact from the start.
ACM will review the contract terms as negotiated by the committee and will add an addendum to include a mutual indemnification and other standard clauses which protect the organization. All other terms will remain as negotiated by the volunteer leaders with no further negotiation from ACM. Exposure for contracts that are handled in this manner will be summarized and forwarded to the appropriate SIG Chair for endorsement. The SIG Chair will be required to endorse the contract. With the endorsement of the SIG Chair, the contract will be forwarded to ACM's COO for final execution.
Is the conference chair required to sign the hotel contract on behalf of the conference?
If the conference has submitted a TMRF and is approved, the conference chair will be provided with an outline of exposure for the event and will be asked to endorse the contract. With that endorsement, the contract will signed by ACM's COO. If a TMRF has not been submitted and the conference is not officially approved, the conference chair and the SIG Chair will be provided with an outline of exposure for the event and will be asked to endorse the contract. When endorsement is received from both, the contract will be signed by ACM's COO. Contracts will not be executed without the appropriate endorsements.
At what point is it appropriate for a conference volunteer to work directly with the hotel representatives?
Should a site visit be required the conference designee will meet with the assigned sales person and the appropriate hotel. If there is no site visit the conference leaders will be introduced to the convention services manager following execution of the contract. Conference leaders will deal directly with the hotel staff at that time.
How do we encourage our attendees to stay at the conference hotel?
ACM has put together an explanation on why attendees should stay at the conference hotel. All leaders are advised to link to this information from their conference website: Click here - "Why Stay at the Conference Hotel?"