By Seema Shah
She is a Prestige member of The PA Club and various forums including the Institute of Professional Administrators (IPA), the Executive Personal Assistants Society and the Personal Assistant and Office Manager (PAOM). Seema was awarded 2011 PA of the Year by the Executive PA Magazine Awards
Our Senior Management team are currently in Miami on their business away week...How do you organise an event at a location and venue you have not even visited?? Here's how I did it....
When my CEO first told me to find an overseas location he just said it needed to be close to an airport and preferably somewhere with good weather. That pretty much ruled out most of Europe this time of the year because it’s very much hit and miss on the weather front. I settled on Miami because of location, weather and personal recommendation.
Having been to the EIBTM in November last year, put me in a good position to try out some of the people I met in Barcelona. I began by contacting a few of the hotels and asked them to send me their room rates, F&B (food & beverage) options and conference room facilities, together with spa and other activity details. I put all the details for each of the hotels I contacted into an excel spreadsheet so I had everything to hand on one page. I started with twelve hotels and narrowed this down to five for my CEO to have a look at. I made my shortlist on the basis of what I found on the hotel website’s photo gallery, friendliness and efficiency of the staff I was dealing with, facilities and cost.
There are nine executives attending so when I finally got the shortlist down to two hotels, it was quite easy to play them off each other depending on who wanted the business more. Good negotiating skills come in handy at this point. Then comes attention to the finer details of what AV equipment you need in the meeting room, stationary such as flip charts and pens, and of course internet access. Sorting out the F&B requirement was quite mouth-watering. It’s good to have a schedule of times for breakfast, am breaks, lunch and pm breaks with all the menus you have selected so when you’re checking the invoice, you know if it’s all correct or not.
With the hotel sorted, I moved onto the flights. I have a great travel agent who always gets me the best deals. So as long as the flights were available, we were good to go. Next, it’s the airport transfers. The last thing you want is for a team of executives to be travelling to another country and then waiting in a queue for a taxi to take them to their hotel. Make sure you’ve booked their return transfers – they’ll thank you for this! Most hotels will offer this service at a cost and some even complimentary.
What’s next? Evening dinner/entertainment. If your executives have been stuck in a meeting room for most of the day with a few breaks here and there to enjoy the sunshine you need to give them a change of scenery for the evening. This is very difficult if you haven’t visited the location/venue which is where DMS (Destination Management Services) companies are useful. They can help you with a list of things but on this occasion I only used them to recommend restaurants.
Be careful because they do charge a service percentage fee and if you’re only booking restaurants, you can do this yourself. I had a list of about 20 restaurants from downtown to the beach. I knew what most people liked in terms of cuisine so I narrowed this down to Fish, Italian and Steak restaurants. I then went onto each restaurant's website to check them out. If a restaurant didn’t have a website, it was struck off the list immediately. They’ve been to two out of the three restaurants booked so far and have been raving about them – so job well done on that front.
I finally sent all the executives an itinerary of everyone’s flights (as some where travelling from the UK and US), transfer details and restaurant bookings. They’re all back this weekend and apart from a few grey clouds, it has been a very successful trip. My job is done, roll on the next trip.
Enjoy planning your company’s management away week!