The best way for a meeting planner to determine if a destination is a good fit for their meetings and conferences is by attending a familiarization trip, or FAM, to the destination.
I recently wrote an article for destinations and hotels about FAM best practices and how to plan a perfect FAM. As the meeting planner attending the FAM, there are also things you can do to make the FAM a success for all parties.
Why are FAMs important?
For meeting planners, FAMs work because they provide a holistic view of what their program would look like in a destination – from ease of access, hotels and offsites, local beauty and amenities, and ease of doing business. All factors contribute to a meeting planner’s decision to use a destination. For site selection professionals, many of their clients lean on these industry experts to advise them on destination that make sense for their program’s goals. FAMs are education-based opportunities, not vacations.
A lot has been said about the ethics of meeting planners who attend site visits. FAMs can be a lot of fun, and sometimes are viewed as a right of the meeting planner who need a break from their stressful schedules. If you follow this one key guideline as a FAM attendee, all your actions will set you up as a respected member of the meetings community:
FAM’s are a privilege, and an education-based opportunity for me to service my clients to the fullest of my abilities.
Whether you are a seasoned planner, or looking at your first FAM opportunity, keep the following tips in mind to ensure you get the most out of your time away from the office attending a familiarization trip.
- Be honest – the FAM destination and partners will ask about your business potential for the region. Please don’t mislead them, be honest about the opportunity. If you’ve never booked a destination before, be honest about that too! You may have never booked it because you weren’t familiar with the region, which is the whole reason for the FAM!
- Have organizational support – some companies have guidelines around attending FAMs; please ensure you are following the guidelines, and have business potential for the region.
- Commit only if you can commit – I often see planners who cancel out of FAMs at the last minute, which leaves hosts in the lurch as they have planned on your attendance. Please commit only if you can commit, and prepare for those days away from home and the office.
- Attend all agenda functions – do not skip on functions to tend to emails or other business. Treat this as a mandatory part of your job; a “must do” meeting versus an optional appointment. Prepare for your time away by communicating with colleagues and clients that you are attending a familiarization trip requires your full attention, and schedule your tasks accordingly
- Be on time – FAMs are work meetings, please respect the time of your work colleagues and be on time for all functions
- Take notes – whether you like to use a notebook, your phone/iPad, or document your notes using pictures and business cards, please take notes throughout the trip. Use this site visit notes worksheet as a great note-taking tool. This will be your best way of retaining the information for future use, and shows your hosts that you taking this learning opportunity seriously.
- Ask questions – this is your time to ensure all your unanswered questions about a destination or venue are asked – ASK AWAY – your hosts will appreciate the engagement and dialogue that all FAM members will benefit from
- Limit alcohol – take the lead of your host on drinking alcohol at an event. Its ok to indulge, but remember this is work function (think office Christmas party guidelines….)
- Send thank you’s – whether electronically or hand-written, send thank you’s to your event hosts. The number of participating venues, and their involvement may dictate who you send thank you’s to, but ensure your main hosts are acknowledged for their time, talent and money spent on your attendance.
- Share the knowledge – if you have other colleagues or client’s that would benefit from the information you learned about a region or venue, make a plan to share your notes and take-aways from the FAM.
While FAM’s can be a ton of fun, they are still also a ton of work and should be viewed as an educational program. If you attending familiarization trips are part of your role as a meeting planner, are there any tips you’d like to share with your #eventprofs peeps?
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