Five Tips for Doing a Site “Visit” When You Can’t Actually Visit

Here’s what you can do to emerge from a virtual site visit with the same confidence in your choice as you would with an in-person tour.

Travel may have picked up again, but that doesn’t mean that meeting planners are necessarily ready to conduct all site visits in person. There are still COVID-19 concerns, and some organizations have decided that in certain cases business travel can be replaced by a virtual experience that saves money.

So how do you conduct a site visit virtually and feel confident that you’ve learned everything you need to know? Use these tips to find the best site for your next meeting when you can’t visit in person.

1. Use Tech Tools to Improve Virtual Visits

When researching potential venues, ask about the site’s ability to accommodate a virtual tour. A tour with just a laptop camera over a Zoom call might be sufficient, but technical limitations mean camera quality will be subpar and you might not come away with as clear a picture of the venue as you’d hoped. If the venue has tools beyond a video conferencing platform, take advantage of them. For example, a robotic camera offers a better, steadier image than a Zoom meeting does, giving viewers an experience that’s much closer to an in-person visit. Bottom line, you want to use available tech tools to make the virtual visit more effective and as close as possible to an in-person tour.

2. Go Full Circle

If a venue can’t give you a live tour of its spaces, ask for the next best thing: pictures, videos, and other assets. Keep an eye out for 360-degree images and room tours, which some venues have posted on their websites. If allowed, don’t forget to record the virtual tour so you can review the site again later with your team.

3. Set the Agenda

Before the virtual visit, work with the venue to set the agenda and make any preparations needed to ensure the visit is as efficient as possible. This includes testing video conferencing platforms you may use to verify that you have access to the meeting, as well as any other tech tools. Set up your virtual agenda as you would one for an in-person meeting: Determine who’ll be participating, when to kick things off, what exactly you’ll see, which representatives you’ll speak to and when, and when you’ll wrap or take breaks.

And as the American Psychological Association points out, participants will probably be dispersed across time zones, so the tour’s start and stop times should be viable no matter where participants are.

“We recommend scheduling the visit for 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern when participants are across multiple time zones. If all participants are in the Eastern time zone, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Eastern would be acceptable,” according to the APA report.

4. Look Outside the Venue

The event experience is about more than just the event. After looking into the venue itself, do some research on the neighborhood. Determine how safe it is for attendees and staff to get to and from the venue from nearby hotels, whether there are activities and attractions in the vicinity, and how accessible the area is.

Since you’re not visiting in person, tools such as Google Maps—which offers a 360-degree street view of just about every location in the world—can help you get a sense of the area from afar.

5. Ask Around

You might not have been to the venue, but chances are a colleague or someone in your industry has. Ask about their experience and if they’d recommend using the venue for future events. Best of all, someone who has experience with a venue can fill in knowledge gaps and provide details that might not show up in a virtual tour, a Google review, or the venue’s marketing materials.

(PeopleImages/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Michael Hickey

By Michael Hickey

Michael Hickey is a contributor to Associations Now. MORE

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