Working with a Hotel's Front Desk

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Terry Barry joined the staff of the Best Western Inn of the Ozarks at Eureka Springs in May 1984. She served as front desk manager for a number of years before becoming sales manager in 2004. Her front desk years allowed her to "work with many of our meeting planners and acquire many good friends as well as a good grounding in many of the processes of planning a successful event."
What's the oddest request you've handled from a planner or organization regarding meetings?
Each conference has its own topic of focus. No, our UFO Conference has not requested - but I am sure would have welcomed - a "flying saucer" landing in the parking lot. We did have to draw the line when we were asked if a leashed tiger could be brought into the convention center. They did agree to leave him in his cage outside.
Considering your experience in the meetings industry, what reality TV show could you win?
This business has to be a combination of "The Great Race" and "Survivor." Last weekend was our annual Volkswagen Show, which involves a swap meet inside and outside of the convention center that lasts until about 4 p.m. Our bride, whose reception was scheduled to begin at 8 p.m., panicked when she came to see her reception room still full of car pieces and parts (at 2 p.m.). It was definitely a "Great Race" to get car parts and trash out and the center looking lovely for her dream reception. Our great staff accomplished the task and are "Survivors."
Barry's Thoughts & Insights
As a meeting or event planner, you have worked diligently to prepare the very best conference for your organization. Arrival and departure at the hotel should be as smooth as your meeting. Years of experience as front desk manager have taught me some valuable lessons.
• As you are planning your event, the focus for both you and your sales manager is on such things as agendas, meals, breakout rooms and the thousand details of planning a successful meeting. So what detail frequently gets neglected? Your own room reservations! Your sales manager will be happy to attend to this for you. And don't forget reservations for your staff and speakers.
• Let your contact person or the front desk manager know who will be on the Master Bill, i.e. speakers, staff, dignitaries. Who is entitled to any complimentary rooms?
• Frequently the host property will have an assortment of room types in your block, such as standard rooms, preferred locations or suites. In the literature sent to attendees, let them know what is available and if there is a difference in the room rates for the various room types. Also encourage attendees to indicate any special needs or requests when they make their reservations.
• Registration information should reach all members in ample time to make the decision to attend and to get their reservations in prior to the hotel cutoff date. Some properties will honor the conference rate after the cutoff date, others will not. Registrants should have that information.
• Work with the front desk manager. He may be able to print out a guest list of those who have made reservations within your block of rooms. Establishing a relationship with the front desk prior to arrival makes you a "real" person, not just a name, and frequently a friend before you ever meet face to face.
• OK, you are at the hotel and reservations or room assignments are not as you expected. Stay calm. Give the front desk people the opportunity to work it out. Given a chance almost any situation can be fixed.
• It is helpful both on check in and checkout when an entity, i.e. a school district or agency, is paying for multiple rooms if they let the front desk know exactly who is on their account.
• You have worked hard with your sales director, the front desk and catering managers and all is in order. Now, relax and enjoy your event. Your hard work is appreciated by everyone.