You’d think that one of the most demanding parts of planning an event would be sticking to the budget or managing food and beverage. But one seemingly innocuous aspect takes more time than you’d think – finding a range of dates that works for everyone. Not just the hotel and flight schedule, but the attendees, their children, their school and work schedules, and their busy lives and variables to this specific task. We chatted with our most seasoned incentive planners to get their take on what to avoid and what to remember when planning around everyone’s schedule.
Keep important school dates in mind
We’ve had a lot of experience planning family incentive trips, and we know how complicated things can get if you don’t plan the correct dates right from the beginning. Even though incentives are generally a trip free of cost for the attendees, that doesn’t mean that they can totally put their lives on hold, pull the kids out of school, and rearrange their busy schedule just because it’s not on their dime. With this in mind, for summer incentives, plan for weeks in the middle of summer, and include a full weekend so mom and dad don’t have to take too many days off of work. If you are in the school year, you know those weeks where holidays and breaks fall will be hot travel times – book extra early to get the perfect destination hotels.
Know the company
Companies can have different fiscal years and internal schedules that may or may not be known to the public or planners. Some take the whole month of December off for holidays, some schedule a week every year for company meetings, some may participate in corporate athletic events and company picnics that limit some weekend. Though this is a slip-up that would be caught early, it’s better to be proactive and ask for important company dates throughout the year so you can plan around them.
If you’ve been working an annual incentive for a few years, chances are you send out an attendee survey at the end of the trip to get feedback on the location, the service, and the like. Consider adding a comments section asking how the dates and times worked for them. While you can’t please everyone, you may find some trends in the feedback and incorporate that into your planning for the group’s next incentive.
As a planner, you certainly can’t plan around everyone’s individual schedule. But you can make it easier on a group to travel – especially with children – by paying attention to universal flow of life events. By putting the attendees first, and not the hotel or resort’s schedule, you’ll offer more ease, peace of mind, and ultimately, fun.