As a meeting and event planner, you are expected to deliver perfection. Programs must achieve measurable business results, promote your company’s vision, and inspire attendees – all within a limited time and budget. No one understands this challenge better than our Four Seasons planning professionals. We asked our event and conference services teams across the globe for their best advice on how to execute an exceptional event. Below are 15 of their expert insider tips.
1. Think of your venue’s Conference Services Manager as a member of your team.

Building a strong relationship with your Conference Services Manager (CSM) is critical to your event's success: they are your advocate on-site. Establish trust by communicating regularly and sharing expectations, and they will also become an extension of your planning team. “There is no such thing as too much information,” says Kristy Bennett, Conference Services Manager at Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World® Resort. “Share, share and over share. The more your CSM knows, the better they are able to execute a flawless overall experience from planning to on-site execution.” The CSM also has tools that will assist with helping you keep track of rooming list deadlines, menu specifications, transportation requirements and even off-site venues.

Treat your Conference Services Manager like a member of your team.

2. Take advantage of all the resources offered by your venue.

Ask your CSM about all the resources the hotel or resort offers to groups. Most hotels have existing ideas for group adventures and team-building activities right on location. The hotel can also likely arrange ground transportation and event design. As a result, you may not need an additional Destination Management Company. The hotel can also provide you with a list of top local vendors who know the property well and can bring an extra layer of creativity.

Meeting Supplies and Bottled Water Ground Transportation Services Flowers

3. Make the most of your site inspection, no matter how short.

“Be familiar with the property’s event space before you arrive,” recommends Deanna Brown, Director of Catering and Conference Services at Four Seasons Resort and Residences Vail. “Look at the website and capacities in advance, so you have some basic knowledge to build on. Be sure to explain the purpose and focus of the meeting to the Conference Services Manager. Your CSM knows the venues best and can come up with creative ways to accommodate your function space needs. Meet all the key players at the property, so you have a personal relationship that will help when emailing and talking on the phone as you continue planning.”

Site Inspection

4. Establish a planning timeline, even if you know it will change.

“Even if you don’t fully stick to the timeline, it will give you a feeling of being in control,” says Inga Winkler, Director of Conference Services at Four Seasons Resort Hualalai. “The more you can prepare in advance, the better. Aim to set up weekly or bi-weekly calls at least two or three months prior to the event, and aim to have 90% of the details planned one month out. I do recommend personal calls over emails. They can often speed up the planning process.”

5. Be realistic with the event itinerary - and plan for breaks.

“When planning your schedule, be realistic with how long it takes for people to move from venue to venue, and how long it takes for them to sit down and settle,” says Deanna Brown, Director of Catering and Conference Services at Four Seasons Resort and Residences Vail. “Never underestimate how long-winded people can be! Do practice run-throughs with the speakers during meal breaks and get a real sense of their speaking time. If you see your general session is running late, advise your hotel team right away so they can adjust the timing on meals.” Also, remember that people find it difficult to sit in a meeting for eight hours a day and stay focused. Break it up. Plan a break every two hours to let people stretch and make phone calls.

Plan out your itinerary in Toronto

6. Know your guests and plan accordingly.

You are the expert about your group. Kevin Moul, Director of Catering and Conference Services at Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale, suggests customizing the itinerary according to their personalities and interests. “Is the group into wellness? Add a wellness break in the day, inclusive of a mini Yoga class, chair massages and meditation. Are foodies in attendance? Ask about planning unique, interactive themed activities, such as chef demos, cooking classes and competitive events such as a chili cook-off.”

For programs with guests, Cynthia Picardo, Assistant Director of Catering at Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas, recommends: "Understand guest demographics and interests in advance. Incorporate local facilities and hotel catering to customize a relevant guest itinerary. This could include an off-site private shopping and fashion show experience, a museum tour, or an educational activity like 'How to Make the Perfect Cup of Tea.'" Effective preparation for partners will help your attendees stay focused and engaged.

Outside cocktails in Vail Yoga in Hampshire Cooking Demo in Orlando

7. Share your group’s history – including any and all hot buttons.

It’s extremely important to share sensitivities or specific details that haven’t worked well in the past. “This added extra insight will help ensure your planner knows what to avoid,” says Kristy Bennett, Conference Services Manager at Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World® Resort. “It’s just as valuable to tell us what worked successfully in the past to give us some extra direction and inspiration.”

Group beach dining in Bali

8. Expect the unexpected – and always have a Plan B.

When all the details have been finalized – always be ready with a Plan B. As Jenae Denne, Conference Services Manager at Four Seasons Hotel Chicago points out, “Something will be late, something will not arrive at all or your meeting may outgrow the space. This is the time to trust the experience of the CSM to use all the hotel’s resources to come up with a creative solution. For impromptu meetings, find out if your venue can transform guest rooms into intimate executive boardrooms.

Guest room converted into executive meeting room in Chicago


Conveniently close to business, shopping and the city's key attractions,Four Seasons Hotel Chicago offers flexible spaces and comprehensive services for meetings and events that embody professionalism.