• It's 10 p.m.- Do You Know Where Your Limo Is?

    FROM THE Spring 2013 ISSUE

    Nothing throws an event into disarray like a transportation disaster. Here’s how to avoid them. Nothing throws an event into disarray like a transportation disaster. Here’s how to avoid them.

Ask meeting planners to relate their worst disasters, and transportation will likely enter into the discussion. How often have you heard about a keynote delayed due to the late arrival of the speaker, or attendees waiting for a bus that never shows up?

Although there is no way to guarantee success 100 percent of the time, there are steps you can take to reduce the chances that transportation will be a meeting-wrecker. These tips may not seem complicated, but they are often ignored:


  • Work with local experts. Ask your venue for recommendations based on experience. A bus company from San Francisco may not be the right choice for a charter in Sacramento. Booking a company that is based close to the pickup location will reduce "deadhead" or "travel time" charges and help ensure that your vehicles show up on time.



  • Beware of "farm-outs." Transportation companies often overbook, leading to the need to call in, or "farm out," additional vehicles. Always insist that transportation companies never "farm out" your service without informing you first. That way, you can make sure that the vehicles for your event are the ones you have prepared for.


  • Not all needs are the same. Just because a company owns buses and limos doesn’t mean it is the best choice for both. If you need a more hands-on chauffeur to handle your group, you may want to book from a limo-only company, even though a bus company can provide the same vehicle at a lower price.


  • Quality over price. With transportation, you really get what you pay for. Often the least expensive companies have the oldest equipment, most inexperienced drivers or both. Try not to skimp when selecting your providers, although it’s certainly reasonable to negotiate price.


  • Be precise in your instructions. Just because a company tells you they "go there all the time," you still should be prepared for a driver who has never been to a location before. Last-minute changes are common. Always book transportation to "spot" (show up) early and review confirmations in advance. The directions provided by the transportation company are likely to be the only instructions a driver will see.


  • Use on-site transportation coordinators if you can. It always helps, especially at the airport, to have someone on-site who can reassure groups waiting for a shuttle that they are in the right place.


  • Overconfirm. Always confirm at least twice, with the final time on the day before your event. Get to know the dispatchers and let them know that you may call again on the day of the event.


  • Inform venues about transportation and enlist their assistance. You may need help blocking off parking spaces or an area for attendees to wait. Provide your schedule in advance and remind attendees of your plans prior to the meeting. Transportation schedules should be covered in pre-conference briefing sessions.


  • Provide accurate information to your attendees in advance and review on-site signage for accuracy. Ask your venue where vehicles normally pick up and make sure that your transportation company has the same information. Do a visual inspection in advance, if necessary. The best transportation companies will send someone with you or, in many cases, inspect the location on their own.


  • Develop long-term relationships. Repeat business is the best way to ensure preferred pricing and service. If your event is in an area you have never worked in before, then it may pay to work with a local expert such as a reliable destination management company or coordinator who has a prior relationship with a network of preferred transportation companies.


- Dave Rubens

David Rubens, CMP, is president of Bay Magic Meetings & Tours, LLC, a full-service destination management and tour company serving planners in the San Francisco Bay Area and throughout Northern California. 

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