When Vanessa Williams returned from a five-day site inspection trip to Bermuda last spring, the executive director of the National Conference of Black Mayors found herself blamed for misspending hundreds of thousands of association dollars on business trips and personal expenses. Ms. Williams was accused of making false claims about her authorization to plan a conference in that location and other alleged misdeeds. The board called for her to resign. She denied the charges and went on trial in January.
Wow! What disturbing news this must be to the many highly-ethical and scrupulous association directors, presidents and conference organizers I know and work with regularly. They must be wondering whether they too could be chastised or worse for conducting site inspections or other travel-related functions. (Let me emphasize I have never met Ms Williams, and imply no opinion about the case’s outcome.)
As for the lawsuit, I can’t help but worry about its ramifications. There is nothing fundamentally wrong, and certainly nothing illegal, with site inspection. Properly undertaken, site inspection is a proven method for ensuring optimal planning. This case should not in any way dissuade association and other nonprofit organizational leaders from booking their next flights and properly doing their jobs.
Walter’s 5 Rules for Fear-Free Site Inspections.
#1 Prepare. Rough out your program’s main activities well in advance; walk through them with a focus on infrastructure capacity and staff resources. Record time-movement data.
#2 Delegate. Minimize travel by sourcing local event planners or area DMCs.
#3 Negotiate. Record the asking price of all services you might require.
#4 Photograph. Snap pictures of your main facility, room tour and offsite venues.
#5 Follow up. Continue negotiations after you return, retaining all correspondence.
Properly executed site-inspections are essential. They help you to make the right choices. They help you to get a better understanding what a destination is about. They help you to choose the right locations and venues for your participants and in the end it helps you to safe money – as you are making the right decisions and choosing the right venues.
Site- inspections are a must for any high-profile, professionally organized and executed trip!
Never go without it!