20 Rules for FAM Etiquette 101

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FAMIt’s something all meeting planners look forward to—the opportunity to check out a property or destination as a guest of said property or destination; i.e., they’re paying. One would think the least you could do is be a good guest. One would think.

Unfortunately, there are too many stories of travel professionals acting, well, unprofessional while on these coveted trips. And you’re ruining it for the rest of us.

There’s no way to avoid sounding like Captain Obvious here when saying this—FAMs are not your own personal vacation. “FAM” being short for familiarization trip, they are the destination’s way to familiarize you with their products so that you can then go back and recommend them to clients, or if you’re a member of the media, write about them. In some cases, destinations will put their marketing budget toward FAM trips rather than placing ads—or do both—which should give you some idea of how important and costly they can be.

FAMs are often packed from dawn to dinner and beyond with multiple visits to multiple places, breaking quickly for lunch and then it’s on to the next site inspection. There may be free time built in, but then again, there may not be… especially during a multi-site whirl when you leave your room and don’t see it again until midnight.

The general umbrella regulation to keep in mind when attending a FAM is… don’t be that person. Luckily, to explain who that person is, we have the wisdom and experience of Mike Ferreira, MHA, DES at our disposal. As owner, founder and CEO of Meetings Made Easy, he’s a seasoned FAM trip trekker, and shares some of what he calls “unwritten rules” to live by. However, we’re choosing to write them down, along with some on-target points from his readers (and a few from our own experience).

Tips for Being a Good Guest on a FAM

  1. You show up to everything, no matter what.
  2. You show up on time (should need no explanation, except for those select few who are allowed to be late. Note: There are no such people).
  3. Don’t ask to bring a +1 (if they bring it up, fine, but don’t put your host on the spot).
  4. Attend the FAM because you truly want to learn about the city/hotels.
  5. Try in good faith to bring business to that city or hotel property.
  6. If a DMC rep is meeting you at the airport, don’t keep them waiting too long. Stop by the restroom, but don’t linger shopping or sightseeing.
  7. And on the return, don’t try to get the shuttle to pick you up later. The times given are calculated by people who know the destination and traffic. If you want to go later than the arranged departure time, call an Uber.
  8. Don’t hang with your clique the entire time. The point is to network, make connections, compare notes and share your experiences in the industry.
  9. Don’t complain about being tired. Everyone else is, too. (Ever hear of suffering in silence? It’s a thing.)
  10. Be patient and appreciative. A lot of people are going to a lot of work to make sure you have a good time. If and when mistakes happen, be kind.
  11. Pay attention during presentations and/or site visits. It’s beyond rude to be texting when the hotel GM is showing off their amazing king suite. You will be noticed, trust us.
  12. Also regarding phones—if you’re taking notes, use a note pad because typing on your phone will look too much like texting.
  13. Imbibe with care. If you know you get goofy after one or two drinks, stop there. Remember, not only are your hosts watching, but so are the hotel or restaurant’s regular paying guests. Don’t be the noisy, obnoxious person who’s had too many.
  14. Dress appropriately, especially in international destinations that may have different ideas of what “casual” means.
  15. Familiarize yourself with your itinerary and stay on track with meeting times and locations.
  16. Research your destination in advance and have questions and informed comments ready.
  17. Never approach the host or front desk for a room upgrade or additional perks not listed on the invitation. Sorry, that’s just tacky.
  18. Don’t be a swag hound. Here’s an example we recently heard: There were T-shirts in every bag but one person asked for extras for their nieces and nephews. Really?
  19. Don’t try to kill five birds with one stone. It may be OK with your hosts to go offsite for an extra interview, but don’t take advantage of the FAM to get unrelated business done.
  20. Dietary restrictions barely raise an eyebrow anymore. Here, that is. In other countries, substitutions might not be readily available—at a traditional Mongolian khorkhog, for example. Plan ahead with your own snacks, tuna kits, whatever.

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