A few years back we produced an event at a large San Antonio hotel. This property had been around for a number of years and had an established banquet and catering team. During the site visit, I made it a point to ask the name of the banquet captain who would be working our event. This is a practice that I have found to be invaluable over the years. The conference service manager and sales reps may think they are in charge, but banquet captains, especially good ones, are the people who can make (or not make!) things happen on site.

A beautiful banquet

I learned that Wanda was assigned to be the captain for our event and preceded to review some of the basic requirements of our show with her. Since banquet teams rarely work more than a few weeks ahead, the purpose for the meeting was to establish a relationship and provide an opportunity for Wanda to see that our team was professional and would be easy to work with.

The meeting with Wanda went great, and 2 months later when we arrived at the hotel I was fully prepared to greet Wanda and get the load-in started. Unfortunately, the banquet captain who met us in the ballroom was not the Wanda I had met 2 months earlier. It seems that there were two captains named Wanda, and the hotel had mistakenly introduced me to the wrong one. This woman seemed very nice, but I wanted “My Wanda”. And as silly as that phrase was, I politely asked the conference service manager (CSM) if we could work with the Wanda I had met on my site visit.

The CSM made the change and the entire show went flawlessly, but every time I walked into the sales office or asked if the banquet captain could stop into the ballroom, the staff would always reply, “Oh, you want your Wanda.”  This phase became a running joke between both our staffs throughout the show.

We have since returned to the property for other shows, but sadly “My Wanda” has moved on to other opportunities

While most production companies come into properties prepared, there are some companies who “wing it” and those are the shows that give banquet staffs all of their gray hairs. A few minutes with the banquet captain is time well spent and pays huge dividends on site.