Planning meetings is a hard. Ever-changing demands, a sellers’ market and unrealistic expectations add to the daily stress experienced by professional Meeting Planners. Today we explore some of the toughest challenges faced by planners and share solutions to overcome them.
A SELLERS’ MARKET
The demand for meeting space continues to increase, and hotel inventory is not keeping pace resulting in a strong sellers’ market. Occupancy rates and room rates remain high. Hotels are now more selective in the groups they accept; in fact they now only welcome about one out of four meetings. Only the groups with the highest profit potential will be invited onto most properties.
Meeting Planners must develop the RFP process strategically by allowing for flexibility and by providing a compelling reason for the hotel to consider them as a worthwhile client. We see most success with planners who can be flexible on dates and locations. Planners who incorporate additional revenue opportunities for the hotel with pre-, and post-event activities for attendees and spouses receive higher probability of success in booking their desired venue.
We must now sell our clients and ourselves even more than the hotel is trying to sell us. Whatever you can do to make yourself stand out from a revenue perspective in your RFP process is sure to be in your benefit.
UNREALISTIC AND EVER-CHANGING EXPECTATIONS
Meeting Planners are constantly faced with requirements of clients, demands of attendees and requests from vendors. They are masterful conductors, insuring the success of the event and keeping all involved happy. This is not an easy task, especially with ever-changing expectations.
Clients may not always know what a meeting or conference will look like when conducting the RFP process resulting in challenges along the way. All planners have experienced additional meeting room requests, demands for more suites or other services shortly before, or during an event. Clients do not always recognize that venues may not have additional space available due to other onsite clients, staffing issues, availability of chairs, tables and linens, or there simply may not be any space available. The same counts for hotel rooms and suites, and managing VIP and attendee needs.
It is imperative for Meeting Planners to be involved as early as possible in the planning process, understand the event’s history –if any- and help create the hotel RFP. It is key that planners manage the client’s expectations on what is possible and what may be challenging to accomplish within the allowable budget.
We have found it helpful to have a clear understanding of what the possibilities are at the venue during the event, and the cost associated with last minute requests for resets, additional rooms and other wishes the client may have. Adding a chair here and there is usually not an issue. Setting up another session, adding a dinner or needing a second Presidential Suite with little notice can be challenging to deliver, especially when budgets must be considered.
Even with easy-to-use online planning solutions, such as Eventinterface, collecting accurate attendee data is a massive undertaking. Only Meeting Planners understand how many attendees misspell their own names, do not capitalize name or enter their name in all CAPS, and we are mystified by this phenomenon. This drives us mad since we love to have uniform name badges. Add to this the gathering of company information, tittles, session attendance, meal choices, and other information needed to deliver a great event experience for the attendee.
Meeting Planners are hosts at heart and no matter how wrong the attendee’s information may be –even if they entered it themselves-, we will deliver the experiences, field trips, polo shirts and meal choices the attendee requires. Isn’t that a tab bit absurd?
One planner client struggled with this issue for years. About 15% of her attendees would request new name badges for misspelled names, would maintain they ordered vegetarian meals when not, and even enter incorrect airport arrival information. These issues added unnecessary expense to her event budgets.
One year she decided to let her attendees know that names on badges would appear as they had been entered in the registration system. If misspelled, a replacement badge would be the cost of a full registration. Meal choices would be delivered as ordered. If incorrect airport information were provided, the attendee would be responsible for the additional transportation cost. Attendees were able to review and update their registration using Eventinterface up to 72 hours before the event. There was no excuse! Within one event, errors had gone from about 15% of attendees to a handful. There were no customer service issues at the check in desk. Attendees were picked up at the right airports. Complaints about issues dropped 95% because the attendees who would normally have issues with badges, orders and airport transfers had nothing to complain about. She held her attendees responsible for their own mistakes and succeeded in getting greater data accuracy to deliver the event experience desired by all attendees. She has now implemented this technique successfully with all events she manages.
1. Develop a hotel RFP showcasing revenue potential and flexibility.
2. Understand your event, venue limitations and budget impact of changes and requests.
3. Be an impeccable host. That does not mean you can’t hold attendees responsible for their registration inaccuracies.
Other helpful articles:
10 Life Hacks for Meeting Planners
Event Planner Quick Tips