Check all that apply: My meeting group …
• expects top quality but is rate conscious
• requires loads of meeting space but books few guest rooms
• sets meeting dates before finding a venue
If any of these statements are true, don’t be offended if your group gets labeled a “stinker,” an “ugly baby,” or simply a bad piece of business.
At Meeting Professionals International’s World Education Conference in June, speaker Joanne Dennison, CMP, of The Ordinary Success Project, offered an hour of advice on how to make “bad” business more valuable to host venues. The packed house of planners and suppliers heard these eight tips:
1. The more your group does on property, the more valuable it is. If you want to take your event off property at some point, ask about related venues where charges can get billed to your master account. Sometimes a nearby performance hall is owned by the same company as your hotel, or a sister brand (for example, a Marriott and a JW Marriott) will allow F&B charges to count toward your minimums.
2. Develop relationships with hotel management companies in addition to national sales reps. You may be a small piece of business for a hotel brand nationally, but management companies are often regional and might consider your business valuable, especially if you run a lot of regional meetings. Research the hotel management companies doing business in your area.
3. Stop setting your events calendar first, then shopping for venues. Instead, have a more general sense of when you want to meet; if you want pricing options, date flexibility is important. Monday to Wednesday and Tuesday to Thursday are the most common meeting patterns. If you want a ballroom on a Wednesday yet require few guest rooms, don’t expect to hear back from your preferred hotel. But Thursdays and Fridays are good days to book day-meeting space.
4. Consider “full occupancy” hotels. When a hotel is 75 percent to 80 percent booked, that’s considered full occupancy and the hotel is fully staffed. If your group can fill a hole in that last 20 percent, it’s valuable because the hotel does not have to staff up to handle your business, explained Dennison. Convention bureaus can be a good source of information about the booking levels at area hotels.
5. Avoid the “we’ve always done it this way” mentality. For example, just because your event has always been a luncheon, you might have more luck placing it in your first-choice property if you can switch to an evening reception. Be open to alternatives, stressed Dennison, also noting that the days before and after a holiday can be a good opening for less attractive groups.
6. Track attendees’ spending so you can use it in negotiations next year. Your master bill is one thing, but what are attendees spending at the bar, spa, and gift shops? Where else are they generating revenue for the hotel? You’ll need to put that data-gathering stipulation in your contract ahead of time, said Dennison, and you should be able to get those numbers at the post-conference meeting with the property.
7. If your event will deliver positive exposure, bring that into the discussion. Your piece of business might introduce a lot of senior executives to the hotel or include a press event, providing the property with valuable exposure.
8. Be up front about your situation. Lay it out on the table and lower your defenses. If you say, “I’ve got a less desirable piece of business. Where can you fit me in that makes it a better piece of business?” the partnership between the hotel and planner can get off on the right foot.