- With hotel occupancy rates across the country rising, it might be necessary to decide on a second and third destination if you need hotels close to the convention center or with enough space available for your group. Consider using our filters of top convention site selection factors to shorten or in this case, expand your destination list.
- Make sure you have a polished RFP. As a rule, don’t contact anyone till you have a RFP in hand. For advice on developing one, refer to the Convention Industry Council’s exhaustive RFP worksheet tool to help design whatever it is you need. Your meeting’s profile needs to include all areas of the event as well as its history. If this is a first time for this type of meeting, it’s wise to provide some history for another meeting produced by your organization so the hotels know you have adequate experience filling room blocks.
- Select several first-choice meeting and hotel room facilities. Try to get someone on your side to select the best possible facilities based on meeting space, guest rooms, location, price and ambiance. Some would put the Convention and Visitors Bureaus on top of the list for being the most helpful and their services are always free. They may personally know the salespeople at the venues you are considering and go to bat for you. Some CVBs like San Francisco publish a list of hotel availability to help you see and select the best dates and places. As a courtesy, forward your RFP to the CVB but be clear who will ultimately be sourcing potential hotels to avoid duplication of efforts or what hotels are calling “lead spam.”
- Consider finding a top third-party meeting sourcing professional. Those that earn a living at this have to be very good at what they do. The best have become experts at using technology to automate the RFP submission process but what sets them apart is the working relationships they have developed with suppliers and their colleagues. They’ll help you get the best deal whether at an independent hotel or ANY of the major chains. They may even provide a template for a fair hotel contract which can provide liability protection, or seen enough of these to help you know what to look for. The largest of these firms are Experient, HelmsBriscoe, HPN Global, and ConferenceDirect. I’ve spoken to many of their agents. A newer meeting sourcing firm called Groups360 combines the experience of its agent “meeting advisors” and proprietary technology called GroupSync to help clients narrow down their best location choices based on filters and also the latest data on occupancy and pricing. Whoever you choose, find out how they will charge you up front – most earn a rebate in the form of the travel agency commission (10% or less) on the rooms they book. Whatever it is they charge, they usually save the same amount or more because of their buying power and negotiating skills.
- Develop your own meeting sourcing program. There are a lot more resources available to you in addition to those mentioned above. The most expensive option is to go pro yourself with your own special software as part of a Strategic Meetings Management Program.