With the economy picking up, often there’s not enough space or hotel rooms to meet demand. Groups with existing relationships will have an advantage, but there are things you can do to insure your group gets the location it deserves!
- If there’s a chance you’ll be shut out of your first choice conference destination, decide on a second and third destination. Determine if a specific goal for your event aligns naturally with one or two other locations. If not, select a location based on facts like the number of hotel rooms available, travel times, room rates and promotional appeal. That’s exactly what MeetingSource.com is all about. Use our filters of top convention site selection factors to shorten or in this case, expand your destination list. Make sure the cities you’re considering meet the basic requirements you have set in place.
- Polish up your 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 should include all areas of the event as well as its history. Your meeting history tells suppliers that you know what you want for this group and proves that you’ve gotten it before. If this is a first time meeting, it’s wise to provide some history for another meeting produced by your organization so the hotel knows you have adequate experience filling room blocks.
- Select possible meeting and hotel room facilities. Try to get someone on your side to select the right facility(ies) 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 site selection 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 relationships they have developed with suppliers and their collegues.
The largest of these firms are Experient, HelmsBriscoe, HPN Global, and ConferenceDirect. I’ve spoken to many of their agents and have also visited the offices of Prestige Global Meeting Source whose business like all these firms is growing rapidly. Find out how they will charge you up front – most charge 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 way of successfully sourcing meetings. 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.