With the economy picking up, often there’s not enough space or hotel rooms to meet demand. On the other side, suppliers at meeting facilities are getting buried with requests for pricing and don’t know who to respond to first. If you need a fool-proof method for getting the personalized attention your group deserves, read on!
- 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.
- Decide on second and third destination. That’s exactly what MeetingSource.com is all about. Select attributes from your RFP and use our filters to shorten or in this case, expand your destination list.
- 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. I’d put Convention and Visitors Bureaus on top of the list for being the most helpful and their services are always free. Some CVBs like San Francisco publish a list of hotel availability to help you see and select the best dates and places.
- Consider using a third party meeting site selection professional. Most have to be very good at what they do to earn their living. More recently, they’ve become experts at using technology to automate the RFP submission process. Some have agents around the globe and an intranet that lets them share knowledge with each other.
Since they or their organizations are well known, facilities have taken them seriously and that alone may provide you with an advantage in contract negotiations. The largest of these firms are Experient, HelmsBriscoe, HPN Global, and ConferenceDirect. I’ve worked with two smaller firms – Informed Sources out of San Francisco and Travel Advocates of New Jersey. I’ve also met with 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. No doubt it’s going to cost you, especially if you’re an independent meeting planner working on your own and the two major software developers Cvent and Laynon have merged. The upside is with enough experience, you can go out on your own and put your expertise to work for others :-).