So you have narrowed down all the hotels that meet your selection criteria to two or three destinations and are ready to send out RFPs … all 125 of them, right? Before filling out your RFP to hotels and venues that will not meet your requirements, do your homework to save time for both you and the potential venue partner.
Remember, while it may not take much effort to send out an eRFP, it does take a lot of time for the hotel to respond and for you to review. This extra step is necessary in the venue vetting process and is guaranteed to pay off. Here are three things to keep in mind when selecting the perfect venue:
1. Look at Meeting Objectives and Requirements
While the items listed below may sound like they belong on an RFP, they are high-level considerations you must nail down before reaching out to venues.
Goals: What are the goals and objectives of your meeting? Once you can convey them clearly, many venues will become obvious choices.
Style: What is the style of the meeting? Is it a networking function for employees, educational session of like-minded professionals, or a large annual convention? Also, does the venue reflect the image of the organization? Is it a place your company, its stakeholders, and its sponsors would be proud to enter? On the other hand, is it too opulent for your guests? This takes time to assess and requires planners like you to walk a fine line. The venue should not be “too” anything. Too cheap or too expensive are not words you wish to hear from attendees.
Meeting Space, AV, and Food
- What is your total meeting space requirement? Would a convention center, conference center, or hotel work best for your group? How many breakout rooms do you need, and will you want to use outside function space?
- What type of audio/visual equipment will you need, including risers and podiums? Is technical support available onsite?
- Are there ways to brand your event through the hotel’s marquee or digital signage?
- Is Wi-Fi prevalent throughout the facility, including outdoor space? Is it free or fee based?
- What about charging stations? Are they available throughout the space, and do they support many types of mobile devices?
- Look at food and beverage – overall, what is the cuisine? Can you bring in outside caterers, if desired?
2. Break Down the Budget
If you are like most meeting professionals, you collect surveys from attendees at the end of each meeting to garner feedback. Now is the time to pull up those results and really learn from them. If yours is an annual event, take a hard look at your three-year history. Analyze meeting spend in the areas of space, audio/visual, presenters, food and beverage, and any other items of significance. Lastly, map these results against your goals. How do they line up? Should you be doing things consistently or do attendees want a fresh take?
3. Look and Ask for Help
There is an abundance of free resources available to help you make meaningful and successful decisions while planning an event. Convention and Visitors’ Bureaus address three major areas:
- Gathering information and connecting with hotels that meet your search criteria
- Setting realistic expectations about the destination and venue
- Educating you about local demand factors, such as peak times, special conventions, and construction projects scheduled for the time of your event
The Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI) blog details perspectives, insights, and advice about locations and venues for meeting professionals. The Convention Industry Council offers the Accepted Practices Exchange (APEX) that promotes development and implementation of industry-accepted practices.
These practices are designed to create and enhance efficiency throughout the meetings, conventions, and exhibitions industry. There are many free templates available to evaluate venues and destinations.
If you are a member of Meeting Professionals International (MPI), you can search under the community directory and connect directly with other planners, suppliers, and university faculty in the city you are looking to explore. As a fellow member, you can ask for advice about the best venues from experienced professionals.
The American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) has a collection of models and samples used by real associations and industry partners designed to generate ideas and save you time when planning your meeting.
The Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) offers courses, articles, and research on meetings and exhibits strategy, and lets you search specific terms.
There are many LinkedIn groups that you can ask for guidance or suggestions about specific venues within a destination. The following three feature active discussions about anything event management related:
- Event Planning and Event Management with 273,000 members
- Event Peeps with 130,000 members
- Event Planners and Coordinators with 68,000 members
Cvent has two offerings to help planners narrow down their choices:
- The Cvent Supplier Network offers live chat capabilities with a Cvent consultant and serves as a way for more than 70,000 planners to find venues, send RFPs, and collect proposals through a single platform
- EliteMeetings.com is a free tool for planners looking at luxury destinations. It gives you an opportunity to view 44,000 properties via an exclusive portal. Every member has direct access to a personal assistant who can help with information about a particular destination and finding the perfect hotel for a specific event
Now you should be armed with enough information to send out your RFPs. You have completed your homework by looking at your goals, requirements and history, but most of all, you’ve gone deeper into industry ideas and standards. Click here to help you craft the perfect RFP. Check out The Essential Planner Guide to help you source your next meeting or event.