The U.S. meeting and events industry is big business, providing upwards of six million jobs, almost every one of them requiring some type of logistics management skills. But is hiring more people the key to increasing your meetings and events revenue? Not necessarily.
In 2019, occupancy was down one percent, and RevPar was flat year over year. During these types of lean years, it’s critical to automate venue processes for event management in order to unlock growth while working with the same sized (or smaller) staff.
What are the benefits of event management automation?
Maximizing your operational efficiencies during events — whether they're large, small, or in-between — can mean the difference between success and failure.
Take capacity management, for example. If a room is unoccupied, or event space empty, a hotel or conference center loses money. Or food and beverage planning. In addition to having the right staffing for food preparation, service, and cleanup, you need accurate guest data to avoid costly over-ordering.
Automation can help with these issues and many more and is the key to realizing a positive return on investment. But with so many options, understanding where to automate is a challenge. Read on to explore automation’s impact on marketing, sales, and operations so that you can narrow down the best options for your hotels.
Automate your event venue marketing to draw group business
Marketing your event space is key to helping event planners, businesses and organizations discover your facility and services, especially when you consider 67 percent of the buyer’s journey is now conducted digitally. Thankfully, many of your promotional efforts can be enhanced and automated through social media, email marketing, and interactive 3D floor plans.
1. Supercharge your hotel and venue social media.
Social media automation software is used to automate or semi-automate the process of sharing posts and content on social media channels to promote events. The software also supports sharing on multiple social networks simultaneously, or pushing a social post as soon as you publish a blog.
Some software enables social amplification during events to make them more interactive, increasing attendee engagement while highlighting your brand and the event sponsors’ brand. Key questions to ask when automating your social media presence:
Which social networks reach my target audience? When building your social media strategy you’ll want to look at platforms boasting proven track records with hotels such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Pinterest.
How many accounts do I need on each social media network? Multiple accounts enable you to target audiences with specific information they care about, engaging prospects and customers more thoroughly via personalization. For example, you could have one Facebook page for your hotel, and one for your event spaces.
Which social media automation tools should I use? It’s important to do two things in social media: post content, and track mentions and activity. There's a plethora of software out there to do both; Hootsuite and Hubspot are quite popular with scheduling the posting of content across multiple social media networks, while also tracking mentions. Sprout Social and Mention help you track your activity and better understand your audience.
2. Maximize your hotel’s email marketing.
There are many benefits to email marketing, from saving money on printing and mailing to increasing attendee engagement and generating buzz. To get the biggest bang for your buck out of email marketing, you need to break it down into three chunks:
- Pre-event: Schedule pre-event messages to hit certain segments at certain times with a specific message and call to action. There are many different types of emails to send, from discount offers to registration confirmations to hotel service information, all of which can help ease your guest’s stress level and promote brand loyalty.
- During the event: Automatically send emails to attendees upon check-in with event details and links to capture more data for future business development efforts. Avoid spamming guests with too many messages. For events ending on a Friday, send event guests an email promoting your hotel’s restaurant or spa services and offering a discount to stay through Sunday.
- Post-event: Email attendees and guests upon check-out or after a pre-determined number of days with information on your hotel or conference center, and links to guest experience surveys. Be sure to use your post-stay email to your advantage by focusing on tone, functionality and content.
3. Capture business with interactive 3D floor plans.
Event planners begin researching venues online before contacting your sales team, and 3D floor plans help them visualize how their conference would fit your location.
Social Tables by Cvent provides diagramming and seating tools, photo-realistic 3D virtual walkthroughs, and state-of-the-art design which gives event planners a working knowledge of event space from anywhere in the world. Build an email list of engaged event planners, and automate emails before the busy season or when you upgrade your venue spaces.
Use automation to support your venue and event service sales funnel
With automation, sales touch points can happen 24/7 and your sales team can focus on the end of the funnel.
4. Invest in technology to improve the RFP process.
RFP management tools automatically prioritize and send responses to event planners and group business leads. This will help you reduce a major pain point for planners: the length of time it takes to receive hotel responses on RFPs.
5. Embrace artificial intelligence.
AI-infused online chatbots communicate with event planners or attendees registering online. They create streamlined customer experiences during early venue research and hotel check-in. Chatbots can also automatically upsell at booking and check-in, and gather data that helps you create detailed guest profiles.
6. Compete smarter for group sales.
The meetings and events sector is competitive — drawing and landing group sales requires hotel CRM software that automatically scores leads and supports lighting-fast responses to RFPs. Room block management systems help track inventory and availability across multiple hotels through one portal. Here are some of the benefits of this type of automation software:
Promote and sell room upgrades, extended stays, amenities, and packages.
Eliminate errors and save time by syncing real-time updates to your central reservation and property management systems, and your revenue management, distribution, and sales and catering systems.
Help planners easily upload room block lists, reduce attrition risk, and ensure that guests book inside of the event's room block.
Streamline key event attendee touch points with automation
Automation helps you keep event planners happy by supporting a great experience for attendees and event guests staying at your property. A happy guest spends roughly 140 percent more, and you’ll capture repeat business and word-of-mouth marketing from planners. Focus on the three main touch points of every meeting, conference, or trade show:
7. Promote accommodation options during event registration.
When travelers who are part of a group book their stay online, you can provide additional hotel options right then and there, using group registration technology to up-sell services and amenities and extend stays.
8. Track room inventory data.
On the back end, this enables you to plan staffing for peak periods. The right system will allow you to custom-design registration pages, collecting information for use before and during the event to decrease costs and increase revenue, as well as for follow-up business development.
9. Offer mobile check-in or self check-in kiosks.
Hotel guests attending events are pressed for time. They want to get to their rooms to prepare for a speech or Q&A or rest after a long day of seminars. Mobile and self check-in prompts attendees through the process and can provide digital room keys. These options are convenient for the guest and lower costs by reducing staffing and supply requirements.
10. Provide electronic ticketing options for event sign-in.
Part of building a better relationship with event planners is supporting them in their efforts to execute successful events. Guest access to events is a huge part of this. Be sure your registration and booking system provides options for online event registration, making it easy for guests to secure a scannable QR code for event sign-in.
11. Support printing of scannable name tags and badges.
Think like an event planner when it comes to your meeting facility ingress and egress; give them access to electrical outlets and secure Wi-Fi networks to hook-up wireless printers that produce name tags as attendees sign-in. Guests appreciate the convenience, and your event planner customers will love the ability to scan badge UPC codes at different points in the day for insights into the popularity of seminars, speakers and exhibitors, all of which reflect positively on you.
Improve the exhibitor and guest experience through automation
Events taking place in your hotel reflect on your property. Automating pieces of the event puzzle helps you improve experiences and track results so you can make improvements.
12. Connect attendees, exhibitors and sponsors.
On-site meetings at events are important for attendees for many reasons, including cost. A face-to-face meeting with a prospect at an event like a trade show is less expensive than meeting them at their office, for example. Ensure that your IT — specifically your Wi-Fi — can effectively support software that automatically increases engagement of event attendees.
13. Improve your staff’s event setup and catering.
Diagramming and seating software enables you to increase your food and beverage profits, from planning appropriate staff levels to estimating the right amount of food and timing the delivery just right.
14. Employ wireless food and beverage tech.
Hotels such as Caesars have been testing mobile ordering technology for food to better cater to guests. Have event attendees share F&B preferences during check-in and automate push notifications to remind them of onsite cafes and restaurants before breaks.
Automate data collection to help improve future events
Meetings and event data collected through registration, check-in, catering, and mobile apps can help you deliver quality experiences for guests — making event planners happy — while identifying opportunities for you to turn attendees into hotel guests in the future.
15. Collect and analyze attendee data.
Event planners will be collecting attendee behavioral data through event registration and check-in, ongoing badge scans, 1-on-1 appointments, booth visits, and educational sessions, analyzing it to make real-time changes and future improvements. These attendees are potential future hotel guests (if they aren’t already). Collect valuable data when they:
Register to access your hotel/venue wireless network.
Purchase food through mobile apps during the event.
Mention your hotel of venue on social media. Automate tracking via specific keywords, phrases or brands (i.e. social listening).
16. Generate surveys to solicit feedback from guests, vendors and event planners.
Clear feedback that the vast majority of attendees enjoyed your facilities and services is a sure-fire way to ensure repeat business from event planners, businesses and organizations. Check-out should trigger automatic emails that include these surveys, so you get responses when their experience is fresh and they have time during transit. Online survey software can speed survey development with template and question libraries.
17. Automate reports to understand what went right and wrong.
Reports help you turn all the information you gathered into useable information. They also help you spot problem areas during an event, such as low staffing levels during transitions or underutilized cafes. Choose the data that’s most important to pinpoint, and automate emails to your events and sales teams so you can use them to improve performance and drive revenue.
Use event management automation to unlock incremental revenue this year
Engage some of these event management automation strategies and best practices to capture a greater share of the billion-dollar U.S. meetings industry — while spending less time and money overall.
The Cvent Hospitality Cloud includes responsive tools to help you streamline customer outreach, prioritize leads, improve performance, and expose your venues to high-interest event planners and corporate travel buyers.