Conference centers are often confused for hotels or convention centers. If you have experience selling or marketing a conference center, you are already well-aware that planners (both seasoned and new) have a misconception about what makes each of these venues distinct and unique in their own way.
To establish an understanding of your venue's capabilities, start at square one with clients and external meeting planners. Define the difference between a conference center, convention center and hotel along with the value and benefits of each. If your conference center is certified by the International Association of Conference Centers (IACC), explain the benefits of being classed with “the best meeting facilities in the world” and the 32 universal criteria to being an IACC conference center. A case study by IACC revealed that planners were indifferent about booking group business at a conference center… until they were taught about the criteria and became advocates.
By helping planners understand your product, you’re already developing a return on investment. Here are other ways to help differentiate your conference center marketing from hotel and convention centers:
- Maximizing your conference center’s photo gallery – First and foremost, the conference center’s website photo gallery should have photos of the ballroom, classroom and board room set-up. If possible, label the photos with captions of the different meeting room names; planners, facilitators and trainers appreciate the added detail to understand the room layout, especially if they have booked the particular space. These photos should be professionally shot and highlight the spaces’ best attributes to appeal to planners. In all cases, consider that you want to set your property apart and show sets that are specific to conference centers, using conference center and IACC-criteria furniture. Try to avoid “standard” (theater or schoolroom) sets
- “Walk” planners through the differences – Using the conference center’s website gallery, “view” the photos with the planner over the phone and sell him or her on coming in for a site-tour based on your narration, along with other selling tactic). Market the venue and promote the conference center concept by pointing out some of the differences. For instance, some of the features in a meetings focused venue include ergonomic seating, special lighting for individual task based work and sometimes room shape and natural light through windows. Show your excitement and passion when you demonstrate the ability for their group to move about in the space and the capability for different meeting settings.
- Stop hiding what you think is a big deal – After listening to a Meetings Focus webinar by well-known planner and trainer, Joan Eisenstodt, she points out that venues should sway from the standards and dare to be different. Eisenstodt is an advocate that conference centers should have pictures with people in them, rather than just empty meeting rooms. She also recommends not hiding a room’s view with drapery, but to show off the view. Joan says, “Respect the learner – they may want to be outside, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t engaging.” At The National Conference Center, meeting space with natural lighting is becoming more important to planners as they learn to respect their attendees’ needs for a view of the outdoors.
Other criteria of a certified conference center such as the complete meeting package and continuous break-stations are some of the many added benefits that will help promote your venue. Taking the time to teach meeting planners about the conference center concept will either increase group bookings for your venue or help market IACC meetings both which help reinforce the value of booking at a conference center facility. So, educate planners without being obtrusive and “walk” them through the difference with visuals. An idea for creative sales managers is that he or she could even consider making a Pinterest board dedicated to explaining the conference center difference, which is another hospitality marketing strategy to share the product message and advertise towards group travel.
By better understanding IACC’s 32 universal criteria of a certified conference center, marketers can successfully promote their conference center’s strengths and values to planners.
Written by Sarah Vining.