To become a dream venue for planners requires responsiveness, faultless service, and up-to-date facilities. Keeping every touchpoint polished isn’t an easy task when you’re managing multiple venues and events, but it’s essential. So how do you spot problems early, get creative with your offerings, and make steady improvements over time? Check out our venue management guide below to learn tips and strategies to ensure your venue management process never gets rusty, and you drive sales and return engagements.
And while you may not be able to implement some of these strategies right away, as most large in-person events are still on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we hope that you'll be able to draw inspiration from them and use the information to set you and your venue up for success.
Explore our venue management guide for 20 must-know tips:
Communicate fast — from before the booking to after the event
Event planners want to know they can reach a real person representing your venue from their first outreach to the post-event debrief.
1. Manage your RFPs with tech.
Research shows planners want speed and accuracy in RFP responses, so it’s important to cultivate an effective response process. Leveraging automated lead scoring ensures you sift-through incoming RFPs quickly and prioritize group business leads effectively. You must respond to every RFP promptly, but lead scoring ensures you know which ones to decline and which ones need customized RFP responses and outreach to planners. Always remember that planners are looking for the best overall fit – and this is especially true during COVID-19.
2. Assign an event-concierge to every event.
Amid event madness, planners can’t be everywhere at once. Help them out by assigning a liaison to assist with things like setup and breakdown; coordination of janitorial, tech, and security needs; and taking the pulse of attendees to gauge how the event is going.
3. Share key contact phone numbers as the event draws near.
Event planners are always on the fly — offering them a point person’s cell number reassures them that you’re available and easy to reach in an emergency. Set some parameters, however. Let them know there are times you are NOT available unless the matter requires immediate attention. Then agree to text "STAT" or "ASAP" to indicate they need you to respond right away.
Streamline communication with your venue team and event planners
You need to keep your in-house teams and your clients in the loop to plan and host successful events at your facilities.
4. Use customer relationship management (CRM) software.
Hotel sales and catering software is an invaluable tool for venue management. Your CRM will keep teams across properties on the same page, automates critical early touchpoints, and helps set priorities. Used strategically, your CRM will boost and sustain group sales.
5. Leverage wearable communication devices during events.
Communication must be instant, from the breakout session breakfast to the keynote speaker green room to the check-in desk. Bluetooth earpieces and smartwatches allow you to communicate with your team immediately through voice and text. For large events, it’s best to rely on walkie talkies — they run well even when there are problems with the WiFi or cell service.
6. Hold pre-shift meetings.
Start each day off with a cross-team huddle. It doesn't have to be long — a 10-minute standing-only meeting can work. Getting together for a huddle before each event gives everyone clarity about their responsibilities and instills a sense of ownership. Food and beverage will know what is expected, including any last-minute changes. The team member managing day-of tasks will have clear priorities. This builds quality and consistency that filters down to the event client.
Cultivate relationships with corporate event planners
To land a new sale or spur repeat business with a corporate planner, you need a level of familiarity. What’s their comfort level with event planning? Do they have other job responsibilities? What are their venue pain points? Thankfully, there are many strategies to spark and deepen these relationships over time.
7. Attend events for your target market.
Get to know planners at a low-stress, neutral site where they won’t feel pressured. Be sure you are on hand at appropriate conferences, seminars, and other events — whether they be in-person, virtual, or both — to make that all-important personal connection. If possible, bring along or introduce a key member or two from your event team to show potential clients the level of professionalism and customer service you provide.
8. Keep your communications with planners authentic and transparent.
There’s a fine line between schmoozing and delivering a personal touch. Email and call to follow-up when appropriate, but don’t deluge planners with “just checking in” messages — have something substantive to share or ask about. Do not automatically start sending planners marketing materials like email newsletters; instead, let them know where they can go to sign up if interested. Remember to use a supportive tone, rather than a sales tone in your messaging as much as possible.
9. Make your site visits standout from the competition.
Make visiting planners feel special: find out when they will be arriving, and get someone in the lobby a little ahead of time to meet them. Offer coffee and tea, and introduce them to as much of the event-day team as possible. Give them a presentation in one of your conference rooms with your A/V team. Share beautiful photos and 3D event diagrams of similar events at your venue to demonstrate your readiness. The same thing goes for virtual tours during times of social distancing. It's crucial to use any and all technology to provide planners with the vital information they need as they look ahead to upcoming events.
10. Ask planners about their top three venue value-adds.
Connect with planners to find out what they value most in a venue. For example, they might care most about technology for registration and event management. Or, perhaps offering white-glove personalization for attendees is their priority. Maybe they want comped meeting space or food and beverage discounts. Knowing the specifics, provide the right incentives and staff-up in areas they care about, such as tech support or a beyond-ordinary coffee bar.
Build strong partnerships with vendors
Event planners want you to be a trusted resource for vendors — that’s why you have to build strong partnerships with catering companies, A/V firms, and other event service providers in your area. By establishing relationships with vendors, you may earn the right of first refusal for your clients during the busy season. This is a value-add professional planners remember.
11. Establish your properties as prominent local players.
Small businesses come and go around your hotel properties. Fill your bench with quality back-ups by staying visible at local Chamber of Commerce functions and hospitality industry nights. Consider sponsoring local events and organizations or maintaining a presence in media outlets through advertising.
12. Hold vendor fairs.
Bring in potential new florists, food trucks, A/V professionals, and caterers with an annual event showcasing your facilities. In addition to vetting potential new resources for your event clients, this lets preferred vendors know they have to bring their A-game to every function.
13. Pay special attention to your first-stringers.
Comp trusted vendors on occasion with amenities like spa visits or even room stays. Provide them with discounts at your gift shop or hotel bar/restaurant. Offer to list them as a preferred vendor on your website, or create branded badges they can post on their website (linking to your hotel). Connect with them on social media — increasing your visibility to their followers — and publish online reviews.
Focus on long-term venue asset management
Establishing yourself as a reliable and preferred venue relies a great deal on your facilities. Does your ballroom have excellent acoustics? Are there enough bathrooms (in working order) in your exhibit hall? How well does your HVAC function? How adaptable is your venue when it comes to hosting hybrid events? Asset management keeps your venues viable into the future.
14. Prioritize changes.
Today’s planner wants venue spaces that are blank (but polished) canvases upon which they can build their outstanding programs. Venues that aren't showing their age or are missing attractive, at-the-ready furnishings, simply aren’t as competitive. Go through your meeting rooms and schedule upgrades to draw increased interest from planners. But don't just stop there. Most importantly, make sure that your venue is fully equipped to support safe meetings and events, which focus on everything from up-to-date health and safety protocols to social distancing arrangements to safe food and beverage. The future of the industry is ever-changing, and it's more important than ever to stay well-informed and make any necessary updates to deliver safe experiences for everyone involved, both now and in the future.
15. Personalize your venue to your target events.
You should have the capability to personalize each event. If you do well with SMERF group sales during lulls in your corporate event season, you need to include that audience in your upgrade plans. For example, you may be a popular venue for annual events organized by civic groups or non-profit organizations. Some of these organizations still depend on low-tech meeting tools, such as whiteboards — so keep a supply on hand.
Do you draw traveling youth sports leagues or family reunions in the summer? Be ready with comfortable chairs for a movie night in a meeting room, and a portable gelato bar to put near the pool — and only roll out when needed.
16. Keep your technology ahead of the curve.
Event planners won’t work with you again if your tech isn’t up to date. Things like glitchy WiFi during the keynote presentation, dropped livestreams, or poor cell reception when you’re asking for digital questions from attendees, both in-person and online, can seriously undermine the flow of an event. Event attendees will get frustrated fast, and your venue will get a bad reputation among planners. Make sure your facility can support the latest event technology trends, such as gamification, behavior recommendation engines, projection mapping, and second screens.
Put yourself in the shoes of event planners and event attendees
Experience your venue from the perspective of someone trying to get to a potentially lucrative tradeshow or conference. This is a great way to gauge customer service and identify trouble spots.
17. Do weekly walk-throughs to look for issues.
Start outside your venue and work your way in, paying close attention to details. Evaluate the parking situation and arrival/departure drop-off area for safety, cleanliness, and flow. Look at internal signage from the front desk through to your exhibit space to see if it directs attendees effectively. Check out your public restroom capacity, functionality, and cleanliness. Be sure to test the WiFi signal on your smartphone throughout your journey to identify dead spots.
18. Use "secret" or "mystery" guests.
Though this can feel like a "got ya" tactic, mystery guests are best used to reveal chronic service and maintenance issues that impact customer satisfaction. Have these guests spend a night at the hotel to experience check-in, room service, the restaurant, gift shop, and concierge service. You can use a hotel mystery shopping service, such as Coyle Hospitality Group or Guest Check. Or, you can seek honest opinions from colleagues, friends, and family who stay at your properties.
19. Analyze the check-in experience for opportunities to polish and streamline.
Understanding where the hiccups are will help you develop strategies to improve the hotel group check-in process. If you provide remote group check-in, test it out on both an iPhone and Android for speed and accuracy. Whether conducting a walk-through yourself or via a mystery guest, set a timer to see how long it takes to check-in at the front desk as well as via an electronic kiosk. Call a staff member over to a kiosk for assistance and evaluate their response. Bring a lot of luggage with you and see how that affects getting through check-in. Try checking in at both peak times with a full staff, as well as during slower moments with less team members present.
20. Add event planners to your team.
One way to ensure you know what event planners want is to hire them to join your hotel venue team. Hire planners with a specialty in your primary niche, whether that’s MICE, SMERF, or lavish weddings. Or hire planners with experience in events you’d like to draw more of, such as corporate annual meetings or large-scale conferences. Here’s how event planners can help you polish your venue management:
- Spot shortfalls in the design and technology of every event space you offer.
- Bring pre-existing relationships with other planners.
- Develop new relationships with planners at industry events.
- Offer expertise to clients building events at your venue.
Now use this venue management guide to fine-tune your offerings!
Inspired to make more hotel management improvements? Learn how to fix common problems with your hotel sales funnel, or discover must-know techniques to increase upsells at your hotels.