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Venuechooser.com is an Internet based Hotel Meeting Space directory that allows individuals and businesses a quick way to locate hotels conference centers and training facilities where they can conduct training events business meetings or other events.
Venuechooser.com is the sister site of FindaSeminar.com a training seminar search engine and is also part of the Training News Network that includes Seminar news network dotcom as well as seminar brochures find training find seminars and hundreds of other seminar and training related websites.
Hotel events sales managers can list their hotel training facility or conference center in the hotel meeting space directory for a nominal annual fee where it will be seen by individuals event planners and training coordinators.
The hotel meeting space directory lists thousands of hotels with meeting space including meeting rooms furnished and designed for training seminars conferences and workshops.
Many of the hotels listed in the hotels meeting space directory also include lodging and dining facilities equipped to accomodate groups of all sizes.
for more information about how to find or rent meeting space at hotels in your area and around the U.S. and Canada pleaes visit http://www.venuechooser.com
Tips for Choosing a Hotel
Whether you stay at a hotel occasionally for vacation or you are a road warrior business person who feels like you spend half of your life in hotels, here are 6 ways to make your stay at a hotel more enjoyable.
1. Before you go to sleep on the first night, make sure that the alarm clock is set for the time you want and that the television does not have an auto-on feature. People will sometimes set these for the middle of the night as a prank on the next person in the room, since the cleaning staff will rarely check them.
2. Bring your own refreshments since refreshments provided in the bar fridge found in the hotel room are often exorbitantly priced.
3. Bring any problems that you encounter to the attention of the front desk as soon as you see them so that they do not assume it was you that left the room in that condition. For example, if you are missing a towel, let them know right away so they don't think you stole it!
4. Hotels are charging for local calls now, and sometimes by the minute, so make sure to clarify upfront any potential telephone costs. Often, going down to the lobby and using the payphone there is much cheaper, even if it is not the most convenient.
5. It is okay to demand excellence from the hotel because you are paying good money to stay there. Just demand it in a polite and reasonable way and always with a smile.
6. A hotel, like a car-rental company or a video-rental store, has a fixed number of income producing units. These units are used by customers who are not always as accommodating to your schedule as you'd like them to be. If you get to the hotel and find that your room is not ready, relax! You'll find that by being patient and understanding, the hotel staff will bend over backwards to make sure you are happy; while, if you are abrupt and impatient, they will provide only the service that you're paying for, and they'll do so grudgingly. Remember, it is rarely the desk clerk's fault that your room is not ready for you. More often than not, it is because another customer was late leaving their room.
These six ideas will help you have a more enjoyable stay the next time you have to stay at a hotel.
Four Keys To Effective Hotel Marketing
Running a guest house, bed and breakfast or small hotel isn't easy. With so many tasks competing for your immediate attention it is little wonder that some jobs get put off until later. Unfortunately, the task that gets dropped most often is the hotels marketing and promotion, which is possibly the most important job in the whole business.
So in order to give your hotel marketing the attention it deserves in order to deliver the results your hotel needs, your hotel marketing plan should include four key elements:
A stream of eager traffic
In order to stay profitable, hotels need a constant supply of fresh customers to fill their rooms. It is essential therefore that you put your marketing message in front of as many interested prospects as possible.
To do this you need to place your message where your customers gather. For example, if you are selling golf breaks, it would be a waste of your time and effort to advertise in a sports car magazine. It makes more sense to target golf magazines or websites, or possibly business publications aimed at your particular demographic.
An Irresistible Offer
Once you have found what marketing legend, Gary Halbert called 'a hungry crowd' it is important to present to them an irresistible offer. The key here is in the word irresistible. Having worked so hard to attract your viewers' attention it would be foolish to make a weak, feeble or bland offer.
Simply offering the same breaks at the same rate as all your competitors will do nothing to make you stand out from the crowd. Be unique, create packages that nobody else offers and you will go a long way to eliminating your competition.
Hotel Marketing Automation
The biggest improvement you could make to your hotel marketing is by introducing automation into the mix. Why? Because once you automate your efforts they become a system that is both repeatable and predictable.
Simply do the work once and let your system do the monotonous tasks without anything more than a watchful eye from you. This frees up your time so that you can tackle the more demanding issues of the day.
Rinse And Repeat
Set up the perfect marketing system that ticks away on autopilot? Well, why not develop another package that targets another demographic and set up another marketing stream to target them? Remember, the hardest part of any task is taking that very first step.
By creating a number of diverse marketing streams you are effectively spreading your marketing net wider. This means that you are targeting your customers with pinpoint accuracy rather than the wasteful blanket approach used by most hoteliers. As a result you no longer focus on price-cutting or deep discounts in order to put heads on beds.
Hotel Marketing Starts with Hotel Website Design
You may have the most wonderful hotel in the world, with gorgeous landscaping, comfortable rooms, and impeccable service, but if guests don't know about it, your occupancy rates will be a continual disappointment. In this day and age, the most critical component of hotel marketing is great hotel website design.
Why Hotel Website Design?
The numbers say it all. During 2007, almost a third of all hotel revenues will be generated by online channels. Moreover, over half of your target audience's decision-making is influenced by the Internet. Over a third of hotel guests choose their hotel based on online research, but book through another channel. The remainder researched their choices through an Internet portal, but then tried to book directly with the travel provider.
Without great hotel web site design, it's as if you printed 1,000 beautiful, four-color, ten-page brochures that stunningly captured the unique nature of your hotel at ten dollars apiece, and then locked them away in a cupboard. How effective would they be? The "look and feel" is vitally important in motivating visitors to explore your hotel product, and in guiding them to buy, but without the right technology, site structure, and navigation methods, you will only have marginal online revenues.
Hotel Search Engine Optimization
Even if you have a wonderful hotel web site design, if no one can find your website when they are searching online for that "luxury San Diego hotel," that "romantic B&B outside Paris," or that "adventure scuba holiday in the Maldives," it's as though you didn't have a website at all.
The way that potential guests will find your hotel web site is through search engine optimization. Search engine optimization is both an art and a science - and shouldn't be left to amateurs. Search engine optimization techniques will enable your hotel website to be returned high in the rankings of search engine results - a critical element of effective online hotel marketing.
Factors to Consider
When choosing a marketing company for your hotel website design, make sure that they understand and meet these goals:
* Generating qualified, quality visitor traffic
* Motivating visitors to delve deeper into your hotel website
* Converting visitors into online hotel revenues
Too often, hotel websites are developed in reverse, placing the emphasis on design rather than on generating website traffic. The key is to balance traffic generation effectiveness, the site's "look and feel," and conversion techniques to produce a hotel web site that looks great, gets plenty of traffic that converts into bookings.
Find a Hotel Website Design Company
Today, Internet design and marketing companies have specializations. In order to get the best return on investment, it's best to choose a website design company that specializes in hotel website design. Make sure that their approach adheres to the following guidelines - otherwise, keep shopping. The company should:
* Identify your visitors' expectations and intentions
* Work with you to clarify your own objectives
* Develop a hotel website revenue conversion strategy
* Determine site components that satisfy both design and search engine optimization goals
* Map our "click paths" that will lead to conversion
Your hotel website design and search engine optimization are the two keys to generating the kind of traffic that will keep your occupancy rates in the stratosphere!
Lodging Market Intelligence Tools Lead to Sales Success
Market intelligence simply put, tells you where your revenue opportunities exist. Gathering intelligence on your competitors and your hotel's performance compared to theirs need not be a burdensome and challenging task. We used to call it "knowing your competition." How they stack up in terms of product and service, who they are, how they operate and who are their customers were some of the facts we needed to find out.
The tools used to uncover this information used to be a combination of gut instinct, interviewing their client base, poaching their staff and years of getting to know their hotels and those in charge. In today's data-filled environment there is significantly more market intelligence that is more accurate, timelier and much easier to come by. If someone had told me when I was a junior sales person with Hilton more than 20 years ago that I could easily get reports like the ones below, I would have jumped at the chance, even if I had to pay for the information myself; on my $11,000 a year salary!
Of course the "Grand Daddy" of all market intelligence tools has got to be Smith Travel Research's STAR reports. Creating an industry that didn't exist, Randy Smith has become the go-to guy for market data. Is there any hotel out there that is not getting this information on their monthly to year-to-date hotel performance in the areas of rate, occupancy and RevPar as compared against their competition, price points and market area? A must have to understand where you are so that you can plan where you need to be. Click here for more information on STAR reports.
Remember the days of sending out the junior sales manager to scope out the competitors' reader boards? Driving from hotel to hotel to conference center... well, for hotels seeking groups to fill rooms and meeting space these trips are a thing of the past! INSIGHT from the Knowland Group launched in September of this year. The company promises to "dramatically alter the way sales managers find group business". INSIGHT is a simple computer application combining Google's search engine and mapping technology with a searchable database tool that provides sales managers with qualified targeted sales leads on hundreds of thousands of events, groups and meeting planners every day, across every hotel brand, type, shape and size including freestanding conference centers. This market intelligence is currently available in over 70 markets within the United States and Canada. Click here for more information on INSIGHT.
Do you know how well your hotel performs against the competition through the various Global Distribution Systems (GDS)? The Hotelligence report from TravelClick is an outstanding example of how to gather this type of market intelligence. It provides historical information on your local market's hotel bookings made through the GDS's (which are used by over 98% of worldwide travel agents) and through the major Internet sites. The report allows hoteliers to analyze the success of their direct sales effort by monitoring market share as well as review the impact of your rate and inventory decisions. The report demonstrates the number of room nights and average rate on a monthly basis of all reservations through these channels and where they booked (your hotel or your competitors'). It identifies the booking travel agent and often even the corporate source of the business. This report will help you learn if and how much your accounts are "sleeping around", who is doing the philandering and who hasn't slept with you yet! It's worth every penny unless your sales team does not do anything with it... ask your sales team how they are utilizing this invaluable tool to book more business. For more information on Hotelligence and TravelClick click here.
Knowing what has happened through such reports as STAR and Hotelligence is good but predicting the future is even better. TravelClick also offers a sister report to Hotelligence called FuturePACE which provides data on the actual future bookings from the GDS channels on a day-by-day basis so that hoteliers can improve revenues through advance insights into the performance of current rate strategies and marketing efforts for their hotel and those of the competition. Providing revenues, room nights, average rates and market penetration information for the current and next two months out, you can count on this report to be invaluable to identify unusual demand or shoulder days so that they can be addressed before they happen. Click here for more information.
With some hoteliers still believing that discounting increases profits (how many times are we going to have to prove this myth wrong) and bouncing their rates up and down like a schoolyard basketball, you may need to identify these culprits so that you can drive to their hotel and deliver a copy of the Cornell report "Why Discounting Doesn't Work" by Linda Canina Ph.D., Cathy A. Enz Ph.D. and Mark Lomanno.
To check out your competitors pricing and what rates they're really selling on their website, on internet sites and on the Global Distribution Systems (GDS) try on-line search tools like TravelAXE, TravelZoo, Orbitz and Expedia. TravelClick also offers a very comprehensive to-the-industry report called RateVIEW that includes rate data from Internet Sites, brand web sites as well as the GDS.
It is now known that about one-third of all hotel bookings are made on the Internet. Of these Internet users, more than half will use a search engine such as Google, Yahoo or Ask.com to research hotels and nearly 70% will check rates from at least three websites prior to booking. The growing trend towards the internet booking channel is dramatic. How does your hotel stack up on the web? Web analytical tools (web market intelligence) can capture the buying behavior of your guests and measure your website traffic origination points that have the best conversion rates, detail which online or print ads produce revenues and track down the success of search engine pay-per-click campaigns by identifying exactly how much revenue was booked. Overall they allow you to understand how today's consumer sees your hotel from rank on the search engines to third party sites. An even more important emerging area of the web, the "social media" or what is also known as "Web or Travel 2.0" can also track online consumer reviews of your property and can assist you in maximizing this exciting new opportunity in hotel marketing. In short, knowing how you stack up on the web is vital to today's sales success. Tools for measuring your web success are available through Merlin Metrics from A Couple of Chicks Marketing and SearchVIEW from TravelClick.
There are many things hoteliers especially those in the sales functions should know about their local markets. How much does your sales leadership know about their success against the competition; where their revenue opportunities lie; the groups staying in competing hotels; their GDS market share; what corporations are staying at the competition; what upcoming periods represent surprise peaks or valleys in revenues; what rates your competitors are really selling or your hotel's success in selling through what will become the primary booking channel, the Internet? If these questions go unanswered, you're not sure how your hotel measures up or worse yet, there is no action plan around the market intelligence you have gathered, it may be time to assess and seek assistance from experts.
If You Build it, They Will Come-Not!
About twice a week now I am contacted by a hotel General Manager or Marketing Director who has seen some of the recent research figures for hotel internet revenues that says something like “In 2005 hotel revenues from the internet were 25.0% of all hotel room revenues…”.
The conversation very quickly gets to “I’ve just checked my on-line revenues and they are nowhere near that. What can we do?”
Naturally, the first thing I do is look at their web site. Some are visually stunning, especially on a high speed connection…beautiful “flash” movies (loading, loading, loading), navigation buttons that do pirouettes, music…and usually a mega investment has been made (please give me the name of that sales person, I have some sand that I would like them to sell for me in the Middle East)…and barely an extra room night to show for it.
Why? Because the site turns up on page 17 on Google, Yahoo! or MSN when you search for a suitable keyword or phrase (usually “destination hotel” eg “Sydney hotel” is the most popular search term in most cities).
70-80% of online activity is people searching for something…all those lost souls who are eager to buy your hotel rooms, if only they could find you…in fact in one recent case, when I was searching for the prospective client’s hotel by it’s very own name their web site turned up way back on page 8 of Google. You and I both know that when we search, if it ain’t on pages 1 or 2 or at a pinch page 3, we’re just not going to look further…and neither does anyone else.
If you retain nothing more from my article please remember this: search engines are blind to images (and deaf if you play music on your site) and especially can’t see “flash” movie files or the text in those fancy navigation buttons (these are images too)…a search engine is a code and text driven binary agent that reads written instructions and words…so without the right code in the “back” of your site and the right text and density of keywords on the “front” pages of your site…you just won’t turn up in the first few pages of search results.
Don’t get me wrong…there IS a place for great visuals and dynamic, inspiring content AFTER you have got them to your site. The overuse and abuse of these dynamic elements is indeed a hurdle to your search engine results, but once the user has arrived, then you need some “bells and whistles” to convert them into a sale (more about conversion in one of my next articles).
Some web sites I see, even for premium properties, are just dogs that were last updated in 2003 (because every time they want a change their designer charges like a wounded bull); and lots of others are in-between but because the sites are not actively managed, they still don’t turn up in the first few pages.
Believe the research data! With 25% of revenues arriving via online channels and a further 25% being influenced by their online experience but booking via another channel, you just have to get your head into this space. Can you imagine what would happen if you ignored your convention market or stopped dealing with the travel industry…as a first step.
Over the next couple of articles I’ll address some of the other questions that I usually ask such as: what e-mail marketing they are doing and how, have they investigated the Pay-per-click options at Google Adwords, Yahoo! Search Marketing or MSN (coming soon) or how easy is it to book on their site. I’ll also touch on conversion but let’s focus in the short term on driving traffic to your site.
So, what can you do? Invest in the Search Engine Optimisation of you site… the art and science of maximising a web site’s ranking in the “natural” Search Engine Results for a key phrase. There is a lot to understand but if you visit our web site you will find some very useful tips and specific things that you can do to optimise your hotel web site…or of course you could give me a call or send me an e-mail and I would be more than happy walk you through the basic principles.
And you know what? I never get calls from hotels that have a smart, well designed but not too “tizzy” site. One that is edited in-house utilising a user-friendly Content Management System. Sites where you can easily navigate around without needing a helmet lamp and pick, that have fresh, recent content and special value-added packages; where you can actually book in real-time through a secure connection and get an instant confirmation. And when you need to make an online enquiry, it is easy and doesn’t ask for my shoe size and twenty other compulsory fields before begrudgingly sending off the data, only for it to take two days for someone to respond…
These sites already turn up in the first few pages, offer a great user experience and these hotels actively manage their online presence…they are well on their way to achieving and exceeding those 25.0% of revenues online that the research people are telling us…and, pardon the shameful plug but, quite a few of them are our clients!
8 Essentials For
Building Your Online Revenues
I’ve always wanted to write a headline like “10 Lessons Guaranteed to Improve…”. You see these all the time and they attract an incredible number of readers and eyeballs…but then I almost changed my mind. Usually, when you read through the article you discover that the “lessons” are generally a sales blurb for the company.
Like me a few years ago, I’m sure that what you really want are some very specific tips on what you can do, today, to make your hotel website more prominent in the Search Engine Results Pages (or if you like acronyms, the SERP’s). So, not to disappoint you, here are 8 sure fire, practical things to do including, at the end of this article, a final tip that always produces results.
1 - Make your web site the default for your browser and on all the PC’s at your hotel
Why I hear you ask? So that every time you or one of your team open a browser, you are confronted with your Home Page…when was the last time you really looked at your website?. Pretty soon you will begin to get bored with the way it looks or the content…as do your customers! And you will do something about it…our research has proven that web sites that regularly update their content do much better in the SERP’s than static sites. Plus, regular visitors to your site will also gain a good impression and sales conversion levels will go up too.
Follow closely with me as we are going to do this NOW…Open your favourite browser, enter your URL (www.yourwebsite.com) in the address bar, click go. Once your web page has loaded, click on Tools at the top of the page, select Internet Options. A dialogue box will open and on the General Tab you should see Home Page…now click on Use Current (the instructions are very similar for the Firefox browser)…your website will now load every time you open a browser. And suddenly its profile has become much more important to you…
The other interesting thing that will happen is that your team members will also start to give you suggestions and feedback on your website…they too will see it every time they open a browser. Many will start to write material or supply images from events that you can include on some sub-pages…and your website will come alive.
2 – Get your competitors to tell you the keywords you need to know
Ah…thought that would get your attention. Next, you need to discover the keywords that drive online business in your city or region…there are a few ways to do this, but here is an easy one. Go to Google or your favourite Search Engine and search for “your destination” and “hotel” (eg New York hotel) and look at the results in the first page. Click on the top one and when the page loads, right click in a clear space on the page. Notepad should open and you will be able to see the code that actually writes the page that you were on.
Somewhere near the top you will see some coding called “title”, “meta name="keywords" content=, and “meta name="description" content=…unless they have been particularly sneaky, you should be able to see an indication of the words that the webmaster thinks are important to include on the page to enable Search Engines to find it.
Do this for the next three or four sites on the Search Engine listing and you will start to see a pattern emerge…great isn’t it? Don’t you love it when the competition starts telling you how to improve your SERP ranking?
3 – Open a Google Adwords or Yahoo! Search Marketing account. Now that you have some hints as to what your keywords should be, you need to build on this list. We use more sophisticated tools but both Google and Yahoo! Search Marketing have keyword tools that will suggest additional keywords based on the ones you have uncovered so far. Eventually, this account will let you produce ads for the “Sponsored Links” part of their pages (we’ll tell you more in another article)…but for now we are just going to utilise their keyword tools.
Go to the Google Home Page for your country. Below the search box click on Advertising Programmes and then click on Google Adwords and then click on the Sign Up Now button…now is not the time to chicken out, be brave.
This will be the best $5-10.00 that you have ever spent. You will be stepped through setting up an account…when they ask you to enter some keywords, just put in a couple of the ones you have already identified. They will also ask you to build an ad; use your property name as the title, and just say something nice in the following two lines…you won’t be ready to publish yet but you have to go through the motions to get access to the tools.
4 – Start building your own keyword/phrase list Now click on the Tools or Keyword Tools tabs or buttons and you will be lead through how to find even more keywords based on the ones you already have. Using common sense and some discussion amongst your team and perhaps even a guest or two, build up a list of your preferred 20 keywords/phrases.
5 – Put your keywords in the title area of your website pages The “title” area of a web page, as the cleverer of you have already discovered, is that blue band at the very top of the screen when a web page is loaded…that’s right, with the white text in it. Search Engines place significant emphasis on the text that they find in the title bar.
Ask your web designer to put some of your keywords in the title of your home page. The most important words at the beginning followed by a nice destinational comment that repeats the destination name and the word hotel a second time (eg San Diego Hotel :: leading luxury hotel in San Diego – The Classique Towers Hotel)…do not “stuff” the title full of too many of your keywords or repeat them more than two, or at the most, three times.
Do not start with your property name…if you must put your property name in the title, put it at the end. Search Engines add the most “weight” to the words at the beginning of the title. Now, work you way down your keyword list putting different keywords on different pages, thus creating a different keyword emphasis for each page and add the same keywords into the text on the page.
By the way, did you notice that the title is what most Search Engines display in the SERP’s? That’s also why the title needs to be well written as searchers will judge whether to click on the link based on what they read on screen.
Are you still with me?
6 – Look at your web site statistics EVERY day Every day…this is one of the easy ones. Wherever your site is being hosted, they are bound to provide you with at least a basic statistical summary of how many visitors you get to your site per day (not hits, visits), how many pages were viewed and other data. This is usually available online with a login.
Make it a habit to log in and view your statistics every time you start your work day. Should your web hosting service not provide statistical data then move your site to one that does…if you are serious about building traffic to your site and online revenues then this is as essential as you knowing last nights results or next months room holdings.
7 – Finding out the number of sites that link to your page Links to your page from other web sites are like votes for your page. In simple terms, if all other content between your site and another is equal but they have better or more links, the other site will be delivered ahead of yours in the SERP’s. The number, theme relevance and quality of links to your site are given significant weight by the leading Search Engines.
To find out how many links there are to your site currently, go to Google and in the search box type in link:www.yourwebsite.com (for Yahoo! and MSN use linkdomain:www.yourwebsite.com). Do it for all three because you will see a difference in the results. Each Search Engine looks at links differently, hence the variation in the number of Inbound Links displayed.
Whatever the number is, you need to double it over the next six months…slowly but surely. If you add too many, too quickly the Search Engines get wise and start to dampen the effect of your new links. And please, do not sign up to one of those “We can add 10,000 links to your website in One Day for $29.95!” …they add you to crap, spammy sites and your inbox will be full of junk in a day. Plus, even if they do add so many links, it’s likely that the Search Engines will either drop you from their listings or just completely discount the links because rapid link growth is seen as being not “natural”.
So, how do you build links? There are lots of ways but my favourite “in house” way is to pay your Conference and Events team $20 for every client that they get to link to your website. Conference and Event clients are usually pretty happy to link because your site will save them answering a bunch of questions about the venue on their own site. The success rate is about 50.0% so if you have 10 events a week, that’s 5 links from high quality sites per week or 250 a year. Within a couple of months you will start to see your site moving up the SERP’s. “$20!” I hear you stammer? Make it $50…it’s worth many, many times that in terms of SERP rankings and revenues.
Ah ha! I feel a disclaimer coming on…they say that free advice is worth exactly what you pay for it. The elements I have described here barely scratch the surface of what is usually needed to boost you online revenues, but, the way I look at it, it’s a start…someone very famous once said “A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.” …welcome to your first 8 steps.
“But Keith, that’s only 7 essentials for building online revenues!” you say! OK, so you think I can’t count, but if you have made it this far, you are now way ahead of 80.0% of hoteliers. Would you like to be in the Top 10.0% of hoteliers and be seriously starting to grow your web revenues past 10, 20 or even 30% of your total revenues? Well, with suitable apologies all round, now is the time for that commercial…
8 - Register now for our “Hotel emarketing 101” workshops.
“Hotel emarketing 101” is a one-day workshop focussed on Hotel Search Engine Optimisation, Search Engine Marketing, Online Media Options and Hotel Website design, development and construction for building online revenues. With speakers from Hotel Marketing Workshop, Google, Beyond Interactive and Binary Business these essential emarketing workshops will be held in May 2006 in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne. Visit www.hotelmarketingworkshop.com for a brochure or to register online.
And now that the “commercial” is over, go on…start working your way through this list…and start seeing the results.
Meeting Planning-Conference Center Search
"We’re planning a conference in Atlanta," he tells me, "so get right on it." When is this conference for, Boss? A week from Friday (this being Wednesday)? NO problem. I work miracles (that you get the glory for) all the time! How many people?! What, only a hundred and fifty, flying in from all over the country? No problem! I’ve heard all about how you pulled off the feeding of five thousand people with just a couple loaves of bread and a few fish, so I should be able to handle this. I’ll get right on finding Atlanta Meeting Facilities.
There are a number of worthy venues in Atlanta for meetings and conferences. How you select the right one depends, in part, upon the nature and duration of that conference. If it’s just a one-day event that needs a Marietta Banquet Rooms for a hours long event, then proximity to the airport may be your only real concern (assuming people are flying in. But if the attendees are going to be there a while, then proximity to the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport may not be as important as qualities of the convention environment.
The focus of the group may be business, but they’re expecting to enjoy the stay in other ways as well. For some, that may be the opportunity to enjoy a bit of luxury away from home. For others, it may be the chance to play 18 holes of golf. Is it summer or winter? That can be a consideration as well, especially if some of the attendees live in areas of extreme temperatures. In the winter, visitors from colder climates may want to bask in the relative warmth and take some time for the aforementioned golf or other activities. If it’s the height of summer, many may be looking for relief from that heat. Atlanta may not be as exhausting as Phoenix, but you may still be looking for a complex that has everything under one roof, so they don’t have to go out. What will the quality of the catering be? Will the attendees want to take in some local nightlife? What about availability? Longstanding reservations for other gatherings may preclude a particular venue. It’s crucial to find out about that before investing a lot of time planning for a convention based upon a particular location.
If you do a great job, he’ll look great and get the bulk of the credit for having been smart enough to hire you. That might tempt you to do less than your best. A bit of self-preservation is in ordeer here. Remember, if there are hitches in the giddyup, hiccups or problems, he’s going to step back and graciously let you be broiled, so even though he may take the lion’s share of the credit, you’ll still want to make the best choices possible.
How do you know about the quality of a facility? Start off with previous experiences, independent testimonials and verifiable reviews. You may not be able to trust everything their public relations department puts forward, no matter how often they may swear it’s the Gospel truth. To some extent, you’re going to have to go by Star ratings, but it’s a safe rule of thumb to deduct one star from all but the most reliable of hotel chains with ratings under 4 stars. Then when Murphy’s Law applies, you’ll still come out of it alright.
Planning a conference really can be a lot of fun. You’ll know you’re talking to the right venues when they’re making an effort to make your job easier, offering to handle details and arrange for catering, assuring you that adding an extra 10 people will not be a problem, that sort of thing. If you encounter a very rigid establishment, it may be wise to keep on moving on down the list.
Make a point of putting on your best Happy face before you pick up the phone to contact the venues, take a minute to relax with your favorite non-alcoholic beverage, make a list of essential requirements, no-nos, and options. Be sure, for example, to provide vegetarian, Muslim and kosher meal choices and to ask the attendees their preferences. Do a little homework and find out what well-respected public golf courses maybe in the area, if the attendees are interested in the game. Make sure the conference center has AV equipment available. If they don’t, you’ll want to arrange for equipment rental and a backup supplier in case that one proves unreliable. But with a little planning, some investigation and a few days’ footwork, you’ll have your boss walking on water in no time! Atlanta has plenty of facilities to choose from. Now all you have to do is consult that list and find out which of them is best for you!
Gracefully Leave After a Seminar or Speech When Someone is Hogging Your
Meeting planners know the value of meticulous planning. They are responsible for selecting and contracting with the speaker, promoting the event, booking the hotel for the speaker, arranging transportation for the speaker and ensuring that the facilities are set up perfectly on the day of the seminar, writing and presenting an introduction of the speaker. Whew! With so many advance details to consider, it is no wonder that some meeting planners forget one of the most important times for the speaker……how to graciously exit after the speech!
Many big name speakers who have been through this routine thousands of times before have their agents arrange the contract carefully to arrange no more than ½ hour for a reception either before or after the speech. They know the value of their time away from the crowds. It is the job of the meeting planner to be the buffer and tell the fans that Mr. or Ms. Celebrity has to catch a plane in 1 hour and has to be going. Most people respect that and let the star move on. But what about the rest of the speakers? How important is that time to them? And how can you tell whether or not the speaker is thrilled about staying around chatting with curious audience members, or dying to get the heck out of there and go to call their spouse and talk to their kids?
As a former celebrity agent and now a speaker myself, I have the advantage of coming from two perspectives. The agents’ job is to convince the meeting planner to rush the star home. As a speaker, I know the importance of spending some personal time with the audience to reinforce the friendly and supportive speech I just delivered…..up to a limit.
Recently I delivered workshops on Public Speaking and Professional Coaching. In order to arrive at the location, I had to get up several hours before my flight to fight traffic to get to Newark airport one hour in advance. I had a transfer planes in St. Louis after an hour layover. At 3:00 I arrived in the desigated location, had to rent a car and drive and hour and ½ to the hotel sight. You get the point. By the time the speaker arrives, he or she could be tired and needs a bit of a rest before presenting.
The weekend was a huge success, but immediately following the event, the meeting planner was no where to be found. One of the audience members who was on a “high” from the weekend wanted to share every last detail of her own life with me. While I tried to maintain a certain amount of sincere interest, I was also so mentally and physically exhausted because I had given every ounce of my heart and soul to the participants during the weekend. At this point, I needed the meeting planner to be my buffer and quickly move me on out of there. But, I politely listened, and slowly walked out the door to my car, and finally explained that I’d be available via email to continue the conversation. With that, I tumbled into my car and excited the scene.
As a meeting planner, discuss the exit routine with the speaker in advance. Do they like to hang around afterwards to chat and if so, for how long? Do they want to create a “code” that will alert the meeting planner that the speaker is ready to go and should be shuffled out the door? Should it be announced in advance of the talk that the speaker will have to catch a plane immediately following the event and has to leave soon thereafter? Or as a meeting planner friend of mine, explained after hosting the famous and brilliant speaker Les Brown, that he had “performed so actively and intensly on stage and had worked up such a sweat during his performance that everyone understood his desire to exit!”
If you aren't working with an agent or a meeting planner, the best bet is to announce the amount of time you'll be spending after the seminar to address questions and answers. If you know that 1/2 is as much as you can spare, then announce it up front so no one will tie up all of your time. Additionally, give out your email address and suggest that if you don't have time to talk with everyone, suggest that they email you. Lastly, if you want to get the names and addresses of everyone in attendance, invite the audience to see you after the event for some free information. This is a great way to get THEIR information without imposing.
Speakers need you to help them maintain their positive image and caring attitude by helping them graciously exit the floor when they are ready to go. Some speakers love the personal contact for hours after the speech and have the energy to do so. Others are ready to exit after a few brief moments. So next time you are discussing the details before the event, be sure and discuss the best attack for the inevitable and timely “exit routine” so your speaker goes out loving the event instead of regretting it!
and Meeting Planning Guidelines: 10 Steps to Success
Every event whether it’s a meeting, party, seminar, conference, charity event, or your high school reunion will have common threads regardless of what it is, where it’s held, when or why it is happening. The following common threads are found in every organized event. Make sure you plan each of the following steps thoroughly and you are guaranteed success.
1. Plan Your Vision: Your vision is the main reason and focus for having the event? It is a combination of your goals and objectives.
2. Set the Goals and Objectives: A goal is the general purpose of the event that provides a road map for the planning process. An objective is a measurable, attainable target that contributes to the accomplishment of the goal. An event can have one or multiple goals and objectives.
3. Select a Site: Location, location, location! Every event needs a site! Pick the location to match and support your vision, goals and objectives.
4. Create Promotion/Marketing Materials: You must get your message out. You need to get the basic information to the right people in the right amount of time so they know when to show up, where to go, and what to do when they get there. The message could be as simple as the date, time, and location via the telephone or as complicated as a multi page brochure for a multi-day conference with numerous events combined in one event. Or perhaps some major TV advertising and sophisticated website design for online registration.
5. Identify Your Participants/ Guests: Without them, you would not have an event. Whether they are invited guests, paying participants or required attendees, people will be coming to your event. Know your audience and target them carefully.
6. Create the Agenda/Timeline: Whether it is written down or planned, every event has a timeline. There is always a starting point and a finishing point. This is detail outline of the activities. What is happening from hours before the participants arrive to the follow-up when the event is complete. And it is the schedule of what is actually happening throughout the event. The agenda can be two types. The one the participant receives and follows and the one that the people working the event receive and follow. This tells people where to go, or what to do when you get there.
7. Establish a Budget: Money comes in and goes out. With some events no obvious money will be coming in, such as a wedding or company social. Create a budget nonetheless to make sure not too much money goes out. For larger events, budgets are a must especially when profit is one of you objectives. Without a budget it is hard to set guidelines and measure results.
8. Select the Food and Beverage: It may be a pitcher of water and mints at a one day seminar, a sit down dinner for 10,000, an all day concert where vendors will be brought in to serve the public, coffee and doughnuts at the morning sales meeting and/or soda, cookies in the afternoon for an all day conference, or appetizers served during a 3 hour cocktail party for 700 people. This is a wide and general segment of an event and will vary widely depending on the vision, goals, and objectives and of course, money.
9. Arrange for Transportation: You may need to transport 800 people from 10 hotels to the meeting site twice a day or it could be just getting yourself to the site on time. You may need to arrange the travel needs for the entertainment, speakers, and VIP’s, including picking them up at the airport. Or this may include contracting with an airline for discount airfare or negotiating with rental car companies for special rates to offer to your participants.
10. Hire Staff/Volunteers: This could range from checking in your participants for your workshop, or 100’s of volunteers at a conference or sporting event. It could be the caterers, musicians, florists, cleanup crew, equipment setup, valets, ticket takers, MC’s, speakers, or the balloon lady. It almost always takes more than one person to successfully coordinate an event.
Strategies To Getting Your Money's Worth At Seminars & Workshops
You open your email to find a notice about an upcoming seminar or workshop on a topic you desperately want to learn more about.
Later that day, you get the mail and there's a postcard inviting you to the same workshop.
"Should I go?" you think.
"It's expensive, I'll have to pay for airfare and hotel, but I'll learn *so much* and will really be able to propel my business forward," you say to yourself.
After much wrangling between those two guys that sit on each of your shoulders, you decide to go for it. You tell your clients you'll be gone, you buy the plane tickets, book the hotel, pay the workshop fee and you're excited!
The day finally arrives. You can hardly wait. You get a seat and wait for things to start.
By the second hour, your head is brimming with ideas while your stomach is full of coffee. You desperately want a break and can't focus on anything else.
The break comes and goes and now you are starved. "WHEN is lunch anyway?" you hear yourself asking your neighbor.
After wolfing down something which the hotel is convinced passes for food, it's back to the workshop. Now the carb crash comes and you need a nap -- the speaker is very interesting, but hey, you're getting the seminar CDs and will catch up on anything you miss then.
Does this sound familiar? I've been to three workshops/seminars in the past two months and have watched this scenario unfold for HUNDREDS of people -- again and again.
It's critical you have a system in place to insure you get the most out of each and every seminar and workshop you attend -- after all, you're spending your money AND time attending.
1. Bring a notepad.
Insure you have either a notepad or notebook dedicated ONLY to "Action List" items.
This is not a "To Do" list -- "to do" lists sound like work and generally lower your energy. This is an "Action" list -- completing these items will propel your business forward.
Personally, I put a small box next to each item that I can check off as it's completed. I don't number them as these are not in priority order. The order is based on when the item pops into my head.
2. Bring a notebook.
You should have ONE notebook for ALL your seminars and workshops. This is for your "Notes" -- if the presenter provides you with a handout of his presentation, GREAT, you can take notes directly on it.
If not, however, you'll want to keep all your notes in this notebook -- start the section with the seminar name, location and date and note each speaker's name and presentation title and any notes from it.
Notes, NOT action list items. . .action items go on your Action List. It's important to keep them separate so you don't need to search through pages of notes for your action items.
Always remember: It's not what you know that matters; it's what you IMPLEMENT!
3. Bring plenty of business cards.
You'll be amazed at how many people forget to bring business cards with them when attending workshops.
Always insure you have plenty of cards with your current information and, preferably, a picture of you on it. We meet so many people at seminars; you want to insure people remember you when going through their new stack of cards at home.
4. Take a day.
If possible, take a day or 1/2 day when you get home to unpack, get back in the swing of things and take a good look at your Action List.
Are there items which can be done in 10 minutes or less? If so, identify those items and schedule an hour for each group of 5 activities over the next week (this allows a little extra time). This will insure you make steady progress soon after the seminar.
Do you have bigger projects? No sweat, break them down into smaller chunks -- 30 minutes at most -- and schedule them on your calendar.
By scheduling these activities *on your calendar*, you'll have a start and end time for getting them done and insuring you got the most out of your time at the workshop.
Chances are you've met new friends and potential clients.
Now's the time to drop them a brief note and let them know you're happy to have met them and follow-up with any information you may have promised.
And, remember, if appropriate for you, thank the speaker for the seminar and all you learned.
Your Coaching Challenge
Your coaching challenge for this week is to prepare a "Seminar Toolbag" which includes a notepad, notebook, business cards, two pens and anything else you may need.
Here's what's in my Toolbag (a bag I take to all seminars) in addition to the above: granola bars, lip balm, post-its, tissues, peppermint patties, a digital camera and since I'm not a coffee drinker, my favorite tea bags.
Example on How to Get Repeat Customers
During a recent holiday break the family and I went to a great hotel near Mombasa in Kenya. With 4 young kids the attraction was that the facilities were all-inclusive so constant requests for ice-creams etc were not a problem! So what was so great about it?
Well I’m always on the look out for examples of great and poor business models and ideas, so here’s the key thing that stood out … the huge number of people who had been there before. One couple I spoke to had been there for the last seven years in a row with their children.
For the hotel and any other business getting repeat customers like this is akin to striking gold – no marketing or recruitment costs – just pure profit. And no doubt their clients spread the word amongst their friends so again no marketing cost for the hotel.
What was this hotel doing right that you can apply to your business to encourage repeat business?
1. It’s a very child-friendly hotel - leave your kids at the Kids Club which had activities all day. They have spotted that family-oriented hotels will always have an edge, so they built the business and customer experience around that idea. They have spotted a niche and do everything they can to satisfy that market. Result? My kids loved it so much it’s clear that this is the only place they want to go. The hotel has done its job!
2. They make it feel like home – as we drove through the hotel gates the driver who picked us up from the airport said ‘Welcome home!’ Just think, even the lowly driver knew that the hotel’s philosophy is to make sure everyone feels they belong to a big family. How good are your employees at passing on your core message or values?
3. Staff recognized and warmly greeted repeaters – in many cases staff clearly knew people’s names and as a minimum recognized faces. They treated these people as long lost friends. How do your employees treat regular clients? Warmly or with indifference?
4. They create a feeling of community – repeat clients get tee-shirts with the hotel name and year printed on it and people wore them with pride. Not my personal taste but it clearly made most people feel very happy. The children were not forgotten either. Every activity they took part in at the Kids Club was rewarded with a points voucher which could be redeemed at the hotel shop. Do you give gifts to repeat customers by way of a thank you?
5. They reward repeaters with a 10% discount – a great way to encourage people to come back and another way of saying ‘thanks for your business’. Do you offer repeat business discounts?
6. And finally, all backed up with great food and great service.
These are all simple things which you can introduce very quickly to any business. Getting repeat business is a powerful way to boost sales and profits so starting thinking about how you can encourage customers to become life-long customers.
How to Work With Hotels for Booking Seminars
When deciding what hotel to book your seminar at, you should always remember that price isn't the only consideration. If you're on a tight budget, then price may be the most important negotiating point, but don't forget to inquire about what you'll actually get for your money.
Some hotels include things like self-serve water and coffee service, while others will charge extra for these amenities. Food and beverage is far and away the largest expense item in associations' convention budgets. According to Convene's Annual Meetings Market Survey, food and beverage accounts for more than 25 percent of budgets, more than double the total spent on marketing/promotion and nearly triple the amount allocated for audio-visual equipment. To keep costs down, you may opt for guests to have lunch on their own. Be sure to ask the hotel for a list of local restaurants within walking distance. Most hotels have brochures like this already printed so just make sure to have plenty on hand at your registration table. Better yet, if there's a restaurant in the hotel, ask for a copy of the menu so you can send it to your guests with their seminar confirmation. The hotel should have a copy of the seminar's itinerary so that they know when each of the breaks is scheduled. This will ensure that any beverages or snacks are replenished in advance. Of course, speakers can run long and others might be delayed at the airport so it's important to make the hotel staff aware of any deviations from the original schedule.
If you need to borrow audio visual equipment from the hotel, make sure you get detailed descriptions of each piece of equipment, as well as a clear pricing schedule. You should know exactly what equipment is needed for each of your speaker's presentations and make sure that the hotel will be able to furnish a functioning backup, just in case.
Some hotels will also provide IT maintenance and Secretarial services. If you've ever had to sit through a seminar plagued with technical problems, you probably already realize how valuable these services can be. When your keynote speaker steps up the podium and starts fumbling around with his laptop trying to get that PowerPoint presentation open, it becomes apparent that not all great speakers are technically savvy.
Don't forget about all of the little things the seminar attendees may need, such as high-speed internet access for their laptops, active phone outlets and plenty of extra pens and pencils. Hopefully, there is also a dedicated business center and copy room in the hotel. Make sure you and your guests know exactly where it is.
Hotels will be more willing to negotiate with you if you show loyalty when considering a meeting place for future events. If you're making this an annual or quarterly event, by all means say something during negotiations! However, be wary of signing long-term contracts with any one hotel, particularly if there's a stiff penalty for cancellation. You'll receive the best service and the best rates when the hotels are competing for your business.
Careers In Hotel
Choosing the Right Career
Travel is a growing industry that offers many exciting careers. Lodging is one of the largest employers in the travel industry and offers many educational, internship and certification opportunities for professionals pursuing a career in hotels. Hotel employees can rise to management through formal education requiring degrees in management or through vocational training followed up by experience.
Hotel Management Programs
An AHM, associate degree in hotel management, takes around 18 months to complete from a standard hotel or motel management school. After completing this course successfully, graduates with an AHM degree are eligible to work with any large or small company around the world in an entry-level management post with hotels, motels, and restaurants. Hotel management students will have communications, general studies, and English as their combination subjects while taking up a business course in hotel management. Most hotel management schools also provide hands-on experience and practical projects for their students.
A BHM, Bachelor of Hotel Management degree, can be ideal for those seeking advancement in their already established careers in hotel management. By obtaining a BHM, students will be prepared for moving towards the higher levels of the industry in specialized areas such as business accounting, food and beverage services, accommodations, marketing hospitality services, and human resources among others.
An MHM, Master of Hotel and Motel Management degree, offers specialization in marketing, entrepreneurship, operations management, information systems management, and real estate and investment. The MHM degree in any of these areas can surely facilitate the students in appearing for and achieving higher-level positions in the hotel and motel management Industry.
An MS, Master of Science Program, takes about 12 to 18 months to allow hospitality professionals to continue their careers in an academic or research setting.
The CTE courses in Hospitality Management, Hospitality Services and Hotel/Motel Marketing offer certification from National Occupational Competency Testing Institute and the American Hotel & Lodging Association.
Managers are responsible for every aspect of the hotel, including customer service, food quality, catering, and hotel supplies. The manager also looks after the scheduling and conference planning, valet and transportation services and all other special services provided to the esteemed guests and visitors. Therefore, the manager has a key role and responsibility in keeping up to the name and reputation of the hotel or motel by managing the rest of the staff efficiently. The responsibility of hiring, training, and supervising other members of the staff is given to an assistant manager who co-ordinates with the general manager. He also schedules working shifts and assigns duties to his subordinates. Writing reports, negotiating with the vendors, and coordinating various events also come under the supervision of assistant managers.
Hotel and motel management professionals enjoy discount rates in travel and lodging amenities. This can be especially attractive for those who love traveling. Besides, though the initial stage may require a lot of struggle and hard work, once you have reached a higher position, you may earn a lot of money as perks excluding your regular salary. Additionally, the hotel industry is commonly associated with a lot of glamor, which also attracts many students to select hotel management as their career. The job itself involves some general facilities such as lodging, food, parking, laundry, and other services. Additionally, some hotels even provide educational assistance and profit sharing plans to their employees.
Ranks & Salaries
The different managerial positions in a hotel or motel start from executive housekeepers to front office managers, food and beverage manager, and convention service manager. These are all ranks of an assistant manager who co-ordinates with the general manger. The salaries of the mangers depend on the responsibility and segment of the hotel they work for. Overall, it is quite a lucrative Industry with opportunities of earning up to 25% bonus on the basic salaries.
The initial phase of your career can be quite hectic, and you might need to clean dishes and do other similar chores. The job involves a lot of patience, energy, good communication skills, and quick wittedness to tackle difficult situations, and handling different customers. There is no specific work schedule as the hotel industry works around the clock.
Event Planner - The Benefits of Hiring One
An event planner who helps brides and grooms plan their special day is called a wedding consultant, wedding planner, wedding coordinator or a bridal consultant. This planner specializes in planning weddings professionally.
Using a wedding consultant to plan your wedding day had always been viewed as a luxury that only the rich and famous enjoyed. This is not so much the case anymore and the number of people using wedding planners continues to rise every day.
Planning a wedding can be like a full time job if a bride decides to go it alone. This type of event involves a lot of time with so much to learn and do and often not enough time to do it all. This event planner has to be highly organized and always knows what to do if things go wrong. He/she knows exactly who to contact when the need arises.
A professional wedding planner has to be extremely creative by nature. He or she also needs to have a very good sense of style and know what trends are current and which ones are outdated. The event planner also needs to have a personality that connects well with clients in order to understand them and to have a clear picture of their personal and specific needs for their special day.
A good event planner has lots of connections with the best vendors and works at getting his/her client the best value for their money. There is usually a budget to maintain and endless details tailored to the bride and groom. A wedding planner can also save the bride and groom a lot of money as well as time. This is because they usually know which vendors are reasonably prized and the quality of work involved. The event planner is usually in a better position to negotiate and get discounts from vendors they have worked with before.
Event planners will help their clients avoid disasters at their functions because they oversee all of the operations of the day to the last detail. Should there be an emergency at the event, the planner is usually better prepared to deal with the crisis rather than having the client try to figure out what to do.
The costs involved in hiring such a professional may be surprisingly affordable given the amount of details they have to work with. Planners also tailor their cost according to the client's budget and help them to stay within their budget.
Without a wedding planner on hand, many brides and grooms run themselves ragged as the wedding day approaches. Some couples have even complained of not enjoying their wedding day because of the stress. An event planner comes in handy at this point because the couple has nothing to worry about since all the details are taken care of. The end result of having an event planner or a wedding consultant, in this case, is well worth it. The clients end up with a stress free day and they are able to enjoy every moment of their special occasion.
Ideas for Business Events
If you know that you want to hold a business event but just aren't sure where to start on the whole thing, here are some event ideas that might lead you in the right direction.
Event ideas can be as diverse as the companies and businesses that hold the events themselves. The first thing to think about when choosing what sort of company event to hold is what your reason for having the event is. Depending on the type of information you want to get out – a new business venture, a new product, a promotion – you can decide what sort of event will get your information out in the best way possible.
One of the best company event ideas out there is to hire a company event planner. While planning an event yourself might seem easy at first, the logistics of making sure everything will go off without a hitch can often be more than just one person can handle. A company event planner can make sure that you get the right location, food, entertainment and more for your event without having to go and shop around for all of these things by yourself. They can often give you great ideas of what will work for your event and what will not, and whether or not an idea that you have is feasible.
Other ideas can come from looking at previous company events. Take a look at the other events held by competing companies or businesses, and see how well they worked. Take the good ideas from these events, and avoid anything that seemed to be too complicated or unfriendly for the audience. Remember that you don't want to exactly copy any other company's event, but you can definitely take ideas from events that are already passed. Also look back at your company and their own events, and make sure you don't repeat what has already been done.
Finally, company event ideas can be had in many places that are great resources for all event planners – such as books, magazines and the Internet. Look around, there are ideas everywhere. Themes can evolve around the core message of your event, or they can be totally separate and wacky. You can choose to stick to ideas that are tried and true, such as sit down dinners and classic parties, or you can start your own event traditions with picnics and concerts. Many planners get their inspiration from tons of different sources.
Business event ideas are all around – and there are many good themes and ideas to choose from. Picking one for your next event should be a piece of cake, if you take the time to carefully think about the event.
Meeting Planning - Negotiate Like A Pro
Meeting planners who negotiate successfully all have one thing in common: They know the value of their meeting from the hotel’s perspective. All too often, planners make the mistake of assuming that because their annual convention is valuable to their organization, it must be valuable to the property. But that’s not always the case.
Remember that a piece of business is only valuable to a hotel if it provides profit — maximum profit, if possible. (The value of your meeting drops, for example, if any other group wants the same dates and is willing to pay a higher room rate or provide more food and beverage revenue.) So be sure to thoroughly analyze every aspect of your event — just the way a hotel sales manager would. The result will be power and confidence at the negotiating table. Here are seven major areas to consider in your analysis:
1. Corporate or Association Influence
Corporate meetings can be more attractive to hotels than association meetings for several reasons. For starters, they’re typically short-term and yield a higher average daily rate. Corporations also usually spend more on food and beverage than associations and are much better at estimating their room pickup since attendance is often mandatory.
On the other hand, corporations tend to cancel their meetings more frequently. Associations rarely cancel because their bylaws generally require them to convene once a year and their annual meetings are, more often than not, their biggest revenue-generating events of the year. In addition, association meetings are often booked many years out, allowing hotels to forecast future years much better. An association’s annual meeting also can offer more guest room nights — a hotel’s largest profit area.
2. Number of Room Nights
You may think that the more room nights you can offer a hotel, the stronger your negotiating leverage will be. But that’s not necessarily a given. More important than the number of room nights is how those room nights fit into the business mix of the hotel. The transient market has been on the rise for the past several years, resulting in an overall drop in the number of rooms committable for the group market. So, in certain instances, a large meeting may actually be too large for a particular property’s group block allotment.
Fortunately, the number and variety of mid-range hotels geared toward the transient market (Courtyard by Marriott, Fairfield Inns, Hilton Garden Inn, etc.) is also on the rise, which means group room blocks are slowly inching their way back up again.
Most properties have three seasons. During high season, hotels typically have occupancy rates of 90 percent or better and, as a result, have little incentive to be flexible and make rate concessions. During shoulder season, occupancy rates usually fall between 70 percent and 89 percent, giving you a bit more negotiating power. You have the most bargaining leverage in low season, when occupancy dips below 70 percent and properties are pretty much willing to “do whatever it takes” to book the business. (Low season conditions also can occur when a hotel is hit with a short-term cancellation and needs to fill the hole quickly.)
A hotel’s seasons most often correspond with the seasons of the year. In Florida, for example, winter is high season and summer (especially August) is low season. But a hotel’s “seasons” also correspond with the days of the week. At most downtown and airport hotels, for instance, high season is Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday; off season is Friday and Saturday; and shoulder season is Sunday and Monday.
At resorts, high season is generally dictated by the weather and its relationship to the resort’s recreation focus. May through September could be high season at a midwestern resort, low season at a desert resort, and shoulder season at a ski resort. (In gaming destinations like Las Vegas, weekends are high season and weekdays are shoulder season.) And if you meet over a holiday, you are definitely in low season at most hotels.
4. Food and Beverage
Food and beverage has gone from being a break-even line item for hotels in the ’70s and early ’80s to their second-largest profit center. So the more F&B revenue you can offer a property, the more valuable your piece of business becomes. Using post-convention reports, calculate exactly how much your meeting is worth to the hotel in terms of food and beverage dollars. Don’t forget to include “hidden” revenues from affiliated groups, hospitality suites, exhibit floor concessions, and other trackable revenues that a hotel may be able to provide. After tallying up these miscellaneous sources of revenue, you may discover that you have more negotiating clout than you initially thought.
5. Space Requirements
Ideally, the amount of meeting space you need to book should be proportionate to the number of rooms you need to block. If you’re blocking 100 rooms in a 500-room hotel, but require all of the function space, for example, your event is not going to be perceived as valuable because it leaves the property with no space to sell to another group. If you find yourself in this position, look for ways to reduce your space requirements. Perhaps you can use your general session room for lunch. Or maybe you really don’t need 16 concurrent breakout sessions.
Your arrival/departure pattern should fit into the group pattern of the hotel — historically Sunday to Wednesday or Wednesday to Sunday. If your convention falls into one of these time frames, its value automatically increases. If you want to arrive on Tuesday and depart on Saturday, however, its value significantly decreases since the property would most likely have to break apart a standard date pattern before and after your meeting.
7. Opportunities for Ancillary Revenues
The more opportunities you create for your attendees to spend money, the greater the value of your business to a hotel. Properties in gaming destinations love to see open afternoons and evenings. Resorts want your attendees to utilize their spa, golf course, and other extras. If your program runs from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., the hotel knows those facilities will not be utilized. Other areas to consider are in-house service providers such as a destination management company or audio-visual company, which typically give a portion of their revenues to the property.
Once you have a handle on the true value of your meeting to the hotel, you are ready to negotiate. Begin by compiling two lists: one of your needs (items that are not negotiable) and one of your wants (items that you would like to augment your event). An example of “needs” might be a specific number of guest rooms, a rate no higher than $140 a night, a general session room that seats 1,500 people, and 12 breakout rooms accommodating 200 people each theater-style. Your “wants” might include a complimentary breakfast for your board of directors, limo transportation for your keynote speaker, and six suite upgrades. Always negotiate your needs first. If the hotel can’t meet these basic requirements, move on to the next property on your list. When negotiating your wants, remember that the hotel has to turn a profit. Your “wish list” should be reasonable, based on the value of your meeting, and not so extensive that the hotel decides to take another piece of business over yours. Also keep in mind the three main factors that come into play when negotiating with a hotel or any other supplier: 1) time, 2) information, and 3) power.
Recognize time as an investment. Don’t expect to select the site for your next meeting in a day. (There may be times when your meeting fits well into the first destination you call, but don’t expect this to happen often.) Expect to invest a significant amount of time researching various destinations and properties as well as analyzing the value of your meeting. Only then will you be able to negotiate successfully. Listen for key indicators to get the upper hand. Every salesperson has performance goals. So if a hotel sales manager indicates a sense of urgency by saying, “I could really use the contract back by the end of the week” or “What is it going to take to get this done by the 26th?,” it most likely means that he needs your piece of business to meet a quota or secure his performance bonus. As a result, those few remaining contract points or concessions that you still haven’t obtained may be in reach if you can address the hotel’s need to close the deal quickly.
Remember, this works in reverse too. If you are behind schedule in selecting a site for your annual convention and tell the sales manager that you need to sign a contract by the end of the week, don’t expect to close the conversation and be successful with: “And by the way, can I have three more dollars off the rate and six limo transfers?”
You set the clock. Don’t allow time to become your enemy. Never begin the process of negotiations or allow someone else to force you into a scenario where, due to lack of time, you agree to unfavorable terms just to get it done. At the same time, don’t draw the process out once you have a fair agreement.
Concessions are made when time is running out. A sales manager has no added incentive to make concessions at the start of the negotiation process when he knows you are looking at seven cities and 21 hotels. He does have incentive, however, when he is one of three finalists and this is the last shot at earning your business…and if he thinks you may walk away from the negotiating table if your requests aren’t met. Very few hotels, after all, are willing to lose an important piece of business based on two suite upgrades or not wanting to provide a complimentary newspaper delivery.
Know their business. Before you can sell the hotel on the value of your meeting, you need to know how the hotel makes its money and what its “hot buttons” are. (Did you know, for example, that the profit margin on hotel rooms can be 70 percent or more, food can be in the low 20-percent area, and beverages are over 70 percent?) Only then can you show the strengths of your meeting and how it fills the hotel’s needs. Ultimately, only meeting planners who provide the best historical data on their events that address the overall value of their meeting to the hotel get the best deals. Know your meeting. A sales manager who has been in the industry for six months may not be familiar with your organization or understand the significance of your piece of business. As a result, it’s up to you to continually prove the worth of your meeting.
Volume. The more business you can give the hotel, the more negotiating power you have. If you can book two meetings — the annual convention and perhaps a board of directors meeting, for example — you will have more leverage than a planner looking at the same dates who can only offer the property one event. If you know you have or can influence multi-year bookings or multiple meetings, bring these to the negotiating table.
Competition. If a sales manager thinks there’s no competition, there’s no reason to offer you the best possible rate or make any other concessions. On the other hand, if a hotel knows it’s competing against two or three properties, it will be much more likely to sharpen its pencil to offer you the best deal possible. If too many hotels are in the final running, however, a property will be less likely to compete aggressively.
Flexibility. The ability to be flexible automatically puts you in a position of power. If you can change your dates slightly, add another food and beverage function, live without 24-hour holds on all meeting space, or switch from classroom to theater-style seating, you may very well boost the value of your piece of business.
The ability to walk away. Even when both parties have done everything they can to attempt to create a win/win situation, you may still find yourself short of your negotiation goals. You must be willing to walk away. Remember, every hotel has a “walk-away rate” as well.