So you have a meeting to plan and you don’t know where to begin. No worries – we’ve got your back. The first step in planning a company meeting is to research the venues to include in your request for proposal (RFP). Start by getting the meeting requirements from your decision-maker. Typically, these include dates, room rates and space needs. But I recommend a better approach that’ll save you time in the long run.
Go beyond the basics and collect ALL the information you need from the meeting owner at the outset. You’ll minimize the back-and-forth between your decision-maker and hotels. Plus, you’ll be able to create a detailed RFP in no time that’ll generate more relevant proposals so you can make your hotel selection faster.
Don’t know what other information to request? No problem – you’ll find everything you need in our list below.
CHECKLIST: Here’s What to Ask Meetings Owners
✓ First find out if the meeting dates are flexible.
In today’s tough climate, hotels don’t always have availability for your preferred dates. But they have other dates when they need to fill rooms. Often, a slight adjustment can open the door to availability. Hotels may even reward your flexibility by adding concessions.
For example, you might tell venues, “My preferred dates are XYZ, but I may consider another Monday – Wednesday pattern in a different week.” Or, “I might be open to a different pattern, such as Tuesday – Thursday within the same week.”
Providing additional date options can save you time and increases your chances of finding availability and more savings.
✓ Determine the number of attendees and sleeping rooms you need.
If this is a first-time meeting, you might not know exact numbers. But you still need a starting point – even if it’s a ballpark figure. Typically, a minimum of 10 guest rooms for at least one night allows the hotel to quote you a discounted group rate.
Is your number of attendees greater than your sleeping rooms? Find out if local attendees will drive in each day. This is important, so hotels can make parking arrangements for day guests and treat your group to a smooth VIP arrival.
✓ Get all location requirements.
Is proximity to another location important – like a convention center or your corporate office? Will most attendees fly to the meeting or drive? Having this information helps define your search.
When getting quotes from hotels, ask for the estimated drive time from the airport and other locations your attendees will travel from. Be specific about drive time versus mileage. In some cities, a 10-mile drive from the airport can put your attendees on the road for an hour or more in rush-hour traffic.
If most of the attendees will fly to the meeting, consider hotels near the airport. Airport hotels are often more affordable. Plus, many offer free shuttle service to reduce ground transportation costs. Urban areas are great for shopping and dining but expect to pay higher hotel rates for these conveniences.
✓ Understand the CVB Events Calendar.
In many destinations, time of year can have a big impact on meeting costs and hotel availability. Cross-check your dates with the CVB’s calendar of events. Make sure your dates steer clear of large conventions, events and holidays that could reduce availability and attendee participation.
✓ Know preferred brands and key amenities.
Does your company use preferred brands for meetings and events? What are the expectations for venue quality – 3, 4 or 5-star? Also find out if your meeting owner wants a specific type of property, like a resort or boutique hotel, or if certain amenities, such as golf or spa facilities, are important.
✓ Build credibility through past performance.
If your company has held this meeting before, get a detailed meeting history and go back at least two years. Providing these benchmarks below will demonstrate your meeting’s value to the hotel’s bottom line:
- Location where you held the meeting in the past
- Size of contracted room block (total room-nights committed in the contract)
- Actual pickup (total room nights used)
- Food and beverage spend
For a first-time event, provide history from another similar meeting to convey meeting value.
But what if your company has no meetings history? Then, focus on how you plan to drive attendance. For example, mention, “This is a mandatory meeting for all regional salespeople,” if that’s the case. Also describe your marketing tactics, number of potential attendees you are targeting, and top speakers confirmed for the event. Leveraging this information can help you get the venue you want at a better rate.
Make it Easy
This checklist will help you eliminate the back-and-forth and gather all the info you need for your RFP. Make it easy on yourself and use an RFP tech solution to help you check rates and availability quickly and narrow down your list of hotels within your budget.
Using Aventri’s free Venue Connect, for example, you can easily research meeting hotels, create an RFP and get meeting bids. You’ll receive hotel proposals within 24 – 48 hours. What’s more, the technology compiles all bids into a side-by-side comparative summary, so you can spot the best offer at a glance.