Meetings and events are about bringing people together to share insights, ideas and experiences, while accomplishing particular goals. The planning process involves innumerable staff members, stakeholders and suppliers who are each tasked with various logistical, creative and financial aspects of a given event.
Communication between the various parties is essential to the entire process, beginning with searching, sourcing and booking a venue. Many snags and snafus in sourcing and planning meetings can be traced to a lack of or breakdown in communication.
For this installment of our Planner Pain Points series, we’ve culled from recent research five ways that planners need clear and consistent communication to be effective. From better hotel responses to connected NSOs to informed stakeholders, an integrated technology platform will ensure everything you need to make critical decisions is well organized in one place.
1. You need an easy way to request bids from your favorite properties.
“If my stakeholder loves a certain hotel, I call that sales manager. It’s easier and less time consuming when they already know what square footage you need for an event you’ve already held there. [Legacy sourcing systems] give you a populated view, but it’s just time-consuming because you have to wade through them.” —Corporate event planner
“About 20% of the time we’re looking to contract with a hotel we’ve previously used, so we prefer to go right to the hotel rather than the CVB or [legacy sourcing system]. We send them a Word document with our RFP instead of filling out anything on their website.” —Trade association meeting planner
Solution: Many event planners rely on GroupSync’s recommendations for destinations and venues, but if you already know where you want to go — your favorite city or a long-standing hotel partner — you can use the GroupSync Quick Search feature.
Quick Search allows event planners to simplify your RFP process by skipping steps when you want to return to the same destination and/or property. Simply input your number of rooms on peak, arrival and departure dates, and the city, hotel or point of interest where you intend to hold the event. You and your hotel partner can easily share and collaborate on your RFP within GroupSync.
And now, for the first time in the industry, you can even book your group online — guest rooms, meeting space, catering and AV — in a single purchase with participating hotels, right in GroupSync. No RFP necessary.
2. You need to keep your favorite NSOs in the loop.
“Our industry is very relationship-driven. [Legacy sourcing systems] take the relationship component out of your business interactions. So instead of me talking to my NSO who’s supposed to help me get the best deal, help me when I’m having a problem, and be my advocate, [legacy sourcing systems] have me just send a document through a portal. If you ask NSOs, they would tell you they don’t like [legacy sourcing systems] either.” —Corporate event planner
“[Legacy sourcing systems] take away from our relationships with NSO reps and CVBs. Those folks don’t feel the need to do all the sourcing, they just need to be in the loop. [Legacy sourcing systems] should know about all my relationships and copy all my people, doing it through a single platform, instead of sending six different emails to six different people with the same RFP.” —Corporate event planner
Solution: Many meeting planners have long-standing relationships with preferred hotel brands and properties that have successfully hosted previous events. GroupSync doesn’t replace your favorite NSO or GSO — the platform serves as a way for both you and your hotel partners to collaborate more efficiently and effectively.
When you input your event details, you can search within single or multiple preferred hotel chains. GroupSync market data helps you narrow down properties to those most relevant to your event dates, preferences and budget so you can distribute a better, more informed RFP. Prior to submitting your RFP, you can input email addresses for your NSO or GSO contacts so that they are automatically copied.
GroupSync is integrated with major hotel brands’ lead distribution platforms, which makes it more efficient to route leads to the right people. Hotel salespeople can then respond to you within GroupSync in real time — where they receive the same transparency and market insight — making them more valuable to you with better collaboration and faster decisions.
3. You need more accurate and thorough RFP responses.
“I’m very careful in my RFP to hotels to indicate I need a minimum of 3,000 square feet, and repeatedly, I get back, ‘Oh, here’s a room with 1,600 square feet.’ But it makes me more aggravated than if they would’ve just started with, ‘I saw you need 3,000 square feet, but this is what we have. Is this an option or not?’ Or just don’t respond to the RFP.” —Trade association meeting planner
“When I send out RFPs through [legacy sourcing systems], the responses from hotels aren’t as thorough as when I send them directly to the hotel. I think the person was just trying to get the proposal done. The responses are very robotic. You can tell that they have their standard sales packet and they’re not offering concessions in the first response, like they do with a proposal that’s sent through a sales rep.” —Corporate event planner
Solution: Thanks to GroupSync features like the market estimate and space calculator, you know in advance the expected hotel rates in a given market, and your search results will have already eliminated any property that cannot physically accommodate your group.
GroupSync also asks targeted questions to populate your RFP with information such as your F&B minimum and historical spend so hotels can see the true value of your meeting and provide a thorough response. You can also add a description of your event and include up to two attachments with additional program details. As a result, you send out a much more precise and targeted RFP right from the start.
When hotels receive an RFP from GroupSync, it’s considered a certified market lead (CML) — a qualified prospect that automatically stands out from the piles of irrelevant RFP spam they often receive. Hotels love receiving a CML from GroupSync because not only do they know your meeting is likely a good fit for their hotel, but also it takes them only minutes to respond. The average hotel response time to a lead from GroupSync is 24 to 48 hours.
Most hotels convert only 3% of the RFPs they receive to booked business because so much of those RFPs are junk. The quality RFPs you send through GroupSync, however, convert 20% of the time. That’s because of the ease and completeness of your RFP, which makes it easier for you and the hotel to agree on a great deal for you both.
4. You need an effective way to collaborate with stakeholders.
“We send our recommendations over to our colleagues based on their needs. For some departments we know where they usually lean, so we present them with just three hotels instead of five to compare prices. The departments make the ultimate decision. But we certainly do make suggestions and guide them toward a decision.” —Professional society meeting planner
Solution: Communication to various stakeholders within your organization is key. GroupSync provides collaborative tools so you can send a summary of your search results to the meeting owner, supervisor or other executives involved in decision-making.
Need a recommendation from one of your event professional peers? You can send your search results to them as well for their input. Stakeholders and colleagues can also make comments on your search results within GroupSync. You can receive feedback or get buy-in on your initial results before you ever send out an RFP, which streamlines the process.
After you’ve submitted your RFPs, GroupSync then gives you the ability to share hotels’ responses with those same decision-makers in the different regions or markets in which you plan to have a meeting. You can export key metrics of the hotels’ proposals into an Excel file, or you can compare responses in an RFP comparison table. You can also share a PDF of the RFP comparison table with your colleagues.
5. You need to prove business value — yours and your events.
“Most people evaluate the success of an event by whether or not attendees and guests had a good time. But the meeting owner expects more than that. We have to demonstrate a strong business purpose for the meeting and an acceptable ROI for the expense.” —Corporate event planner
Solution: Meeting planners often feel undervalued and want to prove their impact. GroupSync provides you with tools and metrics to be more strategic in your sourcing process, save considerable amounts of time, and stay within your organization’s budget.
What if you could approach your corporation or association leadership and say, “There’s a way that I can improve our group bookings, develop and maintain our preferred hotel brand relationships, sharpen our budgets and pad the bottom line, while still improving productivity — all at no cost to the company.” Think they’d go for it?
Take a tour of GroupSync today.