Top 20 Challenges to Sourcing a Meeting - Groups360

Top 20 Challenges to Sourcing a Meeting

Though the pandemic has created a whole new set of challenges, there are perennial issues that have long plagued event professionals while searching, sourcing and booking meeting space and hotel rooms.

In early 2020, Groups360 commissioned research based on in-depth interviews of meeting planners from corporations, associations and trade societies across the U.S. Our goal was to better understand your sourcing journeys to inform the ongoing development of GroupSync, a revolutionary new way to search, source and book hotel space.

Groups360 began in 2014 with the mission to make booking meetings as simple and direct as possible. GroupSync simplifies the process of sourcing for meetings, conventions, trade shows, and other events through proprietary matching algorithms, data-driven insights, and effective tools that empower meeting planners and hoteliers to make smarter, faster, more precise decisions.

We built GroupSync with the event planner in mind to give you transparency and control over your shopping experience. Here are the top 20 challenges to sourcing meetings as expressed by our industry colleagues, and the solutions you’ll find in GroupSync.

Challenge 1: You can’t easily find suitable destinations and hotels.

“I go to the internet and start searching, looking at different cities, going through their websites, going to the different hotels, finding out which hotels or conference centers are in that area, researching and going through those websites. I tend to do a lot of my own research.” —Trade association planner

Solution:  Old-school approaches to searching can take up an enormous amount of time that you’d rather be spending on the details of your event, such as crafting intriguing content and unforgettable attendee experiences. Google and other search engines lack the complex data required to effectively book groups for meetings and events.

GroupSync is a completely unbiased platform that aggregates a world of data to show you hotel properties, amenities, estimated future hotel rates, anticipated occupancy levels, available and relevant incentives, local weather, and other market insights you can’t as easily access anywhere else.

GroupSync’s inventory includes more than 200,000 properties across all hotel brands in 225 countries and territories around the globe. While our database offers maximum choice, our proprietary algorithms streamline the search to the destinations and hotels that best fit your needs according to your event dates, budget, and weighted preferences.

As a result, when you source through GroupSync, you receive targeted destination and hotel results. Meeting planners who use GroupSync reduce their sourcing time from an average of 75 days to 20 — that’s more than 50 days returned to your calendar to spend on more creative tasks.

Challenge 2: You’re still wrestling with low-tech tools to build your RFPs.

“I build my RFPs in Word. The more info you give hotels upfront, the better it is for negotiating, and things just go faster. I compile what destinations the meeting owner is considering, dates, profile, guestroom rates, function space.” —Corporate event planner

Solution: We all know habits can be hard to break, like using Word or Excel spreadsheets to track the myriad details associated with an RFP and hotels’ subsequent responses.

But there’s never been a better time to transition to a digital RFP platform.

GroupSync aggregates numerous sources of data to show you properties, amenities, estimated future hotel rates, anticipated occupancy levels, available and relevant incentives, local weather, and other market insights. This market data ensures that you know what to expect in a given city and across a certain caliber of hotels before you send out a single RFP.

GroupSync also allows you to build out your RFPs and save them as drafts that can be shared with your stakeholders, colleagues and peers. Get interrupted by a 20-minute phone call? Your RFP is still there waiting for you. Get interrupted by a global pandemic? You can build every RFP you need for future events and click send once as soon as you’re ready.

Challenge 3: You find it tedious to enter your RFP into legacy sourcing systems.

“I don’t like how RFPs work in Cvent — it’s an absolute nightmare. I don’t fill most of it out because a lot of it is just unnecessary information. I think Cvent was trying to cover their bases and say, ‘Here’s everything you could possibly put in an RFP.’” —Corporate event planner

“We use Cvent for event management but not for sourcing. If you don’t pay for Cvent, you have to build out your RFP every single time and answer all those individual questions. It takes a lot of time, and in my current role, I am a one-person team.” —Corporate event planner

“I so despise what they do online that I won’t fill it out. It’s too tedious. It goes over things that I just don’t need and takes too much time.” —Trade association meeting planner

Solution: Say you’ve already ditched low-tech RFP methods, only to discover the industry’s legacy sourcing platform is even more frustrating and inefficient. Maybe you didn’t know there were any other options. But that’s why Groups360 exists. We’re meeting industry veterans, and we’ve seen firsthand the need for something other than clunky, outdated event tech.

The GroupSync RFP process is much more straightforward. No endless fields of information you have to fill out over and over. You can save time by nailing the details and creating a more precise RFP. What’s more, hoteliers know that RFPs from GroupSync are better qualified leads, which means you receive the attention and response you need.

You can also use the Quick Search feature, which allows you to simplify your RFP process even further when you want to return to the same destination and/or property. This shortcut in GroupSync can save you even more time.

Challenge 4: Legacy systems charge various fees that drive up your costs.

“We left Cvent because we didn’t like being nickel-and-dimed. We started at $30,000 a year, but there was an extra fee for more than five administrators on the site, if we wanted a custom URL. By the time we had everything we wanted from our base package, we were paying $47,000.” —Corporate event planner

Solution: When you contract with legacy sourcing systems, you have to meet a certain number of room nights to avoid paying a subscription fee. And without that contract, you can’t add in the contact information for your partner NSOs. GroupSync, on the other hand, is free to qualified planners for searching, sourcing, and booking venue space and hotel rooms — no subscription fees or contracts or minimum room nights required.

Challenge 5: Your search results in legacy sourcing systems are often paid ads.

“I know what’s going on. Cvent takes money from hotels who promote themselves on the platform. It’s not just 100% your results, right? The first 10 are hotels that paid to advertise with them.” —Corporate event planner

“I know that hotel properties pay Cvent to be placed higher in the search results. That’s a turnoff. We take it for what it is, it’s a marketing piece.” —Trade association meeting planner

Solution: When sourcing in GroupSync, you won’t see paid placements, ever. Destination and hotel search results are based exclusively on your event dates and stated priorities. Both destinations and individual hotels are scored according to how well they match your needs and preferences. This SyncScore — a compatibility score from 0 to 100 that shows how well they match your weighted preferences — recalibrates whenever you alter your preferences to show you the best choices for your stated needs.

In GroupSync, you have the option to see hotel properties offering incentives for your group business, but only those that are active during your event dates and relevant to your group will appear in search results. When you’ve selected a hotel with incentives, those incentives will automatically be attached to your RFP.

Challenge 6: Legacy systems and other search tools often have unreliable hotel data.

“Cvent isn’t always accurate because they’re relying on venues to provide information. But it would be really nice from a meeting planner perspective to know when I contact a property that they’re going have availability because their data was just updated last weekend, and it’s accurate.” —Corporate event planner

“I don’t trust a lot of the stuff that’s on Cvent. Floorplans can be completely misleading. But the same on their hotel websites, square footage is never accurate. When you look at the meeting space, hotels change constantly, and the data is only as good as the people who go in and update it.” —Corporate event planner

Solution: GroupSync’s hotel database is integrated with major hotel brands to ensure property data is regularly updated from the brands’ own data sources. And we’re working to become the first platform on the market with real-time room availability, beginning with direct booking for meeting space for smaller, less complex meetings.

What’s more, given the pandemic’s effect on hotel closures, GroupSync currently displays up-to-date alerts on suspended operations for nearly 9,000 properties globally. When you source in GroupSync, you will see an icon in your search results inviting you to view more information about a particular property. A pop-up announcement will display dates the hotel may be closed or out of service, but only if the closure falls within your stated event dates.

Challenge 7: You want the choice to stay hands-on or outsource in a time crunch.

“I’m old-fashioned, and I don’t like to give control away to a third-party. I like to oversee the whole event and have complete control. With third-party, you’re relying on them to negotiate, but they don’t have the investment that I do in my company. All the revenue and potential loss with each event falls fully on my shoulders.” —Trade association meeting planner

“The only time I utilize a third-party is if I am completely buried and can’t get to every item on my list for the week. Otherwise I prefer to do my own research and talk directly to the venues so that they are clear on our needs and wants.” —Trade association meeting planner

Solution: Groups360 offers two options for sourcing in GroupSync. You can use the platform to search, source and contract venue space and hotel rooms on your own, and we support you with user guides, short and simple training videos, and full access to our Customer Success team for questions or technical difficulties.

For those occasions when you’re pressed for time, or if you simply don’t want to handle sourcing on your own, our Meetings Advisory team can do the legwork for you. Our staff has decades of experience working in meetings and events at large convention hotels — they have unique insights to the business for identifying unique opportunities and negotiating great rates.

Challenge 8: You have to send an RFP just to get an idea of pricing.

“I look at the most important piece in our proposals, which is usually our hotel room rate. I am up front in our RFPs. I tell our brands to not even send proposals if it’s not going to be within $20. We can’t negotiate that down. But sometimes they will come in $50 to $100 over our room rate and those just go in an automatic ‘No’ pile.” —Corporate event planner

“You have to contact the hotel to get more information, but what I don’t get is a good comparison. Cvent doesn’t give you pricing. Each hotel sets its own pricing, but maybe we could have a price range, something where it says, ‘This is four money symbols, this is two money symbols.’” —Corporate event planner

Solution: GroupSync helps you find destinations and hotels within your budget before you ever send out a single RFP. One of GroupSync’s defining features is the price predictor tool, powered by an exclusive partnership with STR, the hotel industry’s most trusted data repository.

When you evaluate a destination, the GroupSync market estimate displays a range of estimated future hotel rates based on your event dates and hotel star rating — as far as 10 years into the future. This graph helps you visualize the daily price fluctuations so you can see dates near your preferred set, which may be more cost efficient.

Beneath the market estimate are historical occupancy trends for transient and group travelers. High group or transient occupancy in a given market during your desired dates means less flexibility in hotel rates. Groups360 wanted to give event planners insider data earlier in the process to provide unprecedented transparency and clarity for making better, quicker decisions in the sourcing process.

Challenge 9: It’s difficult to figure out meeting space capacity.

“Cvent asks you what size rooms you need in square feet, versus asking you how many attendees you’re having and what kind of AV you have. We can have 90 people in the room or 180. Cvent doesn’t give you flexibility.” —Corporate event planner

“I have to calculate square footage because I don’t know how much I need. Do we need 2,500 square feet because I have 50 people? It’s just a lot of math. I would love if something just did that for me.” —Corporate event planner

Solution: Other venue sourcing platforms ask how much square footage your group needs. GroupSync is the only sourcing platform with a built-in space calculator. Simply select the room configuration — such as banquet, classroom, theater or reception — and input the number of attendees. You can also input needed exhibition space if you’re producing a trade show. GroupSync then calculates the minimum square footage needed and eliminates the properties that can’t physically accommodate your group.

Given the challenges of planning during a pandemic, you now have the added ability to factor in social distancing into these calculations by selecting between two options. When you select Moderate Capacity Reduction, the amount of square footage needed per person is increased by 30% on average. When you select Significant Capacity Reduction, the amount of square footage needed per person is increased by 50% on average. More enhancements to the social distancing feature will roll out soon.

Challenge 10: The ongoing pandemic has forced you to change your meeting strategy.

“The pandemic has been an absolute nightmare, a circus. And a big monetary loss for so many companies. There’s also the fear of liability. No one is comfortable making decisions at this point. Everyone’s erring on the side of caution and going day by day.” —Corporate event planner

“As far as events and meetings we’re having to date, some are still moving forward, and some have been canceled. For future events, senior management is continuously monitoring what’s happening before making that decision. They’re doing it meeting by meeting pretty much day by day regarding what we may need to postpone or cancel.” —Professional society meeting planner

Solution: Many event planners who once planned several events of substantial size are now faced with producing multiple simultaneous meetings in different regions. GroupSync simplifies the complex sourcing process associated with this new approach.

In GroupSync, you can establish a profile with essential details and workflow preferences to populate all your RFPs. Then, you can create an event entry that can be easily duplicated. The duplicate feature is available in every event status and allows you to save steps by copying the event details into a new event. GroupSync market data on rates and occupancy ensures that you know what to expect in a given city and across a certain caliber of hotels before you send out a single RFP.

After you’ve received responses, you can award your meetings to not just one but various hotels in the same market or multiple markets. For a series of successive events, you can still create the one RFP but then add alternate dates to represent the series. Read more for additional tips on sourcing for multiple meetings.

Challenge 11: You need to be able to search according to specific needs and preferences.

“I plan all my meetings in systems that give us a star rating or a AAA rating. There are guidelines in our industry because most clients won’t let you go above a four-star or diamond venue. I need the analytical ability to limit the level of luxury and automatically eliminate the five-star venues. I only look at three- or four-star properties.” —Corporate event planner

“I would love to go to one place. If I could just pop in the city and break it down by the size of the hotel, how many rooms, what their meeting space looks like. How far are they from an airport? We’re not allowed to go any more than a half hour from a major airport when we’re booking meetings. Something that would break it down.” —Trade association meeting planner

Solution: Under your event details, after inputting your rooms on peak and your arrival and departure dates, you can search by preferred destinations, average daily room rate, required meeting space, star rating powered by Trust You, weather trends, hotel brands, direct flights from certain locations, miles from an airport, and onsite amenities like golf, fitness centers, spas, and more.

After you’ve inputted your preferences, GroupSync requires you to rank two or more of these preferences by strength so the algorithm can deliver the destinations and properties that best fit your needs. Destinations and hotels won’t be filtered out based on your preferences, but they will be given a SyncScore — a compatibility score from 0 to 100 that shows how well they match your weighted preferences.

Challenge 12: You need help finding and evaluating destinations.

“Sometimes the client wants to look at a list of possible destinations, so I need a place with aggregated information so that I don’t have to go looking at each website for each city. If we do an event in an unfamiliar city and I don’t know what that city has to offer, I need something to give me a broader idea so I can explain to the clients what they’re looking for and the cost.” —Corporate event planner

Solution: In GroupSync under your event details, you can input preferred cities, landmarks, points of interest, or even specific places such as an office address to search nearby hotels. You can also leave that space blank if you don’t have anywhere in particular in mind.

After submitting your search, GroupSync presents results for your preferred destinations. The algorithm also produces recommended destinations that match your ranked preferences, such as hotel rates, amenities, or distance from an airport. On each destination page, you will see estimated future hotel rates, occupancy trends, and typical weather according to the dates of your event.

Challenge 13: 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. Cvent gives 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 Cvent. 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.

Challenge 14: You’re often unsatisfied with options provided by other sources.

“I recently sourced Wyoming, but there weren’t a lot of big brand hotels there. Since my usual brand partner couldn’t help me, I had to search on my own to determine which properties to send the RFP to.” —Trade association meeting planner

“CVBs are really helpful for gathering information based on a location, but I like to double-check their work. And if I don’t get a great response from the CVB, I then have to reach out to hotels individually.” —Corporate event planner

Solution: GroupSync’s inventory includes more than 200,000 hotels across all brands in 225 countries and territories around the globe. If you can find the hotel online, you can find it in GroupSync.

GroupSync also aggregates historical hotel industry data, updated hotel listings, and Google geographical information to show you properties, amenities, estimated hotel rates, anticipated occupancy levels, available and relevant incentives, local weather, and other market insights you can’t as easily access anywhere else.

Meeting planners who use GroupSync receive targeted destination and hotel results to save time on searching and sourcing. While our database offers maximum choice, our algorithms streamline the search to those that best fit your needs, according to your event dates, budget, and weighted preferences. The result is a more precise RFP to more targeted hotels that best fit your program.

Challenge 15: You need help narrowing down too many options.

“Cvent has so many hotels that you have to work to narrow the funnel, and you always end up missing that one that you should have looked at. Good opportunities seem to fall through the cracks, but you only find out afterward when somebody suggests it to you. I’d like a magic bubble that says, ‘If this is what you’re looking for, maybe you should look at these too.’” —Corporate event planner

“When I have so many options, I really need to narrow down my choices. We had an event for 12 people, so we only needed a boardroom and a very small guest-room block, but we were in New York City where there are thousands of hotel options with that space.” —Corporate event planner

Solution: GroupSync gives you distinct advantages over legacy sourcing platforms. You see only the most relevant destinations and hotel listings based on your event dates, peak rooms, budget, meeting space needs, and stated preferences — no paid placements, ever.

Destinations and hotels are ranked according to your weighted preferences with a SyncScore — a compatibility score from 0 to 100. Below each listing is a legend that indicates how the destination or hotel matches your indicated priorities. If an icon — such as the number of hotels in a market, rates, weather, direct flights, distance from airport, or amenities — is bold, the destination or hotel meets your needs. If an icon is shaded gray, it does not.

You can sort recommended destinations by score or the number of hotels that can accommodate your group. You can also easily filter hotel results based on name, brand, SyncScore, available incentives, meeting space, largest room or number of rooms.

Challenge 16: You want to keep your favorite NSOs in the loop.

“Our industry is very relationship-driven. Cvent takes 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, Cvent has me just send a document to her through a portal. If you ask NSOs, they would tell you they don’t like Cvent either.” —Corporate event planner

“Cvent takes 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. Cvent 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.

Challenge 17: 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.

Challenge 18: RFP responses aren’t accurate or thorough enough.

“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 Cvent, 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.

Challenge 19: You need an efficient way to compare hotel responses.

“We gather all the response information and place it in a chart so we can evaluate each property apples to apples, based on available dates and rates over those dates. We look at costs such as the average breakfast, lunch or dinner, anticipated AV needs, or how much money we would spend with their in-house company.” —Professional society meeting planner

Solution: In GroupSync, you can manage and compare your RFPs in one place to quickly narrow down your bids. When you select hotel proposals for comparison and click the Compare button, GroupSync consolidates and presents hotel responses as a comprehensive table of key data points. You can easily see your asking rate, the average market rate, the property’s proposed rate and more. This insightful data shows you whether the hotel’s proposed rate is fair compared to the market, even if the proposed rate happens to fall below your budget.

You can export key metrics of the hotels’ proposals into an Excel file to share with stakeholders, or you can compare responses in an RFP comparison table that can also be shared as a PDF.

Challenge 20: 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 the 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?

Request a GroupSync demo today.

Request a GroupSync demo today.