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We have all been waiting to hear this good news. A report from the World Travel & Tourism Council states 2012 will be a banner year for travel. Read more here.
Indianapolis has never been as exciting as it is right now. The city is beautiful and the visitors are smiling. There will be more smiles next Tuesday based on Price Waterhouse predictions. See what they have to say
Check out this article from Successful Meetings magazine to help meeting professionals to be more responsible in their very important roles.
There are many creative individuals who have started an event planning business only to find it was not for them. Most discover when they fail to deliver the event as expected by the client that event planning is not the glamorous job they had expected. A great deal of work, education, experience and creativity is required. We would like to share some tips on how to find a good event planner.
When you begin your search, start with some research by talking to event facility managers, caterers and others suppliers used by event planners. You may find these eight tips helpful.
You can save time hiring an event planner. In most cases you will get more for your money when you hire an event planner. In this article are more reasons why you should hire an event planner.
If you want to assure your event will be a success, contact Meeting Services Unlimited or call us at 317-841-7171.
By Debbie Locklear
The key to pulling off a successful meeting hinges on a number of elements. However, the primary item for success is advanced meeting planning.
Projects that have been organized with short lead-time will typically reflect some of the same characteristics. The most notable one, due to the meeting planner racing around in all directions, develops an ineffectual performance and potentially can alter the effectiveness and profitability of a meeting.
To maximize your organization’s investment in a meeting, advance preparation is a necessity for producing the results desired.
Meeting planners, when given the time to do a thorough and accurate job, should clearly define the purpose and objective of the meeting. This first step permits the planner to develop a meeting that will generate positive responses from the attendees.
Through advanced meeting planning, more time is available to investigate a variety of options, such as locations, special activities, theme development, meeting format and production. The meeting planner won’t have to settle for something merely because it’s their only remaining option.
Negotiating for the best services and facilities at fair prices is possible when there’s as much time as possible available. Whenever the options are limited due to availability, negotiations will generally not be too favorable for the planner.
The goal of any professional meeting planner is to create original events to compliment the meeting’s objective. With plenty of advanced planning, a planner has the opportunity to be creative. Nothing quite inspires a meeting planner like the ability and freedom to produce a meeting that is so unique in design that it stimulates enthusiasm in the participants.
Promotional plans can be useless without the proper amount of lead-time. If the goal is to generate attendance at the meeting, time is required to promote it properly. The promotional plan should include a pre-attendee analysis (ask attendees what it will take to get them to the meeting), a date saver (a method to announce the date of the meeting), a teaser (a mailer that generates interest) and the registration brochure.
While developing a meeting requires time, it is worth the investment. There is a universal law that applies to meeting planning as well as other situations: You get in return what you put in.
Professional meeting planners suggest the following minimum time schedule for planning exceptional meetings:
One-day meeting – promotion needed – 8 months
One-day meeting – in-house attendance – 6 months
Two-day meeting – promotion needed – 10 months
Two-day meeting – with activities – 12 months
Three-day meeting and up with activities – 18 months
In short, maximize your meeting planning efforts by planning in advance. You will save money, but also produce a higher quality meeting, generate attendance and avoid the tension created when the planning process is accelerated.
By Debbie Locklear
1. Arrange for nightly turndown service for overnight guests. While this service is fairly standard, it can be an exciting tool of communication. Send a note with information about the next day’s activities with a plate of cookies and a glass of milk. Reinforce the theme of the meeting with specially designed chocolates wrapped and placed on a pillow.
If your meeting lasts for more than one night, the excitement this surprise creates is an automatic topic of conversation. Providing opportunities for attendees to interact is vital to the success of the meeting.
2. A coffee break can lack imagination – the same old soft drinks, coffee and sweet roll syndrome. Budget constraints can play a role in how extraordinary the break is, but with a little preplanning and assistance from the facility, some energy and excitement can take place. It is a break – a time to refresh the mind and body.
If the budget will not permit the purchase of extra break items, arrange to have the luncheon dessert served during the break. This simple alteration is a refreshing and pleasant treat for attendees.
For a psychological change, have the hotel decorate the break table with greenery, flowers or perhaps a décor that will compliment the items being served.
Just for fun, have the soft drink cans displayed so they spell out the organization’s name or logo. This will never fail to generate conversations.
During breaks, try serving items such as fruit, ice cream bars, cookies and milk or yogurt. The change will aid in the relaxation of the attendees which will allow them to use the break as a refresher.
To energize the attendees, incorporate a stretch break conducted by a fitness expert into your program. This will increase their level of productivity during the next portion of the meeting and is added at little or no extra cost.
3. To meeting planners, keeping up with what’s “hot” goes beyond being a mere avocation – it’s an essential part of the job. These days, more meetings include a special event than ever before. Theme parties are especially popular and change in design faster than hemlines.
Some favorite theme ideas that encourage interaction are Monte Carlo nights. This type of high-energy activity will allow each attendee to participate in a variety of activities where they feel most comfortable.
Movie Star Parties (with real stars or with impersonators) create a fantasy atmosphere that relaxes attendees after a long day. An audience can be entertained and allowed to participate in a “Name That Star” contest, with prizes for the winners. “Look-A-Like” contests can be successfully conducted when advance notification and specific instructions are given to attendees.
Themed event ideas are plentiful and more planners are beginning to recognize the benefits and impact these activities have on the attendees. In order to be sure your event or theme is right for your organization, a few things should be considered. These considerations are what help to create an activity that is best suited for your audience.
- What is the purpose of the event?
- Determine what the objective is – What do you want to happen because of this event?
- What are the ages of the attendees?
- What percentage of the attendees are men, women or children?
- What is the profession of the attendees?
- Is the facility capable of accommodating your needs for the event?
- How much time is available for the event?
- How much set-up time do you have?
- What is the budget for the event?
With all of this information gathered in advance, you should have an easy time identifying the perfect event for your group. This is a procedure many planners do not give enough attention to. Information gathering will set you apart from the amateurs.
4. Another area that can be inconvenient and annoying to attendees is the on-site registration process. While long lines are often unavoidable, the wait can be made enjoyable. Incorporate one of these ideas into your next program and observe a more relaxed, happy attendee.
Arrange to have a strolling magician in the registration area. The sleight of hand entertainment will help the attendees forget about the inconvenience.
You may want to try a music group, possibly a small choir from a high school. The result is the same. The distraction keeps the attendees’ minds off of the fact that they are standing in line.
These ideas are effective, but consideration should also be given to the placement of the registration area. Logistically, the registration table or counter should be easy to see. Have the group name clearly identified, allow for free flowing movement of attendees, and have the area staffed adequately.
If you have not made the effort to accommodate your attendees in every possible fashion, the endless complaints will haunt you.
To be successful in the meeting planning industry, be creative, know your resources and ask if your suppliers can do anything that your imagination can create. You may come up with winning ideas for you, your organization and the attendees.
By Debbie Locklear
Knowing the value of your group’s annual business to the hospitality industry is the first step to take to maximize your potential to save on expenses. Before contacting any suppliers to discuss your meeting, write a list that will give you answers to the following 20 questions.
- How many overnight rooms have been occupied, per night?
- What percentage of the rooms are doubles, singles and suites?
- If your group has a history of last minute cancellations and no-shows, what is the percentage for all nights?
- Does your group typically need early check in or late check out?
- What hotel services does your group normally use? (i.e. Room service, valet parking, dry cleaning and laundry services, long distance and local phone calls, movies, dining room and bar service, business office usage, etc.)
- What do you typically spend on catered food and beverage functions with the facility?
- Do your dinner functions include hors d’oeuvres and/or appetizers?
- Do you have a host/open bar at any of your events?
- Are the dates of your meeting flexible?
- How many people usually fly to your meeting?
- What type of audio-visual equipment do you use for your meeting?
- What type of signage and banner needs do you have?
- What is the average age of your attendees?
- Do you have suppliers to your industry who have open hospitality suites?
- What is the revenue generated from the food and beverage purchased by your attendees for hospitality suites?
- What are your needs for meeting space? Is there a chance your needs could increase or decrease?
- What is your actual attendance at your meal functions?
- Does your group have any attendees with special needs?
- Are there any special dietary needs for your group?
- Do you have the options to schedule more than one year at a time?
Now, assuming that you have answers for all of the above questions, this is how the information will affect your ability to negotiate a fair contract.
Typically, a hotel facility is most interested in booking groups with overnight rooms. This is their largest source of revenue. Therefore, if you know how many rooms your group tends to occupy, you will be able to begin to build your groups value to the facility.
The number of double verses single occupancy rooms will give the hotel a good indication of the number of guests in the hotel and the facilities increased potential to sell more in their outlets (i.e. dining rooms, lounge, gift shop, etc.). This knowledge will allow the facility to estimate increased revenue in long distance and local phone charges.
When a group has a low cancellation and no-show percentage the facility is in a good position to fill your block prior to your cut-off date or the date all the guest rooms will be released for sale to the general public. At this point you should consider your risk of having the rooms in your room block sold by the hotel, prior to the cut-off date. This is not an action the hotel normally would take if your no-show and cancellation percentage is low. However, if your group happens to be one that has a high percentage of cancellations and no-shows, you will need to monitor your room block very closely. This is not to say that the facility still won’t sell into your room block. Therefore, negotiate a penalty to the hotel if they breach the contract and sell into your room block prior to your cut-off date.
If you find your group has a need to arrive prior to the published check-in time or depart after the published check out time, you should negotiate special arrangements. Your VIP rooms should be allowed to check-in or check out at a specified time and the hotel should secure an area large enough to accommodate all of your group’s luggage. Do not allow your guests to have their luggage at risk, by permitting the hotel to pile it up in a corner of the lobby.
If you find your group is a high volume user of the dining room at a particular time of day, negotiate to have adequate servers during that time and keep this information on hand because it does give your group value.
Know your food and beverage needs. If you are offering an open/host bar during one of your events, negotiate the purchase of liquor by the bottle. Typically, this is the most economical method of ordering. Your food and beverage needs give you the greatest value, after the overnight rooms.
If you have the luxury to be flexible on your meeting dates and the pattern of the week, you will find yourself in an ideal negotiation position. You will find the facility willing to compromise in ways they would not consider at a busier time.
Depending on the facilities relationship with their parking garage, you may find that if your attendees typically drive to the meeting, a special rate can be negotiated. Certainly, however, this is another revenue source for the facility and it contributes to your group value.
The use of audio-visual is also a revenue source for the hotel. If they don’t stock and manage their own audio-visual department they still receive a commission from the supplier they contract. Know that you do not have to use the facilities audio-visual company and have the right to seek lower prices. The fact that you will possibly use an outside company, will allow you to negotiate costs with the facilities’ supplier.
If you have hospitality suites sponsored by companies attending your meeting, inform the facility of the revenue they represent. Without your group’s business, the facility would not have the revenue from the hospitality suites. This knowledge grants your group more value.
Know your meeting space needs for each day and be as specific as possible. If you have a tremendous need for meeting space and a small need for overnight rooms, the negotiation process is more complicated.
If you know you have attendees with special needs, you should be certain the facility is in compliance with the American Disabilities Act. You may also negotiate for special equipment needs to accommodate your attendees.
Knowing your group’s dietary habits is important when you begin your negotiations. If you find your group prefers a vegetarian option, negotiate a menu(s) to meet your needs. There are some catering services that have no flexibility, creativity or customer service standards to help you meet your needs following the signing of a contract, so do not leave the menu selection process to chance.
If you have the option to schedule more than one year at the facility, offer them a multiple year contract and see how this strengthens your negotiation power. If it does nothing for your groups contract, don’t give that facility more than a one-year contract.
Negotiating does not begin and end with the facility. Any supplier to the industry is open to negotiations. Once you have the knowledge of the value of your business you will successfully negotiate contracts with any supplier. The key point is to be fair in your negotiations and to insist the facility treat you the same.