Tag Archives: meeting planner help

Planners Helping Planners: Your Questions Answered

Welcome to a new series on the blog where your meeting planning questions and dilemmas are answered by experts – other meeting planners! Comment below with your own questions. 

Q: How can I improve my vendor relationships?

A: It’s never too late to start forming good relationships with the facilities where you conduct business. 

For example if you are on a tight budget and are holding your meeting at a facility that is potentially oversold on housing, you have a great chance of negotiating an arrangement that is beneficial to both you and the hotel.

Contact your sales person or CSM and tell them you’ve heard they may be having some housing challenges and you’d like to offer them some help. If you are holding upgrade rooms, tell them you’d be willing to exchange your upgraded rooms for standard rooms in exchange a meeting comp. Suggest something you know the hotel will not cost them out of pocket (i.e., in-house technology, waiver of nonunion labor/delivery charges, comp room rental). Most of the time the hotel will be more than happy to negotiate because they will be able to happily accommodate both (or all) of their clients.

Submitted by: Tina Buehler, CMP Conference Planning Manager, with Q Center

Connecting Conference Goals to Conference Results

By Erik Schonher

You’ve probably set some ambitious goals for your 2017 conference(s).

They probably include quantitative goals such as attracting more attendees, generating more revenue, increasing the number of exhibitors, and selling more products in your on-site bookstore.

You may also have other more qualitative goals such as providing quality programming, adding new programming or tracks, and making registration operate more smoothly,

Like most things in life, what gets measured typically gets done, and this is certainly true for your meetings. So what are you doing to track results and gather data and insights that will help you improve your meetings for the future?

During the planning phase, you need to feel confident that the content of the conference is of interest to your prospect base and develop your promotion list. The use of data-analytics and data-modeling, in conjunction with more traditional forms of qualitative and quantitative research, will help you with these tasks. These tools help you aggregate data to develop the best content for your conference, create compelling messaging, and identify those traits that best represent prospective attendees which can be used to target prospects from internal and external list sources.

Once at the show, focus groups are a good choice to collect qualitative data if you want an in-depth sense of what some attendees are thinking regarding a few specific topics. The ideal focus group consists of 8-12 people. Aim for a mix that represents the geographic and tenure of your organization. Good questions to include are:

  • How did you make your decision to attend?
  • What other annual meetings do you attend and why?
  • What would make you choose our meeting over another?

An alternative to focus groups are attendee intercepts, where someone from your association randomly selects attendees on the floor of the conference to interview with a short list of questions. Be sure to develop a short and easy script for the interviewer. This is also a great way to develop fresh testimonials for marketing materials.

To answer questions concerning member responses to programs, on-site product purchases, and other criteria that can provide insight for future meeting elements and their related marketing strategies, you can use two techniques: surveys (online, paper, phone) and database analysis.

A survey, when constructed properly, offers you the ability to collect the hard data on an extensive or complex range of issues and provide a measure of confidence that the decisions you make based upon this data are good ones. These will typically be delivered by email, although today social media opens the door to data collection on a multitude of levels. As with any methodology, be sure to get responses from a group that most represents your overall market.

Finally, database analysis allows you to look at what people actually did. Who attended? Where did they come from? What sessions did they attend? Did conference attendee purchase more products from us than non-attendees? If so, from where: the show floor or the website?

Analyzing your data to make comparisons allows you to know who your most productive targets are. Given the amount of data you have and how many years it covers, through cluster analysis, regression analysis and other research techniques, you may be able to uncover the hidden trends and “linkages” from year to year that will help make your next conference even better.

Erik Schonher is Vice President of Marketing General Incorporated and is also the Corporate Engagement Officer for EurekaFacts, a research company providing market research, marketing analytics, social research and human factors located in Rockville, MD. He can be reached at (240) 403-4800.

New Question and Answer Series

Meeting planners have a wealth of knowledge, and are happy to share it! If  you have a burning question, comment below, and one of your peers will offer some advice!

Question: How can I improve my vendor relationships?

Answer: It’s never too late to start forming good relationships with the facilities where you conduct business.

For example if you are on a tight budget and are holding your meeting at a facility that is potentially oversold on housing, you have a great chance of negotiating an arrangement that is beneficial to both you and the hotel.

Contact your sales person or CSM and tell them you’ve heard they may be having some housing challenges and you’d like to offer them some help. If you are holding upgrade rooms, tell them you’d be willing to exchange your upgraded rooms for standard rooms in exchange a meeting comp. Suggest something you know the hotel will not cost them out of pocket (i.e., in-house technology, waiver of nonunion labor/delivery charges, comp room rental). Most of the time the hotel will be more than happy to negotiate because they will be able to happily accommodate both (or all) of their clients.

Answer Submitted by: Tina Buehler, CMP Conference Planning Manager, with Q Center

New Year, New Look

As the New Year gets underway, ConventionPlanit.com is ready with a fresh update to the website. If you have visited the site recently, you will notice a clean, streamlined new homepage design and improved navigational tabs to help direct users. The new ‘my meetings’ link allows you direct access to your RFP OrganizationSM charts from any page on the site.

The refresh to the website comes from direct feedback from the CP Advisory Council of meeting planners. The website is now more accessible, with full functionality available on mobile devices and iPads. You can truly check your RFP quotes from anywhere now!

Over the next several months, we will be unveiling many added features and improvements to the overall website and in particular, the search capabilities, which will soon allow users even more customization and freedom to narrow down destinations, facilities and service providers.

If you have suggestions of new features for the website, be sure to let us know by commenting below!

What Can a General Service Contractor Do for You?

TradeshowsPutting together an exhibition or tradeshow that appears to run seamlessly to attendees is actually the result of maximum effort on the part of many behind the scenes groups. Convention service contractors are this invisible presence.

They are in the business of servicing the needs of event organizers and can provide everything from exhibition management, signage, and booth building, to drayage, shipping, and the latest technology systems, plus much, much more. ConventionPlanit.com is now offering a more robust listing of convention service providers.

With expert knowledge in event and exhibit planning, General Service Contractors (GSC) provide the logistical support to make an event happen, down to the smallest detail. GSCs will help to vet vendors and will often provide recommendations for vendors directly to their clients. Their focus is on everything that makes an event great, especially bringing buyers and sellers together.

General Service Contractors are now going beyond the value proposition of just providing logistics, labor, and decorations for an event. Large event GSCs know that it takes more than just pretty decorations to make a successful event. They know that asking the right questions on the RFP will help them to solve challenges that their clients face. This can be as simple as reworking a floor layout to make a space more useable to knowing what technologies will be most appropriate for their client’s needs.

Bringing the latest technology to the shows improves the overall experience and perception of the show. “There’s an App” for most shows today and GSCs know how to incorporate the right technology to make each event successful. This will also help to build the attendee base.

Convention service contractors are evolving and changing to meet new demands in the marketplace, particularly related to new technology being used in connection with exhibitions. It would be impossible for each company, organization, or association to purchase the latest advances in technology each year, so convention service providers are key to being able to bring the future to their shows.

Getting the physical set up of the show right is just one aspect of the overall event. Managing the people side of the event is equally important. In addition, many events are a combination of both a tradeshow/exhibition and a conference and require extensive coordination of an educational program.  Meeting management companies play an important role in this regard. These companies help clients with site selection, online and on-site registration, speaker coordination, and housing.

General service contractors and meeting management companies can manage most of the details, but there are always the ones that slip by and have to be dealt with personally. Being away from all of the conveniences of the home office can make managing those last minute office tasks difficult. Many hotels have well appointed business centers to help. Premier hotels and convention centers around the U.S. now also have FedEx Office centers that can offer critical business services, including shipping needs. This is always a welcome service for receiving forgotten items or those that may be needed during the course of the show.

Convention service contractors help to make the process of organizing an event highly organized and coordinated.  Their expertise allows for the maximization of resources, while keeping client expectations and budgets in mind. They ensure that their clients are able to focus on their core competencies and don’t sweat the details.  Attendees reap the benefits of these behind the scenes workers and are presented with an outstanding experience, which in turn, helps clients reap maximum profits.

To contact a GSC, visit ConventionPlanit.com.

How to Plan an International Meeting

We all know planning a meeting can be a complicated process, and for many meeting planners, this process is further complicated if the meeting is international. Here are some tips from a session at HSMAI MEET National to help you get started.

Getting Started: Do Your Research

Familiarize yourself with the location(s) you will be visiting. Research the city, especially any cultural differences that may exist. Regardless of the location, you will want currency information, time zones, a list of holidays, metric conversions and a language translation tool handy. Tip: all of these tools are listed in the Global Tools section of ConventionPlanit.com.

Hotel Options
Global hotel chains tend to cater more to North American clients, and most will have an advocate based in the U.S. to aid communication. Utilize your existing representatives and connections to expand your choices. Tip: don’t forget to consider non-U.S. chains!

Rating Systems
Rating systems are different from country to country. Just because a hotel website says it is a 5 Star hotel does not mean it is a Forbes rated hotel. Ask what the rating criteria are, and conduct research on travel websites to obtain a greater understanding.

Down to Business: What’s Different?

Food and Beverage
For international meetings, breakfast is typically included in the room rate. Language will vary, so look out for these terms: ddr (daily delegate rate), standing luncheons, and private meal space instead verses restaurants.

Meeting Space
For North American planners, you will typically always have to pay a rental fee for meeting space. The larger the room, the greater the cost.

Because exchange rates are constantly changing, your budget will need to have flexibility to change with the rates. Deposits are non-negotiable when securing space for an international meeting. Many countries also require the costs to be paid with a corporate credit card. Be prepared with this prior to entering contract negotiations. Investigate your options regarding foreign taxes and VAT reimbursement. You are in luck -surcharges often appear only in the U.S.! Some vendors prefer to issue a “rebate” instead of a commission.

The process takes much longer, so have patience. Conducting the appropriate research comes into play here; make sure you are an educated partner. Your U.S. advocate, GSO or NSO can setup a conference call or virtual tour of the property.

For more assistance planning an international meeting, consider using ConventionPlanit.com’s RFP OrganizationSM. Your responses are tracked on an organized spreadsheet, and ConventionPlanit.com staff conducts the follow up. Comparing your responses in one format sounds like a language everyone can understand!

What Makes Millennials Tick

A reoccurring theme running through the PCMA Convening Leaders Conference held last month was how to improve inter-generational communication with the 18-30 year old segment of the meetings industry, a.k.a. The Millennials.

The PCMA Education Foundation funded an investigation into what this key audience wants in their meetings, conventions and events. The goal is to provide opportunities for planners to more effectively market to and satisfy this group of attendees.

The findings were certainly interesting. Here’s an outline of the results:

What do Millennials value in meetings?

  • “Edutainment” – education with entertainment
  • Engaging events and activities where participation will personally benefit them
  • Simple/concise meetings and service projects to an (often) short attention span

What drives Millennials to particiate in meetings?

  • Career networking and job opportunities
  • Rewards/incentives
  • Financial support

How do Millennials wish to see technology used in their meetings?

  • Internet integrated into presentations via visual effects and interactive games
  • Having Wi-Fi available
  • Using technology for team building

Which channels of communication do Millennials prefer?

  • Face-to-face
  • Email
  • Texting

This may be the most surprising result of the survey. In spite of their love of technology, Millennials prefer face-to-face communication and interaction over email or texting. They want to attend events in order to benefit from the obvious and immediate results that come with personal introductions and energetic discussions.

What does all this mean for meeting and event organizers? Just that you can put the following strategems into action to attract and retain the newest generation of attendees:

  1. Stage short, simple and structured meetings
  2. Help them connect via Wi-Fi at their meetings
  3. Make learning fun by employing gamification and visual learning
  4. Ensure individual impact by guaranteeing job opportunities and career coaching if they register
  5. Segment your audience as needs and expectations vary at opposite ends of the millennial age spectrum. Older members are less interested in social activities and more interested in being mentally challenged

For interested planners, complete results of the study can be found at go.pcma.org/GenYstudy.

Have you implemented any of these tactics? Are you a millennial? Do you agree or disagree with these findings? Comment below and let us know!

Track Your RFP Responses Easily

RFP OrganizationMeeting planners can now track RFP responses more easily than ever before with ConventionPlanit.com’s new virtual RFP Organization platform.

RFP Organization is now completely accessible to meeting planners via the ConventionPlanit.com website.  The service, now a year old, saves meeting planners time by having all of their RFP responses compiled on a spreadsheet.

Now, these same RFP responses are displayed in real time on an easy to read chart.

The response charts display only the criteria the planner requests, and can be customized for each meeting. Planners can even view responses from past meetings with the new online component.

The RFP process has been streamlined for hoteliers, as well – they can now respond to RFPs virtually, saving them valuable time.  This means planners will receive responses more quickly!

Planners interested in using RFP Organization for their meetings can get started here, or by calling 866-922-8988.

Take a Tour, Win a Prize

If you are reading this blog, the company ConventionPlanit.com definitely rings a bell – but do you really know how ConventionPlanit.com can help meeting planners?

ConventionPlanit.com is full of ways to improve meeting planner productivity and make the site selection process less stressful. 

Take a quick tour of the website to find out how, and receive a $25 American Express Rewards Card* in return!  

To register for a site tour, please contact joan@conventionplanit.com.

Rewards Cards available exclusively for meeting planners.

Organizing RFP Responses

One of the most tedious jobs for a meeting planner is organizing RFP responses from hotels.

Hotels often send information to meeting planners in their own formats, can forget to include pertinent information for the planners, and on occasion, send a proposal with the wrong organization’s name on the top…and the list goes on!

RFP Responses Piled Up

What is a crunched-for-time meeting planner to do?  Ask ConventionPlanit.com to help, of course.

ConventionPlanit.com now offers meeting planners RFP Organization.

We compile hotel responses for you in an easy to read spreadsheet so you can compare Apples to Apples (instead of Apples to Bananas).  You identify the important criteria for the spreadsheet, and we do the rest!

I highly recommend using this 100% free service to compile your RFP responses for any meeting planner short on time.

And if you find your self wondering what’s the catch?  Well, there isn’t one…it’s our way of saying thank you for using our website!

To get started, submit your RFP here and mention the RFP Organization Tool.

What do you think…will you use this new service?  What other service would you like ConventionPlanit.com to offer meeting planners? Post a comment and share!