By Leanne Calderwood
When meeting planners are tasked with sourcing and choosing a hotel or venue for their event, the decision on which hotel is best for their group should not be taken lightly. All hotels seemingly offer a similar product – guest rooms, meeting space, hotel pool, restaurants – however not all hotels are the same.
When evaluating hotel options, a planner should always go back and consult the goals and objectives of the meeting. With each objective, carefully weigh whether that particular hotel will meet those specific objectives. Below are a few typical meeting goals and recommendations as to what type of venue may work best for your group based on your unique criteria.
A primary goal of any conference is the networking that occurs between peers. Depending on the space available, some venues may be a better fit for networking than others. Try to find a venue that offers multiple on-site outlets such as restaurants, lounges and hospitality suites that will encourage networking to occur at the venue outside of the formal agenda hours. If possible, try to keep your delegates at one host hotel versus several locations. This will allow all attendees to connect and network at one location during their time at the meeting. If possible, build opportunities into your program for networking. If there is a need to go off-site during your program, try to create opportunities to go as an organized group, or smaller groups that can meet up at the end of a function. If your chosen hotel does not have on-site outlets or nearby restaurants, your delegates can possibly venture out on their own and miss out on networking opportunities.
Business, business, business!
If your delegates are attending a meeting to “get things done,” ensure the environment you choose is conducive. Tempting your delegates with a spa and golf course property may take their focus away from the business tasks at hand. Ensure your venue has a few on-site outlets or nearby restaurants so as not to lose valuable time travelling to and from dinner venues. Also check to ensure the Internet connectivity in the meeting rooms and guest rooms is strong. “Complimentary Internet” does not always mean good Internet, so ensure your team has good bandwidth in their meeting space and guest rooms.
Rewards and incentives
Is your conference a way of rewarding your teams for a job well done? This is where your spa and golf resorts are a great fit versus the airport location. Also, going to a coastal town versus a big city may lend itself to the rewarding feel you are trying to deliver for your delegates.
Networking can take place anywhere – a ballroom, a hallway or even the hotel coffee shop. Business is best done in meeting spaces without distraction, along with good technology. Idea exchange is a bit different in that you are coupling the two, networking and business. Strive to find venues where the flow from one meeting room to the next is easy, and where meeting spaces have ample room for delegates to roam and connect in different areas. Incorporate the foyers into your meeting flow design and possibly utilize the hotel’s outdoor spaces.
If you are planning an association meeting and your main goal is to attract new members, location is key. Hosting a conference in a destination near potential members can contribute to meeting your new member goal. It will also offer budget-friendly options to entice participation and attendance.
Ease of access
Are most of your delegates coming from other locations? Ease of access and lift into airports may drive your attendance. Flight costs into different locations may prevent some budget-conscious delegates from attending, something to keep in mind when selecting your meeting destination.
Corporate social responsibility
For many organizations, corporate social responsibility and accountability back to their membership or stakeholders can also determine the location of the event. Having the meeting near company headquarters sends a message that you support the local economy. With the Canadian dollar losing strength in recent months, holding your meeting at home is also more cost-effective.
Luckily, our world is a vast and interesting place, with numerous destinations to be explored and great hotels to play host. You will likely find many options that meet all your meeting goals and objectives – and if so, then what? How does one choose the hotel or the destination that is the best option? Here are a few factors that could place certain destinations or hotels above the rest, when all else is equal.
- Financial incentives: Occasionally, Convention and Visitors Bureaus may offer financial incentives for your clients to book meetings at their destinations. Typically, you can use the incentive to fund other expenses, such as off-site venue costs, transportation and team building activities.
- Hotel incentives and concessions: Sometimes it’s the “soft goods” that hotels offer that can make a big difference to your bottom line. Upgrades to deluxe suites for your VIPs, amenities, complimentary rooms based on pickup, and room rebates can all potentially impact your bottom line greatly.
- Technology: You may think technology is only about Internet access, but over the past few years it has become so much more. Is your chosen hotel reactive to social media and instant feedback? How “fast” is the Internet speed? Some hotels offered tiered Internet packages – one for basic email, and one for increased data usage including streaming video. Take a look at your delegate demographics – are most of your attendees “young at heart” and require constant connection? If so, you will want the technology and Internet speed needed to support them and this may drive your hotel selection alone!
- The team: While the quality of the property and the real estate is very important to your meeting, without the people your program will not be a success. This starts with the responsiveness and openness of the hotel sales team and spans all the way to the amazing talents of the conference services team and the food and beverage team. The talent of the sales team is easy enough to assess in the event you have been in communication with them from the beginning of the RFP process, but consider setting up a meeting with key staff members to give you peace of mind that you’ve gone with the right team for your program.
For some meeting planners, the decision to choose a hotel takes a backseat to choosing the destination. Once again, going back to your goals and objectives for the meeting can help determine the destination which is just as important as the actual facility. Your goals and objectives will not only drive these decisions, but also set you up for success for your meeting.
About the author
Leanne Calderwood is Director, Global Accounts at HelmsBriscoe. You can contact at email@example.com.