The impact of short lead times in meetings and event management

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short lead times

By Maria da Cunha, CTC, CMP

Organizations are often focused on short-term economic planning where commitments to a meeting or event are confirmed last minute, often within 30 days of the event date. The 2008 financial crisis was a major contributor to the short lead times applied to meetings and events when inventory was readily available throughout the meetings and events industry.

Business operations have also changed or adjusted to different management strategies which have resulted in short lead times for a lot more events. This is has become a trend in some industries, such as pharmaceutical.

However, we are currently in a robust economic environment and the market has shifted to a seller’s market, where the buyer has less availability and price leverage as suppliers such as hotels and airlines have less inventory available within a short lead timeframe.

This does not mean that planning an event with a short lead time of 30 to 60 days will not offer some opportunities for the buyer and supplier.

There are positive and negative impacts in having short lead times to plan, organize and deliver a successful event. The following outlines some of the considerations associated with short lead times:

Planning the event

The planner will be scrambling to fit in the event amongst all other timelines and deadlines they may have for other events or activities. The implication here is that there is less time to research the best option, leaving the focus on getting available options that may or may not be the best fit for the event. Negotiating the best price and concessions may be compromised because of the short timeline and the emphasis on having the event confirmed as quickly as possible. In some cases, it may mean bringing in contract support staff to assist in the delivery of the meeting or event, which will incur additional cost to the organization.

Supplier perspective

The supplier may be an airline, meeting and event venue or ground transportation company. In all cases the short timeline will have an impact on availability, pricing and concessions for the event.

short lead times

The airline inventory is managed so that the least expensive options are available to those that book well in advance of the travel date. In addition, if a group is travelling, it may be a challenge to get everyone to the destination as seats will be limited on the best flight options. The travellers may have to endure longer travel times to meet the meeting or event starting timelines.

The meeting or event venue such as a hotel may have a gap in their availability where a last-minute event can fit in nicely. In this case, the supplier is motivated to offer good concessions to confirm the group. This presents the best opportunity of having a short lead time for a meeting or event. The negative impact may be that the preferred supplier is not available or the space required is not ideal, partially compromising the agenda. For example, the hotel may have meeting space but no lodging space available. The price may be higher due to limited options available to the organizer.

Ground transportation and other ancillary suppliers that may be required for the meeting or event may be scrambling at their end to provide optimum service due to a short lead time. It may lead to higher costs, less opportunity or leverage to negotiate price and concessions and potentially compromised service delivery.

Regardless of the challenges that may be present to book, organize and deliver a short lead time meeting or event, the planner will absolutely do their best to maximize the value and quality of the event, albeit under costlier and more stressful constraints.

Short lead times will not go away as there will always be meetings and events that will be planned under last-minute conditions. Here are a few things to consider in maximizing the time and value for short lead time in events:

  • Educating the organization decision makers on the pros and cons of planning events with short lead times will go a long way to ensure that maximum value is realized at all levels
  • When sending out the Request for Proposal, be as concise as possible to ensure that the response is what you need to assist in making a quick decision
  • As there will likely not be much time to negotiate, have the supplier provide the best possible offer up front
  • Cultivate strong relationships with suppliers and convention and visitors bureaus that will result in a higher ability to design and deliver meeting and events quickly

Short lead times are here to stay. Change is constant and the best thing to do is be better prepared to manage your clients’ requests and to react quickly.

About the author

Maria da CunhaMaria da Cunha, CTC, CMP is a subject matter expert in the meetings, events and incentives industry with over 25 years in the creation and management of meetings, events and incentives.  Maria has successfully executed programs all over the world. As a member of the SITE (Society of Incentive Travel Excellence), Maria served as President of the Canadian SITE Chapter in 2005 and 2006. She is also a member of MPI, (Meeting Professionals International).  Maria has been a speaker at several industry events and serves on various committees and boards.

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