You’ve probably heard the slogan, “Small meetings lead to big ideas.” And we couldn’t agree more! For destinations, small meetings lead to big business. These smaller meetings play a vital role in the success of a destination. Small meetings are like the mortar between the bricks in the meetings industry, holding everything together. Understanding the important role small meetings play and the value they hold will greatly increase your negotiating clout.
We know that sometimes small meetings may be harder to book, because of their shorter booking window thus reducing opportunities for prime space and preferred dates. But if you know how to navigate the waters, there are deals to be had and partners to help you! It comes down to what you know and how you use that information to your advantage.
A small meeting is usually defined as a meeting requiring between 10-100 rooms on peak. Small meetings make up the bread and butter for most hotels because they are able to confirm within a shorter lead time as well as fit in between and around other large meetings and conventions. In fact, most hotels and Convention & Visitors Bureau’s (CVBs) have sales people solely dedicated to the small meetings market. The CVB and hotel sales professionals understand the unique needs of a small meeting and work with planners from start to finish helping to achieve the meeting’s goals.
Three Tips to Get BIG Results for Your SMALL Meeting
What small meetings have in common is their size; but they can be very different in their type of meeting and/or space and room requirements. To get the most out of your small meeting, there are factors you should consider before you send your Request for Proposal (RFP). Don’t get frustrated trying to get space over sold out dates or trying to find a low rate in a high peak season. Work around these obstacles by getting help from the CVB sales professional and follow these simple but BIG tips for your SMALL meeting.
Tip 1: It Can Be All About Space
Your Meeting Needs More Space Relative to Total Room Nights
Most hotels evaluate meeting RFP’s by the amount of meeting space required relative to the number of hotel guest rooms. If a meeting requires more space relative to its hotel room requirements, planners might have a harder time finding a fit for their meeting.
If a meeting does require more space relative to hotel room nights, Karl Pietrzak, Vice President of Convention Sales at VisitPittsburgh recommends, “If possible, be flexible on dates and the day of the week pattern. For example, your meeting might be a great fit for a downtown hotel that is busy during the week to hold part or all of your meeting over the weekend when the hotel might have lower occupancy.”
Other solutions include:
- Alter the agenda so that general session rooms can be reused for meal functions such as lunch or dinner.
- Look beyond typical meeting space at the hotel. Take advantage of the hotel’s surroundings by holding a meeting on a patio, the rooftop or outside.
- Ask about holding the meeting with another group that may not require as much meeting space.
If Your Meeting Requirements are Not Space Intensive
If a meeting is not space intensive, it can still be a frustrating experience for the planner to find the right fit for their meeting. While smaller meetings do not typically receive complimentary meeting space and/or hotel rooms, planners have options on how to best negotiate and craft their RFP to yield favorable rates. How?
- Think about the entire meeting RFP. Look for opportunities to work food and beverage (F&B) into the meeting. By holding additional F&B in the hotel, the meeting’s attractiveness will increase to the hotel and will help you garner a better rate or reduced rental.
- Is this a meeting of CEO’s or other attendees who could influence other meeting procurement? In this case, providing a complete attendee profile in the RFP will increase the attractiveness of the meeting to the hotel.
Tip 2: It Can Be All About the Timing
Determine the Type of Hotel that Fits with Your Meeting’s Objective
Small meetings have options when deciding which hotel can accommodate their meeting requirements. Planners have to decide, whether to go with a large hotel, where there are an abundance of amenities, staff and resources, or perhaps choose a smaller boutique hotel, where the meeting may be the only group in the hotel.
There are pros and cons to both options and it’s important to look at the meeting’s objectives when making a decision. Karl Pietrzak offers that, “large hotels have more specialized staff available to assist with the meeting. Additionally, because the hotel has a lot of meetings space, they may have more flexibility with space and rates. At smaller boutique hotels, your meeting would likely be the only group in the hotel, offering a more intimate meeting atmosphere.”
- Try looking into museums, commercial buildings, or other non-traditional venues.
- Small boutique hotels can hold meetings in their lounge, library, roof top or pool, offering attendees a unique meeting experience.
- Large hotels offer flexibility in space configurations and amenities.
Determine the Ideal Booking Window for Your Meeting
Typically, small meetings book in the year for the year. For example, a meeting held in October 2014, would book in the year 2014, whereas larger meetings and conventions book years in advance. Because larger meetings book farther in advance, planners of smaller meetings may experience certain challenges in finding dates/rates, but during a very short term window, if space is available, they have the opportunity to take advantage of need dates and discounts.
Randy Connolly, Director of Sales at the Omni William Penn Hotel also recommends, “Where possible, book within 45-60 days and you will have a greater opportunity for negotiation. Hotels will know where their need dates are and will work with you on securing your business.”
Other factors to consider:
- Try looking at the historical occupancy of the destination and talk with your CVB sales professional to learn about the destinations unique demand factors.
- Take advantage of meeting cancellations. Hotels will look to fill the lost revenue, putting the planner in a much stronger negotiating position. The CVB sales professional is in touch with hotels in the destination and will be aware of any cancellations.
Tip 3: It Can Be All About the Savings
Get creative with your RFP to increase free and/or reduced meeting space options
Know the value of your small meeting. Be sure to come armed with data on how much the group spends in total, not just on space, rooms, and food and beverage. When negotiating with the hotels, planners with an overall understanding of the value of their meeting will be in a much stronger position.
Additionally, be sure to review your space requirements and look for ways to save on meeting space. Randy Connolly suggests, “Include information about the organization and other meetings held throughout the year. Additionally, planners may garner better rates when combining more than one meeting, or holding the meeting over multiple years in the same hotel.”
Other potential options include:
- If the meeting is small enough, put the President in a suite and hold smaller meetings in the parlor of the suite. The president is able to enjoy the suite while saving in meeting space fees.
- Talk to your CVB sales professional to determine if there are any promotions or need periods in the destination.
- Look beyond 1st Tier destinations. There are a lot of amazing regions to consider that have all the ingredients necessary for a positive, memorable experience for attendees.
Utilize the meeting’s F&B to negotiate better room rates and reduced meeting room rental
As mentioned, hotels evaluate the entire meeting package. By utilizing food and beverage on-site, the meeting has an increased opportunity to negotiate better rates. Randy Connolly recommends, “if you have a small meeting of around 15-20 people, try having some meals in the same meeting room. Utilizing food & beverage packages within the hotel will increase your negotiating power.”
Other options include:
- Secure the hotel’s all-day food and beverage package. Catering all breakfasts, breaks, lunches, and dinners (or you could say meals) within the hotel, will give planners more power to negotiate and the ability to avoid meeting room rental.
- If planners do not have a large amount of F&B built into the program, encourage attendees to have their meals on-site versus at off-site restaurants.
Where Small Meetings Receive Big Attention
No matter the size of your meeting, we know every meeting requires a lot of time and effort on the part of the planner. Whether it’s all about the space, timing or savings, following these tips will help reduce your frustration and help to get the best deal for your small meeting. Best of all, you don’t have to go at it alone. There are people to help you!
The Convention & Visitors Bureau is the best first resource for meeting planners of any size meeting, not just large citywide conventions, or multiple hotel meetings. The CVB sales professional provides guidance, insider knowledge and destination demand information to planners. Karl Pietrzak offers, “What is great about working with the CVB is that with one phone call, planners of small meetings can get all their legwork done quickly and efficiently. With their insider destination knowledge, CVB sales professionals are able to help planners determine which hotels are the best fit for their meeting.”
To find an expert in the destination(s) you are considering, your first stop should be www.empowermint.com. Empowermint.com enables planners to research destination profiles; complete with information on conference hotels, convention facilities, CVB services, a destination map, and contact information of destination experts, all for free. Whether you are considering a destination for the first time, or a destination you meet in every year, working with a CVB sales professional will help you save time and frustration. To reach out to CVB experts at more than 135 top meeting destinations, visit empowerMINT.com.