Choosing the Right Venues for Your Meetings and Conventions

Providing a forum where attendees can make valuable connections and share an enriching experience within a community with a common goal can result in long-term rewards for the organization.

 

By Ashly Balding
 
If you are responsible for coordinating your franchise’s or franchisees’ face-to-face meetings, conventions and/or incentive/recognition travel programs, one of the most important decisions to make is where to host the program. With so many destination, hotel and resort choices, where do you start?

 

Narrow the Search

Whether you are planning a large convention or a smaller meeting, identifying the following can help in narrowing the search for the ideal site:

 

  • What is the objective and focus of the program?
 
  • Do you wish to conduct the program in a particular region or city?
 
  • Is close access for attendees a consideration, or is it not required?
 
  • Will a city hotel or a resort best accomplish the goals of the program?
 
  • What is the anticipated size of the group?
 
  • Will the program require a certain amount of meeting space and/or a minimum number of meeting rooms?
 
  • Will your group be best suited in a larger or a smaller hotel?
 
  • Are there any on-site and/or nearby offerings (recreational, dining, etc.) that are required or are an important consideration for the group? 
 
  • Will a big city, smaller city or resort destination be the best choice for the particular program?
 
  • What level of venue (i.e. Forbes Four-Star, AAA Five-Diamond) will best reflect the quality, character, style and market position of your franchise?
 
  • What experience(s) do you wish to provide to your attendees that will create the best impact to achieve the desired results?
 
  • Will attendees bring families for a pre- or post-program stay?

 

These are just a few of the questions that can be helpful in your planning process, since the goal is to identify the ideal venue that will best support your brand, message and market positioning; provide a memorable experience that will engage and motivate the team; meet or exceed your attendees’ expectations; and help lead to the success of the program and your franchise.
 
Depending on your group and the outlined objectives, the type of property that will best serve the program can vary. Hotels in big cities can provide convenient, easier and timelier access for attendees, along with a vast array of vibrant entertainment, dining, cultural and business-related offerings in the city. Hotels in smaller cities or suburban locations often provide a great value, are service-driven, can be a fresh new setting for a nice change of pace, may have availability when larger cities are heavily booked, and are often very accessible.
 
Resorts typically offer picturesque and inspiring settings, and more on-site recreational options. They also provide great networking opportunities since attendees are close at hand for meals, sessions and on-site activities like golf, fly fishing, and other relationship development activities that can provide lasting memories.
 
First-class, smaller gem-style hotels can provide a private atmosphere and very personalized service to make your attendees feel very special. These properties can be ideal for executive retreats and for programs that require the utmost in privacy to share new plans, directives, objectives, and confidential information.
 
There are certainly advantages to selecting each type of property, as each can elevate the energy and positive anticipation for different reasons. It is just a matter of determining which is right for your group and the particular program.

 

The RFP Process

After posing these questions and narrowing your search, it is vital to provide all of the key information in the Request for Proposal that you send to potential sites in order to garner the data that you need to make the best decision. This includes:

 

  • An accurate picture of the program, its size and needs in a simple format. Also, specify any “must have” or “would like to have” items.
 
  • A list of desired dates (in order of preference), as well as date and/or arrival or departure date pattern flexibility.
 
  • The group’s room rate range, at the top of the RFP.
 
  • The program’s history and the objectives of the program.
 
  • Any ancillary revenue the program will provide to the hotel (such as food and beverage functions, golf tournaments, spas, any other on-site events, etc.).

 

Also, it is highly recommended that you only send the RFP to destinations and properties that are seriously being considered, and that you are realistic about your rates for the venues and season that you are requesting.
 
 
To make the process much easier, consider utilizing the services of a global sales organization, such as Associated Luxury Hotels International or your favorite brand, as they are a “one-stop shop” where you can check multiple hotels and/or resorts in multiple destinations with one discussion. This saves time, provides valuable insight and typically is available at no cost to the planning organization. Plus, they can suggest alternative options to fit your needs, and can share news of value opportunities that are available at properties of potential interest.
 
 
When you make your venue choice it is important to act quickly so that you can secure your desired hotel or resort, as well as the dates, rate and terms that you seek.

 

Challenges in Placing Your Program?

With the growth in demand for face-to-face meetings, you may find that it can be a challenge to find available space that will meet your group’s needs and desires.  
 
If you are having difficulty finding rooms and appropriate function space in the destination that you are seeking, or staying within your budget, you can employ these tactics to enhance your group’s options, and to improve your chances of successfully finding a home for your program:
 
  • Arrive on a Sunday night, or stay over on a Sunday night.
 
  • Consider smaller markets.
 
  • Be flexible with your dates, pattern, and destination choice.
 
  • Consider signing a multi-year contract.
 
  • Consider dates that are off-season, in-shoulder season or even over a holiday.
 
Trying some of these suggestions, as well as utilizing a global sales organization which can serve as a valued advocate for your program, can enhance your group’s options, leading to greater opportunities for the success for your program.
 
In summary, venue selection is crucial for important meetings and programs. Choosing the hotel or resort that will best suit your program’s objectives and needs, and which creates a distinctive experience to advance your brand’s image and appeal, can make a very positive impact on the program and your franchise. Providing a forum where attendees can make valuable connections and share an enriching experience with a community with a common goal, can be truly energizing, resulting in long-term rewards for the organization.

 

 
Ashly Balding is Executive Vice President of Associated Luxury Hotels International, an independent global sales organization serving over 250 luxury-level hotels and resorts around the world. Find out more at franchise.org/associated-luxury-hotels-international-supplier.