The job of the modern meeting planner is becoming increasingly complex. In 2019, meeting industry influencers predict that planners will face a number of challenges, including heightened security fears, political unrest, economic uncertainty, and a growing desire for more meaningful attendee experiences.
To make your hotel more attractive to planners, it’s imperative to understand the current state of their industry. In the following post, we’ll explore some of the major requirements and current pain points planners face, and offer a series of top tips catered to their needs and interests.
1. Food and beverages
Forget the generic grab-and-go lunch. Instead of a quick way to refuel, the food available at corporate functions often plays a major role in the event experience.
The latest event food trends include a desire for farm-to-table menus, pop-ups, healthy snacks, and hometown dishes and specialties. For hotels, this means that offering inventive menus with creative culinary options can be a major selling point.
On a more practical level, hotels also need to help planners accommodate an increasing array of dietary requests from attendees. Certainly, for larger groups, planners may be expected to consider dietary needs, including gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, paleo, organic, and non-GMO. Flexibility and a well-rounded hotel kitchen can prove a major asset.
2. Showcase memorable experiences
Increasingly, meeting attendees want a unique, local experience when they travel for an event. So to become a more attractive option to planners, you need to showcase the top sights, attractions, and activities in your destination — and then make them easy to arrange and book.
Use your hotel website and social channels to showcase popular past experiences with attention-grabbing images and video. And include glowing testimonials from past attendees to add social proof and increase booking confidence.
Time-sensitive planners will also appreciate your recommended experiences. With a short questionnaire, you can learn more about their goals, group dynamic, budget, time constraints, and general preferences. For any planner, if you can inspire them with suggestions and reduce their workload, you’ll instantly elevate your hotel above the competition.
3. Create a content-packed events page
Hectic event planners need to know that your property can meet their needs. So make sure that your hotel website has a dedicated Events page full of inspiring content and helpful, up-to-date information.
Prominently feature all the essential details that any planner would want, including detailed floor plans, capacity charts, F&B menus, and information relating to your meeting room and event space technology. In addition, use quality photos, videos, and self-guided virtual tours to make it easy for planners to get a feel for your property.
Remember to devote space to your location too. Include maps, local transport information, and highlight any attractions and points of interest in the surrounding area.
Finally, bear in mind that busy planners need to find information fast. Your Events page should be easy to find from anywhere on your website, and clearly signpost all the most vital information needed to make a booking decision.
4. Get creative with ‘design thinking’
According to a recent report by Skift, over 90% of planners think that it’s crucial or very important to integrate experiences into their meetings. Rather than a stuffy meeting room, planners want ‘experiential environments’ that wow attendees, encourage interaction, and create the feeling of a ‘daycation’ with peers instead of a corporate event with the bosses.
For hotels, the message is to let planners feel that your space is a blank canvas. Find out about their needs. And let them know that you’re happy to turn your existing rooms into creative new environments.
That might involve transforming a meeting room into a game room, a vintage cocktail bar, or a karaoke lounge. These themed spaces could then be treated as chill-out spaces and breakout rooms, or be used as the environment for the meeting itself.
As Skift notes in “The Rise of Design Thinking in Meetings and Events”, the ‘design thinking’ trend will become especially important for planners looking to capture the attention of Generation Z attendees — a demographic likely to be engaged by more immersive, engaging, and shareable meeting content.
5. Invest in the right technology
To appeal to younger tech-savvy planners, hotels need to invest in up-to-date technologies to cater to attendees and enhance the event experience.
Multiple charging stations for devices, flexible in-room entertainment options, and high-speed Wi-Fi throughout the property (including meeting rooms, guest rooms, and social spaces) are becoming hardwired expectations.
When it comes to events and meetings, cutting-edge audio/visual equipment, such as touchscreen technology, HD-ready projectors, and live video streaming services are rising in demand.
In the coming years, planners are also likely to start requesting more interactive technologies, such as live polling, chatbots, virtual reality, and augmented reality to bring a more immersive feel to events.
6. Marketing beyond price
Yes, planners want to find a venue for a great price. But instead of trying to grab their attention with deals and discounts alone, consider how your marketing can cut through in a more creative way.
Segment your audience and send them tailored emails with articles and trends related to their industries. Promote upcoming events in your neighborhood that might be of interest to them. Or produce a series of emails that include top tips from fellow professionals and industry thought leaders.
In short, think about ways your marketing can help solve a problem, offer inspiration, and demonstrate to planners that you understand the challenges and goals of their industry.
7. Help with data privacy and security
Since the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into effect last May, meeting planners have to be extremely careful about the way they collect and share information from any attending EU citizens — even if the event isn’t held in Europe.
Last year, a survey on ‘GDPR readiness’ found that nearly 50% of planners aren’t sure if they’ve taken sufficient steps to ensure their events meet GDPR requirements. If your hotel has the relevant experience and knowledge, use your website and marketing to let planners know that you can help with ensuring events are GDPR compliant.
More broadly, planners need to consider a growing range of threats both in terms of data security and physical safety. As such, hotels that invest in key event security measures, such as having robust cybersecurity plans, ensuring that staff receive regular security training, and offering comprehensive site security can help quell the fears of corporate clients.
Winning over meeting planners
Modern day planners are looking for the whole package when choosing an event venue: a wide range of dietary options, access to the right technology, and creative ways to connect with attendees.
As a result, hotels need to be empathetic, flexible, communicate clearly, and position themselves as active partners rather than passive hosts. By applying some of the tips outlined above, your property can stand out from the crowd, build stronger relationships, and win more business from this lucrative segment of the market.