Tips to Find a Home for Your Challenging Event
A colleague recently contacted me with a dilemma. He was working with a non-profit organization to find a venue for their annual fundraising gala and banquet. He had contacted every hotel with a ballroom large enough to host this event and none had the space available on the date needed.
This type of event is often a challenge. The group did
not need sleeping rooms, just meeting space. In addition, they needed the
space blocked during the day for set up and rehearsal which meant that the
hotel couldn’t sell the space. To make it even more challenging,
the client had specified a set date for the event. Plus, because
the client needed to promote the event, the date needed to be secured seven
months in advance. These factors all add up to being a tough event to
1. Contact the local CVB to find out what conventions are taking place over your desired date. Why do this? Many city wide conferences will need the hotel’s sleeping rooms but will be using the convention center for their meetings. In this situation, the hotel can be more flexible with their meeting space if the sleeping rooms are already sold.
2. Consider scheduling your event during a period with high transient business. When there is high transient business it means that more of the sleeping rooms will be filled with folks who aren’t using the meeting space. That means the hotel might have more space available and can be more flexible. Work with the hotel to try to identify when these dates are for them. Different parts of the country, as well as different hotels within a city, may have different peak dates.
3. See if you can schedule your function for the last day of a conference. Some multi-day meetings end at noon to allow their attendees to travel home. Work with the hotel to see if they can identify a group that will be done with the space early enough for you to utilize it. Sometimes it means the hotel needs to reach out to the meeting planner of the group already on the books. I often ask the hotel if they will let me contact the meeting planner after they make the initial contact. Sometimes it helps to talk “planner to planner”.
4. Be prepared to pay room rental for the space during the day. This is fair; the hotel can’t sell the space since you need it blocked. However, the hotel may also be looking to recoup the revenue it will forgo by not being able to host a meal function during the day. This is where it gets a little sticky. Sometimes the fee suggested to cover lost revenue seems excessive. As you are negotiating this fee, remind the hotel the hotel they will not need to buy or prepare the food, pay labor, etc.
5. Can you be flexible with your set-up schedule? You may need all 4 sections of the ballroom for your event but do you need all four all day long? See if the hotel can block 2 sections where the stage, screen, equipment will be located and release 2 sections as long as they can be turned and set in time for your event. Be aware, this should not be your first choice as there are many things that can go wrong. (In fact, if you are new to meeting planning, don’t try this.) However if I want to give you a list of options, this needs to be included.
6. Try to be as flexible as possible with your dates/day of the week. This is often the most difficult as you may need to “sell” the idea to your client. Clients who have hosted events previously may understand why this is important and helpful. If you can work with the property they might be able to identify a date that they can be more flexible. Would your client consider a Sunday evening? The hotel may have a hole that night.
Back to my friend, he was able to find a home for his client’s event with just a few technical issues. I’ll discuss those in a future issue.
Shelley E. Griffin, CMM, is the founder and president of Griffin Conference Group, which provides comprehensive meeting planning services. She is a respected industry leader who has over twenty years of experience. For more helpful tips see her web site at www.griffinconferencegroup.com