Jeff Hiscox is president and CEO of Newmarket, an Amadeus company. He focuses on expanding Amadeus’ fast-growing Hospitality IT division. Jeff joined Amadeus in 2013 via the acquisition of Newmarket, which he joined in 2004 and where he has served as president and chief executive officer since March 2010. Prior to Newmarket, Jeff served as regional vice president of sales for Surebridge where he was responsible for growth and management of the Microsoft Business Solutions Group. www.newmarketinc.com
It is every meeting planner’s nightmare: hours are spent arranging the perfect meeting or event but a technical hitch or an unexpected dilemma means that the attendees walk away remembering the day for all the wrong reasons. Who can forget the failure of the Olympic torch to light at the Winter Olympics opening ceremony at Sochi, or problems with the live global Web stream of Apple’s launch of the iPhone 6 and Apple Watch? Certainly not an event or meeting planner. Today, as businesses globalize and planners increasingly work on events outside of their local area, the margin for these potential errors is widening.
“Venues that have creative and effective ways of presenting the best virtual experience will influence buyers and stand out from the crowd.”
Without an insider’s view of the meeting venue, how are planners to foresee any issues that may arise? Here’s how technology can provide this vital “on the ground” insight, instilling planners with the confidence that their events will run to plan and allowing them to form trusting relationships with the venues that facilitate them.
According to research by CEB Inc., buyers are on average 57 percent into the buying process before engaging with a sales representative — meaning a lot of the legwork and decision-making has already been done by the planner before a hotel or venue has had any direct contact with them. Additionally, a recent generational preferences survey by the International Association of Conference Centres (IACC) revealed that “Digital information is No. 1 for providing planners with information they need to consider a venue for their meeting, and those who have creative and effective ways of presenting the best virtual experience will please buyers.”
Venues and hotels seeking to maximize their revenues through corporate meetings, conferences and events need to position themselves as reliable providers of meeting space and be able to demonstrate they can collaborate effectively with planners in the planning, management and execution of events.
There are a number of ways in which hotels and other venues can build up trust and form high-value relationships with planners — and some of them sound deceptively simple. For instance, hotels and venues need to deliver exactly what is marketed and expected by planners — and this means making sure that the planner is aware of the meeting space available, the setups they will support and the room capacities based on the desired setup style. Given the tight time constraints that are often put on meeting planners, venues that are able to provide this information, without the planner spending hours trawling through different pages of their website, will certainly set them apart from competitors.
For example, a planner who is tasked with arranging a corporate training session needs to be assured that all attendees will have an unobstructed view of the speaker and that the room setup encourages discussion and participation. Details such as room capacities based on seating options and seating options supported by each meeting room are must-haves for meeting planners, but often are a challenge as the information simply isn’t presented in a way that planners find useful. It can be hard to know how many attendees to seat at a table without visiting a venue, and cramming people in could be just as detrimental to the flow of a meeting as tables that are too large. Allowing the testing of different setup styles in the meeting space under evaluation, enabled by IT capabilities on the venue’s website, enables a planner to make this assessment during the evaluation process.
If venues can offer modern visualization tools that show what is on offer for corporate clients, from the seating options right though to different lighting modes, planners can feel confident that they have selected the right venue and can be safe in the knowledge that their attendees will be seated comfortably.
Once the venue is booked and plans are underway, a planner’s job is far from over. Often planners must see to last-minute requests from their clients or third-party attendees, such as providing seating for a high-profile attendee or adding a vegan lunch option, and having a quick reaction time is key to keeping everyone happy. In order to ensure everyone stays up to date and critical tasks and requests are dealt with swiftly, collaboration is fundamental, and technology can support this.
For example, successful collaboration between the planner and venue on the final room plan is critical. Through the use of technology, the planner and venue can quickly and effectively work together to make adjustments to the room plan to create a final version that fits the planner’s vision while being feasible for the room selected. This should eliminate the need for a room reset, which can be costly to the venue and create stress and dissatisfaction for the planner as their schedule must then adapt in order for them to problem solve. Increasingly, these collaboration tools are available on mobile devices, making the process even more effective. By enabling planners to use them on the go and keep up with the multiple events they may be working on, they can always remain one step ahead and respond to any issues in an agile manner.
In the “always on” digital world of today, we are accustomed to instant messaging and real-time information and collaboration, and there is no reason why these tools shouldn’t be leveraged by meeting planners. It is critically important that the whole travel and events industry works together to deliver the best experience it can to its customers and makes facilitating high-revenue events, such as corporate meetings and conferences, as simple as possible. As the IACC survey revealed, those venues that have creative and effective ways of presenting the best virtual experience will influence buyers and stand out from the crowd.
When working with planners, venues investing in collaboration tools will enable critical tasks to be completed faster and eliminate costly misunderstandings. This will enable the flawless execution of events that lead to satisfied planners who can trust in their partners, which can ultimately lead to more business opportunities. C&IT