Get Big Results for Small MeetingsJuly 1, 2014

How CVBs can help planners navigate the waters By
July 1, 2014

Get Big Results for Small Meetings

How CVBs can help planners navigate the waters
An intimate dinner function setup at the Inverness Hotel and Conference Center, a Destination Hotel, near Denver, Colorado.

An intimate dinner function setup at the Inverness Hotel and Conference Center, a Destination Hotel, near Denver, Colorado.

Christine-Shimasaki-110x140Christine Shimasaki CDME, CMP, is the managing director of and the Event Impact Calculator for Destination Marketing Association International. She previously served as executive vice president and chief strategy officer for the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau, as well as a distinguished career in sales with Marriott.

Small meetings play a vital role in the success of any destination, and understanding the value they hold will greatly increase a meeting planner’s negotiating clout. With a shorter booking window, small meetings may be harder to book, thus reducing opportunities for prime space and preferred dates. But if planners know how to navigate the waters there are deals to be had and partners to help. 

A great partner to help with a small meeting is the Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB). Oftentimes, CVBs are thought of for meetings that require convention center space or multiple hotels, but the same great services and expertise are applied to assisting planners with small, single hotel meetings as well.

Three Big Tips

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. 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 following these simple but BIG tips for your SMALL meeting.

1. It Can Be All About Space

If your meeting needs more space
relative to total room nights:

Most hotels evaluate meeting RFPs 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 requires more space relative to hotel room nights, try to be flexible on dates and the day of the week pattern.

Other solutions:

  • 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.
If your meeting requirements
are not space intensive:

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.

Is this a meeting of CEOs 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.

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 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, offering an intimate meeting atmosphere.

Other meeting locations to consider:

  • Try looking into museums, commercial buildings or other nontraditional venues.
  • Small boutique hotels can hold meetings in their lounge, library, rooftop or pool deck, 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.

Other factors to consider:

  • Try looking at the historical occupancy of the destination and talk with your CVB sales professional to learn about the destination’s 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.

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 hotels, planners with an overall understanding of the value of their meeting will be in a much stronger position.

Other options:

  • Talk to your CVB sales professional to determine if there are any promotions or need periods in the destination.
  • Look beyond first-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.

By utilizing food and beverage onsite, the meeting has an increased opportunity to negotiate better rates.

Options include:

  • Secure the hotel’s all-day food and beverage package. Catering all breakfasts, breaks, lunches and dinners within the hotel will give planners more power to negotiate and the ability to avoid meeting room rental.
  • If planners do not have a lot of F&B built into the program, encourage attendees to have their meals at onsite versus offsite restaurants.

Where Small Meetings Receive Big Attention

Every meeting, no matter the size, 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.

To find an expert in the destination(s) you are considering, your first stop should be 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. To reach out to CVB experts at top meeting destinations, visit I&FMM


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