Small Market Meetings

OCT 2016

The Newspaper for Smaller Cities, Facilities and Planners.

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Page 9 of 35 Managing Meetings 10 a lot on food and beverage, they are more attrac- tive to suppliers. And, planners should remember that food and beverage expenditures go beyond planned meals. "The savvy planner will say, 'Hey, my group loves to go to the hotel bar after the meeting and they spend a lot of money [at the bar]," said Browning. Fear Not: Always Share Your Budget Planners often aren't forthcoming with budgets. They believe "if you tell me what the budget is, you will charge me that much," said Berkoski. But budgets are essential in determining if a piece of business should be pursued. Berkoski's hotel sometimes receives RFPs that require a room rate of $200 or less. His property's rate is $289. He typically calls planners to let them know before he goes any further with their RFP. If a group can't budge on its room rate "then neither of us have to waste time on the RFP," he said. When planners don't include their budget, sup- pliers might develop a proposal that is far beyond the meeting's financial means. Had the supplier known the budget, he could have crafted the bid differently or declined to bid. Supply Your Deadlines and Deciders Planners who require quick turnarounds on RFPs will probably get fewer responses. "A 24-hour turnaround on bigger hotels is not realistic," said Evans. "At the CVB, I would like at least a week to reach out to hotels. If someone says they need a response by tomorrow, a lot of people won't be able to respond." Sarah DeGuire, director of sales at the Ramada Plaza and Oasis Convention Center in Springfield, agrees. "Planner expectations are a little high on turn- around," she said. "If we can have a week for an event that is six months or a year out, it gives us the chance to look at the entire event and put our best foot forward." Suppliers also like to know when a decision will be made and who will make the decision. "Will you be making the decision in a week by commit- tee or will it take two months?" said Browning. Flexibility Can Be a Big Advantage Flexibility in dates can be a huge business advantage, said DeGuire, and planners should be clear in their RFP if dates are flexible. "If someone can shift a week earlier or later or even one or two days, it can open all kinds of opportunities." Hotel space, Browning said, is "like a puzzle, the more flexibility you have, the more you can fit into their space. But if your dates are set in stone, let them know up front."

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