It’s no secret that meeting planners vet various destinations, properties, and incentives as they plan upcoming events. In a post-pandemic landscape, meeting space is in high demand. Still, meeting planners have new expectations from venues, and hotel sales teams must adapt their terms accordingly.
In a 2023 survey, Knowland and ConferenceDirect asked certified meeting planners about their outlook on the year. Use our top takeaways to help your director of sales (DOS) and sales managers boost hotel lead generation and book the best group business events.
Include Flexible Contract Terms
Almost 90% of meeting planners found flexible contract terms very or extremely important in 2023. With the weight of the pandemic and inflation looming over companies, this should be no surprise. In fact, cost remains an issue for 46.3% of respondents, and 73% expect prices to keep rising.
However, this hasn’t stopped them from seeking out venues willing to flex with their unique needs. As planners comb through proposals and cold calls, they’re weeding out hotels with strict policies and opting for more customizable options. Be accommodating when concerns arise around F&B, A/V, room rates, and meeting space fees. While hotels can’t always control costs, willingness to negotiate contract terms will go a long way this year.
We need to plan further in advance to get the cities and space we need. We expect suppliers to come to the table with their best offers, as there might not be time for back and forth. Planners must look for the best value and try new destinations to make their budget go further.”
— Meeting Planner.
Offer Meeting Incentives
The right meeting incentives will be key in securing bookings this year. Almost 50% of planners say they’re very or extremely important. Connect with local officials and identify perks your city can offer. Remember, planners can change destinations, and a proactive sales strategy can convince new groups to visit yours.
Next, look at property-specific incentives. If you’re targeting the right groups, your meeting space, chain scale, and need dates should align with their booking patterns– and disclosing special incentives, such as hotel room upgrades, will help seal the deal.
If you’re faced with a budget yourself, be strategic in the groups you court. Consider this; as prices rise, groups who historically book with luxury scale hotels will see an increase in reservation rates. If you’re an upper upscale hotel, reach out to groups like these and tell them how much your hotel can save them on room rates while delivering a similar experience. With Knowland’s advanced search capabilities, you can easily filter groups by booking patterns to optimize your hotel sales strategy and increase revenue.
Be Aware of Staff Shortages
Meeting planners are wary of staff shortages impacting industry standards. Less than 23% say they’re satisfied with the response they get from venues and hotels. Corporate meeting planners especially expect a high level of professionalism and will move on if venues are unresponsive or ill-equipped for routine tasks.
If your team is understaffed, be mindful of how it may impact potential clients and implement solutions before issues arise.
Commonly reported issues from sales teams include:
- Too many RFPs to respond to
- Low bandwidth for extra tasks
- Unqualified RFPs taking time away from qualified leads
With inbound sales lead generation tools, your team has a limited time frame to qualify and respond to RFPs. These tools don’t have a filter to sift out misfits, so many groups receive proposals that don’t align with their needs. This results in “lead spam,” where teams receive a high volume of requests but see low response rates.
Knowland’s historical dataset provides the information your team needs when reaching out to meeting planners. Our tools allow you to pre-screen groups for booking patterns like square footage, number of rooms reserved, chain scale history, and more.
Using technology to enhance the attendee experience remains a key trend in meetings and events. 68.7% of respondents expect this trend to continue into 2023. In-person event technology can be a driver in itself of meeting attendance.
Companies are powering their event experience with engaging technology such as:
- Augmented reality and virtual reality
- Contactless check-in
- Event diagramming and digital floor plans
- Event gamification
- Multi-use mobile apps
- And more
In 2023, venues must enable event organizers to install and implement their desired event technology. Venues with cutting-edge audio/visual equipment are in high demand. Investing in tools such as touchscreen technology, HD-ready projectors, and live video streaming services may become necessary as meeting planners design more immersive guest experiences.
Deliver a Desired Attendee Experience
Over the past few years, conference event planners have had to shift meeting goals regarding attendance rate and ROI. In 2023, they must deliver value to attendees to encourage more invitees to return to group travel. “People are choosier about where they invest their time, which translates into lower expo floor traffic but higher quality traffic — putting more pressure on planners to deliver outstanding events.” said a survey respondent.
In an era where invitees need compelling reasons to attend the meeting, venues and planners must accurately map and market their audience drivers. Skift describes how meetings designed with intention stand out to potential attendees. They write that events offering meaningful experiences rather than attention-grabbing spectacles, such as celebrity speakers, lead to greater satisfaction.
That said, hotels must rise to the occasion and let meeting planners know how their location can deliver that audience-driving factor. Listen to their goals and position your hotel as an enabler, whether that be your amenities, AV capabilities, destination, or bonus perks like a low carbon footprint.
Win Over the Right Meeting Planners with Knowland
Meetings are back in 2023, and proactive outreach is the best way to book better groups in your event spaces. Now that you’re familiar with meeting planner expectations, your sales can make better connections and fill need periods while Knowland identifies the right groups for your efforts.