Post authored by Andy Smith, Senior Vice President, Experient ESN
- Selecting Best Venue(s)
- Negotiating Best Deal(s)
While more rigorous site research and smarter negotiation strategies will move the success needle some, that’s only part of the equation. Today’s sourcing environment is fluid, with new complexities, new opportunities and new risks emerging constantly. Sourcing strategies that served event professionals well for years aren’t delivering as stellar results as they once did.
Smarter Sourcing Demands New Mindsets
Scanning the hundreds of meetings, conferences and tradeshows booked by Experient over the past 12 months, it’s clear that a more holistic and customer-centric approach is needed. One that entails…
- Less checkbox activity, more advanced thinking (and doing) guided by customer intelligence.
- Less reliance on logistics as a value driver, stronger leverage of unique venue attributes (meeting space, guest rooms, amenities, etc.) as experiential value drivers.
- Less linear thinking (a, then b, then c), more agility to spot and act on instances where tackling things out of sequence promises better results.
- Less adherence to legacy models, more liberty to explore “what if?” and engage in smart cross-functional dialogue to better serve our customers. Simply put, it’s about recognizing when “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
We’ve identified six sourcing essentials that merit consideration, as the most successful and sustainable events have mastered most if not all of these. Let’s explore each one with a bit more context.
1. Mission, Vision & Target Audience Clarity
Do you have a clear and concise event mission? Is it documented? When was the last time you gave it a look? Our industry isn’t the only one getting disrupted by change. Many customers are navigating through highly disruptive waters. Does your event help them address these critical change issues? Is there an organizing principle guiding all event experience design decisions? How would your audience describe a successful event? How will that change in the future? Have you identified the top 3-5 most important participant segments? Think 80/20 rule—80% of your event revenue, give or take, is likely coming from 20% of your customers. While all segments must be served and satisfied, getting clarity on needs and preferences for top targets will be crucial to make your best destination and venue choice.
2. Market Intelligence Backed By Relationship Strength
What decision filters will you apply to determine venue finalists? How are these filters changing in light of today’s seller’s market? Developing a scorecard that ranks each venue on a variety of parameters will help you quickly winnow down your list to strongest contenders worthy of site visits. How open will you be to new criteria not yet considered, but highly relevant to your event mission and/or target audience? What data can you reference (your own or from a partner) to test assumptions? Show me a successful event management professional and I’ll show you someone with a deep and wide network of trusted advisors she can count on for just-in-time recommendations and introductions to other experts.
3. Expense Optimization & Buying Power Analytics
Expenses often play out like a line of dominoes, where one triggers the next… destination/venue being the earliest and longest lasting expense trigger. From a benchmarking standpoint, do you have a good handle on your buying power position? How well does your group stack up against others that are considering booking this venue? Have you compared your offer against other similar offers by the same property and/or destination? How detailed and credible is your historical data? Where can you push for better rates and/or concessions without alienating this potential partner? What softer concessions might you ask for that improve the event experience with little to no additional cost to the venue? Back-channel financial processing is another consideration. How tech-enabled is this venue? How might financial processing efficiencies free up staff to improve other event experiential elements?
4. Destination & Venue Experiential Drivers
Some attendees prefer more networking, deal making and fun activities, while others favor advanced education and peer-to-peer “big idea” chats. Is this venue wired to deliver the experiences your audience craves most? What local gems might you tap to enhance the attendee experience? Zeroing in on the venue, are there creative and flexible room set options for breakouts? When you ask your hotel contact for examples of cool things other groups are doing with the space, do you get helpful ideas and stories or a blank stare? How about lounges and pre-function spaces? Are they wired for connectivity and conversations? Don’t overlook speed and convenience drivers, like fast/affordable air travel and housing guests within close proximity to where the best moments will happen.
5. Risk Visibility with Smart Mitigation Remedies
As digital continues to expand at a rapid pace, there’s the growing threat of attrition penalties for those booking outside your block – or booking in your block, but through alternate channels (e.g., Airbnb, Hotels.com, Expedia, etc.). The ability to conduct fast/thorough room block audits to capture lost revenue dollars is a conversation you need to have. The “pirates” are multiplying and they’re trying every trick in the book to convince your attendees to book outside the block. Keep in mind, your wins at the negotiation table will prompt additional clauses come contract time – initiated by you and/or the venue. It’s the savvy event professional who knows when to engage legal counsel to keep risks at bay, while keeping a close eye on costs. More questions to consider: How big should your room block be? What data are you leveraging to inform this decision? How much leeway is there to extend deadlines for room block adjustments?
6. Strong Value Documentation
This one cuts two ways: (1) Documenting value to your organization; (2) Documenting value as it pertains to future bookings. Let’s start with the first piece. Beyond documenting rate and concession savings, how instrumental was this venue in helping to improve attendee experiences? Did they go the extra mile to deliver extraordinary customer service? Did they help modify attendee behaviors that can be traced back to financial gains? As for the second category, will this venue roll up data into one concise, C-Suite ready report? If new dollars are captured through room audits, will the report be updated? If you were to book next year’s event at a sister property, will notes of past conversations be forwarded to help streamline and improve the ramp-up phase?
We’ve only scratched the surface of considerations. Stay tuned for future posts where we examine each sourcing essential in greater detail, with more tips to consider for your sourcing playbook.
Which one or two sourcing essentials pose greatest concerns for your organization? What one new thing are you doing that’s helping to improve event profitability?
PS: If you’re encountering more immediate challenges, click here to tell us more about your situation. We’d be happy to circle back with a few recommendations on best remedies.