The Sharing Economy is Here: Let’s Capitalize On It!

sharing economy eventsPost authored by Char Shada, CMP, Director, Strategic Accounts

The Sharing Economy (also known as Collaborative Consumption) has been revving up for several years. This trend has been fueled by a growing consumer preference to rent or borrow goods, rather than buy or own them.

Rachel Botsman was among the first to champion this trend. In her popular 2010 TED talk, Rachel shared one example about power drills. Most in the audience owned one, yet she went on to say, “That power drill will be used maybe 12-13 minutes in its entire lifetime. Because what you need is the hole, not the drill. So why don’t you rent the drill, or even better, rent out your own drill to other people and make some money from it?” With a few more stories and examples, a new industry was born.

Much has been written about the early Sharing Economy disruptors lately—most notably, Airbnb and Uber. But the sharing economy community continues to grow…

  • Need cash? Lending Club, founded in 2006, has managed more than $13 billion in peer-to-peer loan transactions.
  • No time for chores? TaskRabbit will match you up with a skilled tasker. Starting with an idea in 2008, TaskRabbit now serves millions of US and UK customers.
  • Need someone to look after your pet while you’re away? DogVacay recommends skipping the kennel and hiring one of their 20,000+ loving petsitters across the US and Canada.

The Sharing Economy is here to stay and it delivers both challenges and opportunities for our industry. I’d like to focus on how event organizers might capitalize on this fast-growing trend.

Airbnb to Extend Event Lodging Options
Founded in 2008 in San Francisco, Airbnb first caught the eye of leisure travelers who were seeking similar or better accommodations at a more affordable price. Today, they connect people with accommodations in more than 34,000 cities and 190 countries. While we don’t expect this alternate option to be a preferred choice for most conference and trade show attendees, it has appeal for some, especially the more adventurous Millennials.

Last September, Experient teamed up with Airbnb to offer our clients more opportunities to supplement their traditional accommodation needs, especially in cities experiencing high levels of compression. We noticed that as room blocks reached their saturation point, often, registrations would slow down considerably. With more attendees delaying their decision to attend, we wanted to give our clients an alternate lodging option that would allow for late registrations, plus an efficient way to report on Airbnb consumption by their attendees.

Sharing to Extend, Not Replace
It’s important to note, that we see this as a possible release valve for instances when traditional lodging options are fully depleted. It’s a potential solution to extend, not replace, your core room block strategy. After all, without a strong hotel room block presence, you’d be paying top dollar for meeting space, food & beverage and a myriad of other necessary onsite needs.

Like it or not, there will always be a segment (hopefully small) who choose to book outside the block. By teaming up with Airbnb, we can now provide our clients with detailed metrics about Airbnb attendee booking patterns—something that’s never been available before.

Rest assured, the vast majority of event guests will prefer more traditional hotel accommodations. Many want safe, secure, and even more luxurious accommodations and they’re willing to pay for it.

They also want to stay within close proximity to all event activities, because for many, an industry conference represents a year’s worth of valuable networking, compressed into the span of a few days. The closer they are to the action, the more new relationships and conversations they can have.

There are a number of ways to “sweeten the pot” to encourage more attendees to book within your room block:

  • Networking receptions at hotels
  • Registration discounts
  • Complimentary shuttle passes and other meaningful value-add services
  • VIP access to keynote speakers, industry leadership, etc.

One More Twist on the Sharing Economy for Planners
Have you ever explored what other groups might be booking the same destination/venue immediately before, immediately after or during your event? With food & beverage ranking as the highest expense category by far, there are opportunities to apply the Sharing Economy model to trim back costs. If you can agree on similar menus, inventory can now be shared across multiple events to keep attendees satisfied, keep costs in check and keep waste to a minimum.

The same goes for many other event expense categories, like audio visual, stage and table decorations, furniture and even professional speakers. If you can strike a deal with another planner, especially for needs that require crews to travel and/or equipment to be shipped, there are a number of win/win savings to be had.

If you’re intrigued about this fast-growing trend and you’re looking to bounce around ideas with someone who understands the events landscape well, I’d welcome that. Please email me at and let’s brainstorm together!

Another article you might like: Event Revenue Optimization, aka Fix My P&L

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