On an ongoing basis, Plan Your Meetings has held industry-challenges-and-solutions roundtables to give planners and suppliers a chance to talk honestly (and anonymously) about their challenges and brainstorm about potential solutions. The No. 1 challenge cited by your peers from New York to San Francisco was 3 reasons why your RFP goes unanswered. Here are the other topics they discussed.
Improving planner-supplier relationships
Let’s face it: Meeting planners and suppliers have the same goal. Both sides want to make sure the meeting you’re having is successful.
But there’s one thing that planners do that sabotages the relationship from the very beginning. They try to keep their budgets a secret.
Are you guilty of this?
“Planners tend to think that if they tell us how much they have to spend that we’ll try to spend it all,” an Atlanta-based caterer said. “But it gives us a number we can take to our chef to figure out how we can be more creative and stay within our client’s restrictions.”
Sharing your budget doesn’t only help caterers. It’s the No. 1 way audiovisual providers and hoteliers said planners could help them figure out how to add value to meetings and events without blowing clients’ budgets.
The second-place relationship-improvement recommendation: “Share your goals for meeting in the RFP,” an Austin-based hotelier said. That will help hoteliers customize their proposals, your site visit, concessions and other meeting amenities. Similarly, sharing your goals and objectives will help all your vendors suggest relevant ways to add value and customize elements to help you achieve them.
AV teams are not the enemy
Audiovisual teams are the Rodney Dangerfields of the meeting industry. They are an essential part of any event, but they can’t seem to get any respect. During any conversation about challenges, AV teams bear the brunt of planner criticisms: that they rip people off, are surly onsite, are not there when you need them and lack customer service skills.
But are those criticisms fair? PYM LIVE Chicago hoteliers and planners hotly debated this topic.
“No one is ripping you off,” a hotelier said. “AV is an in-house department, it’s a revenue-generating department and they have to make their money.”
Another hotel sales rep pointed out that hotels don’t have flexibility on AV pricing, especially if the teams are outside contractors.
One of the solutions is for planners to make an investment in AV equipment they can travel with. “Planners are so tech-savvy these days, they can bring their own equipment,” suggested a hotel sales director. “You could buy your own projector and save a lot of money.”
A conference services manager shared that one of her clients bought projectors locally for every five-day event. “She would throw it out when she was done because just using her own for two days she’d cover the cost of renting.”
In cities with union labor, however, going DIY with your AV tech may not be an option. “The union doesn’t allow that,” explained a hotel sales rep. “If you don’t pay for the [equipment or labor], they charge the hotels because the union won’t write it off.”
When it comes to managing the AV budget and creating a positive working relationship, it’s important for meeting and event planners to ask questions and be honest about how they’re feeling.
One hotelier suggested including a clause outlining the planner’s expectations of service. Another emphasized the need to go directly to the vendor with the service issue. And if you think you’re being ripped off because the provider is insisting you need a projector with a certain amount of lumens, check it out during a walk-through. Don’t just ask why it’s needed, see it for yourself in the space and you may realize very quickly whether or not a lesser-quality audio or visual set-up is adequate for your space and event.
If you don’t have a security and contingency plan, you need one. Security was a big concern for the attendees of PYM LIVE Houston.
And it’s not just the physical space you need to worry about. “When there’s a speaker, is that speaker’s information secure?” one planner asked.
Another voiced concern about the IT infrastructure at venues, stressing the need to know how third-party or in-house AV teams were preserving secure internet connections.
What mobile apps and registration providers do with attendee contact and payment information is another element that is turning planners’ hair gray. With so many high-profile companies in the news for getting hacked, it’s simply a matter of time before events become a target. Don’t forget, we published a risk management guide in our 2014 PYM Annual.
Your peers also discussed the fastest way to save time and money—utilizing CVBs.
What are your biggest challenges? What solutions have you found? Let us know by connecting with @PlanYrMeetings or @PYMLive on Twitter, commenting on our Plan Your Meetings Facebook page or commenting right here. Or join us at a PYM LIVE Event near you.