The PYM State of the Industry Roundtable was a dinner held in Austin, Texas, with national and local meeting industry professionals in May 2012. Click here to download a transcript of this session.
- Director of in-market sales for an international hotels and resorts company
- Program director for a national insurance research agency
- Senior global project manager of a meeting resources company
- Vice president of a meeting resources company
- Senior events and convention manager for an international real estate franchise company
- Vice president of sales and marketing for an industry publication company
- Owner of an Austin events group
- Professor of neuroscience who plans meetings for his organization
- Chief administrative officer for an industry publication company
- Owner of an Austin event-planning and DMC firm
- Director of business development and events for an industry publication company
- Marketing events coordinator for an e-commerce company
- In-market regional sales manager for an international hotels and resorts company
How’s business? What are the meeting trends today, in 2012?
10. With associations, meetings are still happening. Government-related attendees have decreased, which is a concern. The GSA controversy has had an effect. I have been watching it closely. My clients are not doing fewer meetings, but I have seen a downturn in government attendees. As a result, I have had major attrition issues to deal with.
5. 2011 was the most successful year ever for our company. Moving forward, we are still growing, which is not indicative of our industry. But we are seeing positive growth.
13. Last year was our best year too, and it is trending upward. As a software company, we attend a lot of events, and I have seen a spike in attendance.
4. We also had our best year ever as a company in 2011. We are doing more planning and housing, as a company. Our customers are demanding more value-add services.
6. As a publication company, we are already used to evolving, so we do it with ease. Our business has transformed to 20 percent revenue from print and the other 80 percent from digital, online and events.
2. Because we’re in the insurance business, and everyone is required to have it, our education and in-house sales are increasing. We are tailoring the education to the needs of our employees, which includes adding webinars.
8. One of our groups is continuing to grow, while the others are stagnant. Our events provide continuing education credits, which our delegates are required to maintain, but because now they’re also able to receive that same data online, we are having to look more and more at destination meetings as an extra incentive to get them to attend.
How does an organization create price value for meeting planners focused on a work-and-play environment?
8. Value is definitely based on perception. It is getting harder and harder to create the argument for and the value of face-to-face meetings.
11. People want to share their lives and have the experience. That is the value of a face-to-face meeting.
10. The meeting needs to have a story and create an experience. Something like that cannot be done online.
The next generation is coming and we are going to have to transition to doing business with them. How are we going to sell to these people?
13. I am a Gen-Y and also work for a company that does almost 100 percent of its communication with customers online. Because of that, our employees and customers seek any opportunity to meet face-to-face because they are eager to put a face with the name of the person or people they have developed this virtual relationship with.
10. To approach younger members and get them involved with our associations, we have been offering mentoring roles. This way, we can benefit and learn from each other. We are trying to provide programming that speaks to building these connections.
1. I think another argument for creating the value of face-to-face is communication. 80 percent of how we as people communicate is through body language. We have to see each other to truly know what the other is thinking.
13. Even with technology products, people look forward to putting a name with the face and building a personal connection.
How do you select your sites?
11. When researching online, I will gravitate to a good website, with accessible and readily downloadable information.
13. Sorry to say, but most hotel websites are bad, and not too helpful. You can’t get any answers without calling someone.
7. We shouldn’t always depend or rely on a website though. Sometimes it’s not updated in a timely manner, and you’re seeing inaccurate specs. We should communicate with our hotel reps for the most current information.
10. Remember, we are planners. When I’m working on anything detail-oriented, it is during nontraditional business hours. That way I won’t be interrupted. So, I need a robust website that gives me the answers I need. It would be helpful if everything we need was on the website, because calling or emailing a hotel sales rep at midnight is not an option. And, with little answers I need immediately, sometimes waiting for 12 to 24 hours to get a response is just not an option.
13. If your website is wonky, you’re cut out.
5. I like being able to take virtual walk-throughs and site visits on your website. It helps me do my job faster and better.
10. If I don’t find what I need on your site, you don’t make the short list.
8. I like to send my RFPs to the city CVB and let then do the work to find the space. The bottom line is that our folks want to feel like they got a good deal and had a great experience.
1. RFPs would be a lot more manageable if the onus were on the planner to narrow down the destination first. There is a night and day difference between wanting to meet in Paris versus Mississippi.
4. There are so many digital RFPs out there! We get flooded with them, and hotels have a tough time dealing with it. I think it makes it hard for them to prioritize.
6. Most RFPs are too general.
6. It goes back to the relationship. If you have a relationship with someone, you’re more likely to do business with that person.
8.We are in a relationship business, and that’s why I do not understand some of these hotel models that “transfer” your business to another representative who handles a particular market or territory. For example, we recently had a new president positioned in our company, and he ultimately is the one who signs all of the meetings contracts. Just based on the fact that he is located in a different state than me, the hotel sales rep I have worked with for eight years told me I now have to work with someone else who handles the territory where the president (and contract signer) is located. I really don’t want to be handed off like that!
So where does the collaboration process jump in and help bring the business?
10. It’s very obvious what drove the new Marriott business model. It was what was best for them, not what was best for their client.
1. We created a global business model so that we can own your business and have something to fit your every need. We own all of our hotels, except the ones on the reservations, and that allows us to provide that extra level of attention to the clients’ needs.
14. We made it easier on the planner because you have one hotel contact who represents all of the global properties.
2. It’s been extremely helpful!
1. We made the collection into a centralized sale process. We sell the collection, and offer everything from economy to luxury. We are going back to relationship recognition.
10. Through my involvement in our local MPI chapter, I and many other local planners, developed a relationship with a certain hotelier. We all recently found out that he was about to start a new job, and I held my RFP so that I could hand it to him specifically. While I was having lunch last week with three other planners, I found out that they, too, were holding RFPs for him. That is the power of the relationships he built.
We all get so many emails as a form of communicating. Is this your preference? How do you like to have information delivered?
5. Social media hits me faster than emails. I tend to respond faster to social media conversation.
13. There is nothing I appreciate more than a really nice print piece! But is has to be really creative and well designed.
11. I like things being sent to me electronically. It makes it easier for me to create dated email files, save everything, and stay organized. And, it cuts down on how much we’re printing, which is very green.
Are planners still using third-party planning companies, and why? Are they doing their jobs correctly?
5. Yes. They save me time and money. Plus, in some situations, I like someone else being the “heavy.”
1. How do we make third-party planners more effective? Hotels want to be involved with the client, too! How do we do a better job partnering with the third-party in order to sell better to the end user? I think as an industry, we need to work on that.
(All nodded in agreement.)
Which of these factors is most important to you with your hotel sales contact? Quick response? Relationship? Good listening skills? Property knowledge? Contributing to the success of the meeting? Understands the big picture?
5. and 13. For corporate meetings, it’s definitely “quick response.”
10. and 2. With association meetings, it’s “relationship.”
8. I say it’s comprehensive communication.
1. Look for your hotel sales rep to become the advocate to your program. It is the sales persons responsibility to manage the process.
8. Bottom line, if you make my life easier, you have my business!
For transcripts, findings and video summaries from current and past PYM Town Hall events, visit PlanYourMeetings.com/townhall.