While the concept isn’t brand new, the practicality of getting into the “on-demand meeting space” arena is still quite new to many of us. New and creative ways of selling meeting space in our hotels translates directly into increased revenues and increased profits, yet renting our spaces for meetings is seldom a priority.
As technology evolves, the rules around this standard of our industry are changing a bit. The meetings market has become much more spontaneous, and much less concerned about the need for formal meeting rooms for their events. Today, meetings can take place almost anywhere at almost any time, and many of our hotels’ spaces, both public and private, can be ideal for this trend, with minor adjustments necessary from the hotel side of life. As a result, we are seeing an emergence of apps and websites dedicated to helping the “impromptu” meeting planner accomplish their goals with minimal complication.
For context, think about how your hotel(s) treat this business today. When a prospective client contacts us for meeting space, assuming that there are no guestrooms involved, how do you handle this? If it’s an inbound phone call, it’s going to be routed to your Sales or Catering Department, where someone is hopefully going to pick up that incoming call and speak to that client. Does the request include guestrooms? Does it include catered food & beverage? Sooooo many questions for us to ask the poor client! In that customer’s mind, the conference table, chairs, water & glasses that he/she needed for three hours tomorrow afternoon suddenly became an enormous undertaking. “I need to sign a contract (!), I need to provide a credit card guarantee (!), I may very well have to offer up my first-born child (!!)”
Perhaps I’m taking some license here, but the point is clear. Today, non-traditional venues such as restaurants, dedicated catering facilities, and even shared office space environments are moving into the meeting and event space; even more informal venues such as the local coffee or juice bar continue to host impromptu or short-term meetings as well. In many cases, these non-traditional venues can offer similar-if-not-better-suited spaces for such short-term get-togethers, without the hassle of multiple calls/emails/contracts to lock-in a space. Think about it; that dedicated meeting room in your hotel can certainly handle 12pp conference style, but does that space really lend itself to the specific type of meeting that perhaps a more creative, entrepreneurial customer prefers? Not all demographics like to hold meetings the same way; it’s time that we become flexible and proactive in providing alternatives for these potential clients. The reality is that venues that previously were not competition for this business are stealing it from us now; it’s up to us to react.
So, where do we begin?
1. Assess the process by which your hotel(s) rent their meeting spaces. Objectively and from the customer’s perspective, how complicated is this process? If it’s the slightest bit difficult, the client now has many options to choose from in terms of other possible venues.
2. Look at your spaces. Ok, existing meeting rooms can certainly be rented more frequently, but what else do you have that can serve as a revenue-producing conference space?
- When your signature restaurant that’s only open for dinner has numerous and far-more-stylish nooks & crannies which could host a small get-together, are our operations people able to get past the fact that the restaurant is not open during the daytime hours? For those three executives that would happily sit at bar stools at a counter for 90 minutes, couldn’t your typically-shuttered-in-the-morning cocktail lounge suit the purpose?
- By the same token, what other spaces in your hotels could act as informal meeting sites, if we could simply move past the paradigm that “meetings only take place in meeting rooms?”
3. Market and sell appropriately; go back and follow up on leads that did not materialize and offer them new alternatives; emphasize the new, simplified process, the additional and non-traditional spaces available to them, and encourage them to try it out.
4. Re-imagine your website and your other marketing communications channels. How do we promote ourselves as a site for today’s “meetings on the fly?” How do we build a culture of not only being able to handle this business, but actually proactively soliciting this business?