That’s the upshot of the “The Venue of the Future,” the latest downloadable report from Julius Solaris, editor of the Event Manager Blog. He pinpoints the moment he knew he had to create the document: Sitting at a travel industry conference, he heard a hotel CEO say to the audience, “Event planners have to understand that hotels and venues are businesses. They need to compromise and accept our rules.”
Hackles up, Solaris created a survey that was completed by 1,000 respondents (from which Solaris qualified 700 event professionals), asking about their frustrations with venues. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being “very annoying,” planners ranked “paying for Wi-Fi” a 4.2 and “poor Wi-Fi” a 4.3. No surprise there.
But here’s what was surprising: Planners ranked “response time to issues” and “customer service” even worse—4.6 and 4.59, respectively. What’s with all the dissatisfaction?
Looking for Partners Who Care
“One of the biggest frustrations is the venue staff not considering themselves as partners and caring about the event as strongly as the event planner and the client do,” writes Becki Cross, Events Northern Ltd., who contributed a section on RFPs for the report.
In addition to the survey results, the report includes advice designed to help planners find venues that are forward-thinking. Four areas—RFPs (written by Cross), site inspections (written by Cross and Brandt Krueger, Event Technology Consulting),(written by Padraic Gilligan, SoolNua), and AV (written by Krueger)—are covered in narrative discussions and printable checklists.
Cross advocates sharing the vision for your program in the RFP, and weighing the responses based on “venue of the future” criteria. For example, did a hotel fail to meet your reasonable deadline for responding? “They should probably be discounted straight away,” Cross writes.
Look for responses showing that the venue has gone the extra mile, she adds, and pay attention to your interactions with the hotel’s representatives: “Do they return calls promptly? Are they always happy to help? A venue of the future will always be customer-focused, right through the sales and negotiation process, the planning process, and to the live event itself.”
Though planners in the survey lodged complaints about inferior customer service, it’s rates they care about most. Asked what is most likely to influence their decision to use a venue, respondents put “negotiated rates” at the top of the list.
In his section of the report, Padraic Gilligan is quick to point out that a close second to rates as an influencer is “relationship with the sales team,” and that relationships retain a “supreme importance” to the whole endeavor.
He encourages planners to take responsibility for their own experience by making customer service expectations clear at the outset. Venues of the future, he writes, “are not mere order-takers trying to shoehorn your event into the big box spaces they have available. Rather they are event professionals like you who look to the future and try to imagine how meetings and events will evolve with changing demographics, different workplace practices, new ways of learning and so on.”
That’s the grand vision, of course, but Gilligan also drills down to some practicalities. For example:
• The venue of the future is still going to have “sophisticated yield management software that’ll predict with precision what rates it can command at the various times of the year.” If you come along with dates that could fit their slower periods, you’ve got much more bargaining power.
• Also good for boosting your leverage: more business. If you have other clients or meetings that could use a venue within the next 12 months, calculate their value and present your volume case.
Views of the Future Venue
A negotiating view from Padraic Gilligan: Future-focused venues “include in their fees high-speed Internet that’s distributed efficiently to where it needs to be. Likewise the event spaces in venues of the future are already flexible and versatile; the catering pivots around healthy, artisan food presentations; the on-site AV is fit for purpose; the venue has great 360-degree videos and amazing CAD drawings of their spaces.”
A tech view from Brandt Krueger: “Traditional business centers are on the decline, with more hotels and venues offering tech-forward common areas—lounge areas with plenty of power plug-ins, charging stations (including cable-free charging pads), strong Wi-Fi, and other amenities allowing guests to use their own devices in a warm, inviting atmosphere.”
An RFP view from Becki Cross: When responding to an RFP, venues of the future “have all the answers at their fingertips to enable them to create a bespoke proposal with ease. If they cannot deliver on something you have requested in the RFP, they will offer alternative solutions or options, as any event planner would.”
An overall view from Julius Solaris: “The venue of the future understands and values the importance of the meetings and events business, it makes itself more appealing to please the growing demands of attendees. It embraces change instead of charging for just touching a bottle in a mini bar.”
Download the full report here.