Lively, interactive discussions on industry issues once again characterized The Krisam Group's Insurance Advisory Board meeting, held May 31 to June 3 at the 790-room Loews Miami Beach Hotel. The group of 20 planners and hoteliers “talked frankly about their top-of-mind challenges, from contract addendums to budget-busting audiovisual fees,” says Krisam Group Vice President Doris Dallow. “In terms of the big picture, insurance and financial services meetings remain strong,” she notes. “Even companies that have cut meeting department staff have not cut events.”

Moderated by Krisam Group President Jim Schultenover, the board's business meetings helped planners and hoteliers to understand each other's points of view. For example, they discussed the hotel's business review process, a daily meeting of personnel that looks at the details of upcoming group business. Thirty to 70 potential events, some of which are vying for the same dates, are typically discussed during a business review session. Board members agreed that understanding the nuances of this process, and how the hotel evaluates group business, can help planners to improve the value of their meetings. They discussed several examples of the benefits of full disclosure on the hotel side and flexibility on the planner's side when negotiating future programs.

Other educational takeaways centered on challenges and solutions regarding contracts and budgets. Among them:

Planners are being held accountable for line-item budget accuracy. They need to have all fees, surcharges, audiovisual costs, etc., spelled out in hotel proposals. Tip: the Krisam Group Library (www.krisam.com) is a formatted resource that can help planners to figure out costs such as hotel taxes and gratuities, as well as airport transportation and other ancillary meeting expenses.

Contract addendums, and delays from legal and procurement departments, can hold up the review process so long that planners lose their meeting blocks. The two contract clauses that most frequently cause problems are insurance and indemnification, said the KRIAB board members. To get faster approval from their legal departments, planners said that hotels should specify “option dates” and “ultimatums” — dates beyond which the hotels will not hold the space. Hoteliers said that contract turnaround time could be reduced if planners sent them the problematic clauses right from the beginning, rather than later on as addendums.

To speed up the contract process: Make everything clear and obvious in the document itself by bolding and highlighting all agreed-upon changes as the paperwork goes back and forth. Another way of doing this would be to select the “compare and merge documents” option in a Microsoft Word document.

The 2007 KRIAB attendees included Linda Bourbonnie, Old Mutual Financial; Pam Cary, Aegon; Eldon Gale, Nationwide; Pat Gondek, CNA, Bridget Nelson, National Financial Partners; Koleen Roach, Securian Financial; Wayne Robinson, Guardian; Mary Jo Wiseman, Travelers; James Wolfe, NCCI; Chandra Allison, The Venetian; Mike Crist, El Conquistador; Anne Ericson, Fountainebleau; Steffen Sheerin, Pinehurst; Chris Gilbert, Charleston Place; Art Gordon, Atlantis; Susan Penman, Hotel Del Coronado; Tina Portner, Loews Miami Beach; and Susan Thoma, Loews Lake Las Vegas.

The 2008 KRIAB meeting will take place May 29 to June 1 at the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego.

What Planners Want

Planners who attended The Krisam Group's Insurance Advisory Board meeting know what they like — and what they don't — when it comes to hotel communications.

  • E-mail is the preferred mode of communication.

  • Hot dates are of interest.

  • Planners don't have time for a single hotel appointment unless they are reviewing specific programs or contracts with that property.

  • The destination — not just the hotel — is an important part of the buying decision for incentive programs.

  • Planners love it when the general manager greets them personally at the start of a meeting.

  • Electronic requests for proposals can be useful, but not if they replace personal contact.