Trend Watch with Regina Baraban, Editor at Large
Nearly 80 percent of the corporate meetings business this year at The Pierre, a Taj Hotel, in New York City, has come from the financial services industry, according to Bill Spinner, director of catering at the hotel. Most of the meetings are from New York companies and typically run one business day.
Day meetings tend to be low on the desirability scale for luxury hotels—unless, as with The Pierre, there is a high proportion of meeting space to guest rooms. With 18,000 square feet of conference space and only 189 rooms, the storied hotel (which reopened in June 2009 after a $100 million renovation) allows planners to book day meetings without a room block. However, guest rooms often come into play, says Denise Miller Simmons, director of corporate and group sales, The Americas, for Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces. “Companies often request suites for one-on-one meetings during a conference,” she says. “It gives corporate hosts a quiet space to break away for more intimate conversations.”
The Pierre is seeing growing numbers of one-day investor conferences held by private equity firms, hedge funds, and larger Wall Street companies. At these meetings, the one-on-ones often give attendees direct access to company CFOs and COOs, says Spinner.
The Pierre has also been booking more pop-up meetings surrounding initial public offerings. These meetings usually have 10 to 50 attendees, while investor conferences range from 150 to 300 attendees (and are typically booked about six months in advance).
The overall goal for planners is to make every minute of a day meeting count, Spinner notes. Meals are briefer, with lunches lasting 45 minutes instead of an hour, having two courses rather than three, or even being served as a box lunch. “Most conferences last from 9 to 5,” he says, “and food service is where you can shave time without losing content.” Unless the content is concurrent, that is. When there is a served meal, you can bet there will be a keynote presentation as well.
Simmons says more planners are asking for daily delegate rates as a way to manage their budgets. These packages may include per-person pricing for food and beverage, breaks, room rental, audiovisual, and Internet. Another budget-saving tip is flexibility with dates, she says, which may enable your group to fill a need period for a hotel. And speaking of dates, be aware of what’s happening in a city hotel’s neighborhood and along the route your delegates will travel. Says Simmons: “Diplomatic visits, citywide conferences, marathons, and other events can cause havoc for those trying to get to a day meeting!”