In between a seaside lobster bake at the Hyatt Regency Newport Hotel & Spa and moonlight dining at the elegant Rosecliff Mansion, planners and hospitality partners at the Financial & Insurance Conference Planners 2010 Northeast Region Summer Meeting in Newport, R.I., filled their educational plates with some up-to-the-minute discussions and presentations on topics ranging fromto working with CVBs.
If you missed the July meeting—remember that planners can attend any region’s meetings—here are nine ideas in random order from the meeting’s many breakout sessions:
1. Can planners handle the truth?
When the hospitality partner you are working with comes back with no bid, ask for a reason. You can handle the truth, right? If you can explain the situation to your internal client, perhaps you could work to change some aspect of the meeting, such as the pattern or number of breakout rooms needed.
2. Working with national sales offices doesn’t mean you should skip the CVB when it comes to site selection.
CVBs know independent properties, and could be even more familiar with the local chain hotel than the NSO is. Tim Walsh, CMP, vice president of sales, Newport and Bristol County CVB, recalls one instance when a national salesperson ruled out the local chain property thinking that it didn’t meet the planner’s specs, but Walsh knew that there was a way to make it work.
3. Do you need a production director or not? Use this formula.
How many audiovisual elements are you using in your session? Two or more of the following—PowerPoint, video, Web demos, music when people are walking on and off the stage—means you need a director. The difference between a producer and a director? “A producer hires crew and services and coordinates pre-production items,” says Greg Valentini, director, event technology, John Hancock, in Boston. “A director coordinates on site.”
4. Are online rates undermining you?
Planners’ credibility suffers when attendees want to book a couple of nights pre-meeting and find an online rate lower than their negotiated group rate. The solution to this tough situation may be for both sides to do a little extra work. Planners, educate attendees about what your rate is getting them: a guaranteed room that will be among the better rooms of the hotel. Not true for the cheapest rooms online, of which there are likely only a few. Hoteliers, ask planners when is the peak period for attendees to be making their pre- and post-meeting reservations. Is there a possibility of holding the fire-sale rates until after that peak period?
5. Be clever about concessions.
If a hotel owns its audiovisual equipment, go for some AV concessions because their profit margins are higher. Take the time to customize concession requests to the specific property on your RFPs. Otherwise, a hotelier might have to decline some of your standard concessions without being able to demonstrate how other concessions might work for you instead.
6. Destination management companies: Worth the price?
Sure, you might think going directly to local vendors could save money without the “middleman,” but your job isn’t just to get the lowest price. It’s to guarantee flawless execution and the best choices for the group. You might find a restaurant that looks fabulous online—and less fabulous up close. “A DMC knows the intricacies of a destination,” notes Laurie Stroll, DMCP, CMP, president of Newport Hospitality Inc., a DMC Network company. “I can call anyone and get anything done.” Their relationships and volume business also mean that DMCs can get the best pricing from the best vendors without your having to put in the legwork to find and with them.
7. Power for AV made simple.
The majority of programs have one of two power requirements for lighting and sound: 100 amp/200 amp service or 60 amp/100 amp service. It depends on the stage size and what else is being lighted. “In 30 years of doing this, I’ve never used anything else,” says Greg Valentini, director, event production, at John Hancock in Boston. “Don’t let anyone charge you for 400 amp service. You don’t need it.” Costs vary by market, he notes, and if unions are involved, you’ll need to research union rules.
8. Production extras: What to try, what to skip
Try: a “video podium”— a lectern with a plasma TV built in to the front. At about $250 a day for rental, these are a creative, versatile, and up-to-date way of doing lectern signs. Skip: 3D. You need an absolutely dark room and glasses, Valentini says. That makes 3D technology not ready for the meeting room.
9. Give credit where credit is due.
OK, this last one isn’t a tip! Here are the members of the Summer Meeting design team: Ivan Colon, Preservation Society of Newport County; Ali Ginnett, independent contractor, Travelers Insurance; Sheryl Krongold, CMP, Prudential; Lindsay Maloni, Met Life; Jennifer Pitt, Newport and Bristol County CVB; Randy Rovelto, Hyatt Regency Newport Hotel & Spa; Jennifer Squeglia, CMP, independent contractor, Boston Private Wealth Management Group; and Cheryl Twiss, Newport Hospitality Inc., a DMC Network Company.