Selecting venues can be a costly and stressful aspect of your job, but it doesn't have to be. I recommend that meeting managers create a list of their preferred vendors — those companies that are reliable, professional, and most willing to stay within your budgetary guidelines — to avoid starting from scratch each time you have to search for a venue.
As a third-party meeting management company, we have saved our clients money by working with preferred vendors, because venues are more apt to discount their services for loyal customers. There is also more negotiating power when you have a proven history. Other benefits include the waiving of room rental fees or discounts on your food-and-beverage minimum. When we use preferred vendors, we often receive the previous year's menu prices or a customized menu that meets our budgetary requirements. In our experience, preferred vendors are more apt to honor requests, including your preference for a particular meeting room.
Working with convention services and event staff who are familiar with your program reduces stress and allows the on-site planner to focus on the needs of the attendees. It also means being able to count on the event staff if you're in a bind.
For example, The Grand Hyatt Atlanta recently proved to us the power of a preferred vendor. A staff member of ours was eating lunch at a downtown restaurant when her car was broken into and her luggage stolen. While she was unavoidably delayed, our contact at the Hyatt instantly took charge. Since we had held previous programs there, our contact was in sync with our operating procedures and was able to retrieve our materials from shipping, display our signage, and set up our registration desk. By the time our staffer arrived at the hotel, not only had the hotel staff anticipated our needs, they had executed the level of service our clients have come to expect. To top it all off, that night our staffer received a call that her luggage was found at a nearby store. A waiter, having overheard this conversation, showed up 20 minutes later with the luggage in hand!
At another recent meeting held at one of our preferred vendors, the Hyatt Regency Phoenix, our client arrived unexpectedly. The staff was ready to accommodate our VIP and went the extra mile to send up a room amenity to make sure our company was portrayed in a positive light. In addition, this venue always handles any overflow of guests without missing a beat. With registrations getting harder and harder to gauge, having a venue capable of accommodating a sudden influx of guests over our guarantee — with ease — is essential.
Most organizations strive for flawless execution of their events, and using a preferred vendor is one of the best ways to achieve this. Time and time again our vendors have proven to us their strengths and solidified our belief in the power of naming them a preferred vendor.
Katie Andrade is a meeting services coordinator at PRIME Education Inc., Tamarac, Fla., which specializes in healthcare educational program design, accreditation, execution, and evaluation. Visit www.primeinc.org.