Chirine Salha, looks at what’s on the ever-growing ‘must-have’ list of event planners looking to leave their mark in the industry.
Hotels are among the most popular choices when it comes to choosing a venue for a meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibition (MICE) event. However, with competition fierce and a wide range of other options available, providers need to be going the extra mile to secure business.
Think industrial lofts, farms, museums, open wilderness and more.
To make your hotel more attractive to planners, it’s imperative to understand that hotels need to position themselves as active partners rather than passive hosts.
Venue selection and facilities checklist
For planners, the venue decision is the first hurdle that must be crossed in ensuring success for the overall performance of the event. Selecting the appropriate destination is no easy task and involves many considerations, including:
• Dedicated conference space and break out sessions’ rooms
• Ease of hotel/destination accessibility by air and land
• Choice of restaurants and catering
• Variety of cultural sites and nightlife nearby
• Number of guest rooms and accommodation within the same room
• Availability of parking
• Transportation from and to satellite venues
• Hotel brand name and destination image
• Reputation for hosting successful events
• Safety and security, as well as privacy
• Increased need for cyber-security, especially since the introduction of GDPR
• Technical support services and IT
• Hotel policies, such as booking and cancellations, receiving goods and vendors’ access
• Staff involvement and ownership
Rather than a boring ballroom or a stuffy meeting room, planners want adaptive spaces, which are more of a blank canvas that they can mold into an ‘experiential environment’, allowing them to wow attendees. For hotels, this means flexibility from staff in playing along with planners and transforming existing rooms into their visualized, creative-themed environment.
To stand out from the competition, hotels will also benefit from offering outdoor spaces, hence providing planners and delegates with a welcome change of scenery, involving daylight and an al fresco experience.
An event planner’s search may well begin with the hotel’s website. Creating a unique landing page dedicated to conferences and events will allow the hotel to prominently feature all the essential details that any planner will be looking for, including: detailed floors plans and dimensions; quality photos of event spaces – empty and set up; capacity; various set-up styles; catering options; technology-related information; and selfguided virtual tours.
A hotel should also be using its website and social media channels to showcase glowing testimonials from past attendees which will add credibility and evidence, helping to instill confidence in the venue.
Customer relationship management
Another aspect of hotel selection is the ability and willingness of the hotel staff to work with planners in accommodating their creative ideas. The chemistry and perceptions that planners have of their interaction with hotel
staff during the planning period is important in building long-term relationships.
Make sure your staff have the expertise and willingness to create long-lasting
connections with planners, remembering that the MICE segment represents regular and repeat business. Establishing trust and rapport between your hotel stuff and event planners is crucial, given that many are increasingly moving toward planning events virtually and remotely, cutting down on inperson site visits. In fact, with the technology now becoming readily available, virtual collaboration with hotel staff and vendors is allowing for the bulk of event preparation to be undertaken in this way.
Invest in appropriate technology services
To appeal to younger, tech-savvy planners, hotels need to invest in up-to-date technologies. The right technology is also needed to facilitate smooth running of events such as:
• Multiple charging stations for devices
• Attendee e-mail kiosks – a center for visitors to access their e-mail
• Attendee messaging center
• Flexible in-room entertainment options
• Office and press room communications center
• Cutting edge audio-visuals, such as touchscreen, live video streaming services
• Virtual reality for a more immersive feel to events
• Chatbots with hotel staff
Out-of-the-box catering options
Hotels also need to supply event delegates with appetizing, accommodating food and beverage options. Working luncheons, varying from grab-and go options to farmto- table menus and hometown authentic dishes, are playing a major role in the event experience. Creative and flexible culinary options are becoming major selling points for hotels, especially given the growing focus on allergy considerations and dietary requests from attendees for gluten-free, organic, vegetarian and vegan choices, for example. Despite all the planning, there will inevitably be unplanned, last-minute requests or unforeseen situations from time to time. Having hotel staff that are able to remain calm, proactively attending to the requests to hand, and with the flexibility to offer alternative solutions, will contribute to the confidence the planner has in your venue.
MICE industry trends, such as the rise of social media and online reviews, tailormade unique experiences, a shift toward virtual and augmented elements, and demand for out-of-the-box event spaces, are making the job of the modern MICE planner increasingly complex. Planners face a number of challenges, while attendees are expecting a more meaningful experience. By understanding and adapting to these new dynamics, your hotel stands a better chance of capturing more business from this lucrative segment of the market.
“Make sure staff have the expertise and willingness to create long lasting
connections with planners, remembering that MICE represents regular and repeat business”