Planning a meeting? Here’s where to start.

October 10, 2014


Before you begin the process of planning a company meeting, you’ll need to collect the key requirements for the meeting along with a few other details from your decision-maker. This will help you to make preliminary decisions on hotels to select for your RFP. Having a complete understanding of the meeting’s needs will help you to receive comprehensive hotel proposals that you can bring back to your decision-maker.

Here are a few items to discuss:

Flexibility on dates Are they flexible on dates? Very often, hotels don’t have availability for your exact dates. A slight change to your meeting’s dates may open up availability. Would they be open to the same day pattern (ex: Monday through Wednesday), but perhaps over a different week? Being flexible gives hotels an opportunity to really consider the RFP and not just turn it down because the preferred dates are not available. And hotels will often incent you by offering some very special pricing and cost savings in return for your flexibility.

If your decision-maker is willing to consider alternate dates, include this sentence at the top of your RFP: “Although the dates are firm, we’ll consider alternate dates if your offer justifies the change.”

Budget concerns and options to discuss The time of year has an impact on costs and availability – check the calendar of events for your destination city’s convention & visitor’s bureau (CVB) to be aware of large conferences/conventions, special events (annual marathon, Christmas tree lighting celebration), and holidays that may affect your attendees’ participation. Review this information with your decision-maker to ensure there are no obvious conflicts with your meeting’s dates.

Location Is the location set in stone, but the rates in that city are out of budget? Consider hotels near the airport for more economical options. Many offer free hotel shuttles which can help with your ground transportation costs (taxi/rental car). Urban areas offer convenience for shopping and dining, however you can expect higher hotel rates for this convenience. Also, check the hotels’ star ratings to search appropriate level hotels for your meeting.

Gather your meeting’s history – generate credibility If this is a meeting that has been held previously, gather as much information about the meeting’s past performance – at least 2 years’ worth. The specifics that are important to the hotels are: • Where you held the meeting in the past • The size of the contracted room block (total room-nights committed in the contract) • The  meeting’s actual pickup (total room-nights actually used) • Food & beverage spend This will give your meeting credibility that it will likely take place as you have described it.

If this is a first-time meeting, don’t fret. Provide your meeting history from other, similar meetings. This will show that you understand the importance of performance and that your meetings are real and valuable.

If your company has no history of holding other meetings, you will then need to focus on how you plan to drive attendance for your meeting. For instance, provide any attendance-driving specifics, like: “This is a mandatory meeting for all regional salespeople.” Some other ways include describing your key marketing tactics, the size of the audience of potential attendees you are marketing to, and top speakers you have confirmed for the event.

If you’ve planned similar events and have a history of planning meetings, make sure you mention your own tenure. Make it a point to call out your past performances, and you’ll be surprised at how attentive your hotel partners will be – not to mention the offers that will come in as a result.

Reviewing hotel proposals Educate the decision-maker that proposals are not a guarantee of rate and availability. Hotel availability could change in a day and your best opportunity could be lost. Avoid losing out by reviewing the proposals and connecting with your preferred hotels within a few days of receiving them. You don’t need to make a decision – just inform the hotels you’re interested and that they’re in the running for your meeting. This only commits you to discussing the proposals with the hotel sales manager, nothing more. Gather any questions or concerns from all parties involved before further discussions with your preferred hotels. This is where negotiations really begin. Hotel sales managers will be motivated to work with you on your concession requests once they realize they really have a shot at booking your meeting.

Collecting this key information from your decision-maker in the beginning will give you a jump on your hotel search. You’ll minimize the back-and-forth between your decision-maker and the hotels, and you’ll have complete proposals to help make a decision on hotel selection.

Get more tips on creating a great meeting request – download Zentila’s 8 Secrets to Great Hotel Meeting Requests.



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