Seven Things Meeting & Event Planners Look for in a Hotel
By Kacey Bradley, Lifestyle Blogger for The Drifter Collective
When it comes to the perfect venue, event planners don't select the first hotel they see. Instead, the research process is extensive. They search online for options and look for user-generated reviews. They also have expectations when it comes to technology and amenities.
1. Realistic Expectations
Meeting and event planners primarily research venues online. It's one of the top methods for selecting a space, right behind word-of-mouth. It's important that your hotel's website offers everything a planner needs to know, including the types of events you host, amenities available, catering options and more. Bonus points to hotels that provide contract outlines for planners to peruse.
Don't forget to include photos. Event planners want to see a space and get a feel for what they can do. Post photos of event spaces, both empty and used. Outline which rooms are best for which events — for example, the poolside lounge might work best for a cocktail party or shareholders meeting.
2. User-Generated Reviews
Event planners research online to come up with a list of potential hotels. Then, they'll go through user-generated reviews to see what past guests and event planners had to say. User-generated content is more authentic and telling than a hotel's website, making it crucial for a hotel to have a positive online presence.
When a guest or event planner is checking out, ask them to write a review of your space. If a guest leaves a negative comment about your property, don't fire back or try to hide it. Instead, use it as an opportunity to admit your faults and show determination to do better. Let guests know you're committed to providing remarkable experiences.
3. Direct Communication
Planning an event can be stressful. Event planners need a point-of-contact to ensure everything goes off without a hitch. But many hotels fall short when it comes to open and direct communication. According to one survey, slow response time is the biggest frustration event planners face with venues.
Gone are the days of playing phone tag. For event planners, email is crucial. It's the easiest way to send a message or reply. Ditch the form and instead, provide an email address where planners can directly communicate with a real staff member. Hotels that offer direct communication are hotspots in the eyes of event planners.
4. Outdoor Space
Outdoor events — from weddings to corporate meetings — are becoming increasingly popular. To stand out from the competition, hotels should offer adaptive outdoor spaces that provide a combination of natural sunlight and greenery. An outdoor venue can offer a welcome change of pace that corporate event planners crave.
A veranda, patio, gazebo or party tent can make the perfect spot to host a product launch, employee dinner or sales meeting. Natural scenery, like flowers, trees, and water fountains, can have a positive effect on the event atmosphere. When less constrained by the stereotypical workplace, people are better able to share ideas, communicate and collaborate.
5. Wireless Internet
In today's technologically advanced world, internet access is more important than ever. Guests and event planners alike will actively avoid hotels known for spotty Wi-Fi. Not only is internet access a must, but it also has to be fast and reliable, able to handle data-heavy activities like streaming and downloading.
Today, it's expected that hotels offer Wi-Fi for free. If you plan to add a surcharge for events, consider tiered fees based on group size and needs. Always be up-front and honest about additional costs. Due to the size of most hotels, you'll likely require multiple access points to offer full coverage.
6. Flexible Staff
Event planners often rely on hotel staff to perfect the small details and make the meeting a success. Staff should be trained to handle a variety of event types, from weddings and bar mitzvahs to corporate meetings and charity fundraisers. A flexible team is invaluable when it comes to planning an event.
Over-the-top acts of customer service matter. The Inn at Little Washington, for example, is known for their exemplary staff. After a guest forgot her purse in the garage at home, a staff member volunteered to drive there and retrieve it. The employees were able to assess the situation and come up with a solution that provided the best guest experience.
7. The Wow Factor
When it comes to a hotel, event planners are looking for that "wow factor." They want highly-creative spaces that challenge attendees to think outside the box. What makes your venue different? How can you highlight your uniqueness in a way that entices event planners?
The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel in Canada, for example, offers the perfect blend of venue and experience. The architecture mimics a pristine castle, nestled amongst the snow-capped alps. Another example is The NoMad Hotel in New York. The venue features 4,000 square feet of unique meeting and event space equipped with state-of-the-art technology and specially-catered menus.
Do you want to stand out from the competition as a premier event space? Then it's essential to understand what planners want. Provide a realistic expectation of what you have to offer with an info-filled website and high-quality pictures. Keep communication simple and easy with email. And remember the importance of the "wow factor" — what makes your hotel unique.