Companies and Associations are hosting meetings again. For the last six weeks, I've been feverishly finding homes for Sales Kick Offs, President Club Trips and Customer Facing Events. As we've risen from the wreckage of 2020 and start to secure locations for meetings again, I've seen some interesting trends develop. Below are the top three most frequently discussed topics by my clients who are currently hosting meetings.
It's All About The Terms. We get it. Hotels have been closed or at low occupancy for a long time. We understand the hotel must make up lost revenue from a dismal 2020. There is extreme optimism about the future. However, we are still fearful of a surge or variant that would prevent us from hosting our meeting. We also are unsure about how our attendees will respond to coming back to an in-person meeting. We won't really know their registration behavior until we open registration. At that point, it's too costly to cancel. We need hotels and venues to be mindful of their terms for meetings in 2021 and the first half of 2022.
Attrition, cancellation, force majeure, deposit schedules are all top priorities.
We want to be sure we have some flexibility if something unexpected happens again. We also want to be sure the hotel will accept our business, at any size, if our attendee registration fluctuates. We know this doesn't give hotels much stability for planning, but we will work with you, if you work with us. Clients are so concerned about terms that we are pre-negotiating important terms in the RFP phase. Normally, I don't do this until we ask for a contract. However, people want to know what the hotel is willing to agree too early on, so they know if the hotel is a viable option. This is how important attrition, cancellation, deposit, and force majeure is to us.
Internal vs External Meetings. Internal meetings are the employee based or mandatory meetings. We have more control over these meetings. We submit rooming lists for these meetings. We typically know within a small margin of error who will come to these meetings and who will not. For the short term, many companies may not be attending larger trade shows which makes them miss out on extremely valuable face to face customer interaction. In the absence of these large trade shows, companies are having their own, small, customer facing meetings. These can be anywhere in size from 20 - 200 attendees including company leadership and sales teams. I've seen these done in a nice hotel suite, a hip local venue with a hotel room block nearby or an executive meeting space at a small to mid size hotel. On the flip side, I've seen people cancel external meetings or reduce external meeting size by at least 30%. The very same client that is holding the customer facing internal meeting is the same client cancelling or reducing the external meetings. Why? They don't have control over their attendee’s individual travel bans or traveling preferences. External meetings are association meetings, user groups, trade shows or any conference where the attendee is not bound by the organization guidelines. Once people get back into offices, and travel bans are lifted, I believe there will be a second wave of external meetings. For now, I've seen the rise in the internal meetings such as Sales Kick Off Meetings, Executive Retreats and Club/Incentive Trips.
Programming. Many people have not been in groups of more than their family in over a year. Throwing people back into a group setting of more than four people can feel a bit shocking. Moving out of our pajamas into work apparel, and traversing a hotel from lobby to foyer to meeting space is much bigger than the transition from our garage office to the kitchen. To avoid the overwhelming large groups of people in the faces of our attendees all at once, many planners are being mindful and offering more "space" in the agenda. I've seen many customers change their agenda to give more time between each part of the day to allow for attendees to ease back into the meeting experience.
Instead of 15-minute breaks, give 30 minute am/pm breaks.
Instead of starting the meeting at 7 am with breakfast then rushing straight into the meeting, do a breakfast on a flow between 7 - 9 am, then, start the meeting at 9:15.
Instead of meeting 8 am to 6 pm with quick break before dinner, meet from 8 am to 3:30 pm. Give a 90-minute brain break to check emails and refresh for dinner. Give optional happy hour at 5 pm and mandatory dinner at 6 pm.
These tactics allow for people to ease back into meetings. The goal is to make the transition from being at home in pajamas on Zoom calls to the in person hustle and bustle more productive and much more pleasant.
This barely scratches the surface on the many trends and observations I've been experiencing as we return to holding conferences. If you want to continue the discussion, chat about a meeting redesign, or hear from the voice of a customer, reach out to me, anytime. I am happy to share sample agendas, program highlights, terms, travel tips and overall thoughts on hosting meetings post Covid, anytime. Ping me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mandi Graziano is the author of Sales Tales book. She is a seasoned hospitality veteran with more than twenty years experience in the hotel and conference management business. For more information on booking her to speak or coach your organization, visit www.mandigraziano.com or email email@example.com