‘Tis the season to be talking bargains… Black Friday… Cyber Monday… Who doesn’t enjoy getting premium items “on sale”? That’s the objective when we engage with our customers on their meeting needs and develop a timeline to maximize savings (& increase attendance as a bonus). The most critical component is “time”. When you have only a couple of weeks to deliver a meeting, it’s very difficult to find hotel availability in the desired cities, let alone to try to further negotiate the rates. And flights — that pesky moving target for which the fares change on a daily basis, and usually get higher and higher when issued less than 21 days prior to travel.
So I wanted to share some best practices as food for thought for the next time you have a meeting need. As previously mentioned, time is the driver for bargains. For meetings up to 250 attendees, ideally, you want to start looking at hotel availability 12 weeks prior to your program. This will allow for better negotiations and concessions. You may want to also stay flexible on the destination — have three cities to work with, especially if decision is budget driven — this strategy will allow flexibility to meet your goal. As a side note, Orlando, Dallas and Atlanta have proven to be extremely cost effective cities. Also, if you have a little flexibility in your dates, this would allow for hotels to come back with better availability with a much lower rate.
Flights are always most challenging due to fares being volatile based on supply and demand. Our experience has validated that for flights being issued more than 21 days prior to meeting date, we are able to secure the best rates on most routes, in addition to having more options (availability) for direct flights. We recommend that registration is launched 8 weeks prior to meeting to maximize these fares. We also recommend that once city / hotel / date has been confirmed, to send the attendees a “Save the Date” in order to maximize attendance.
As a last recommendation, for a 2-day meeting, we would recommend utilizing an airport property that is either within walking distance of the airport terminal (a few of our favorites are Hilton @ Boston Logan; Grand Hyatt @ DFW; Westin @ Detroit Metropolitan; Marriott @ Philadelphia; Hilton at London Heathrow) or some very “un-airport” like, artsy hotels like the Loews at Chicago O’Hare or the Hyatt Regency Paris Charles de Gaulle that offer complimentary airport shuttles. Quick in and out — minimum commute (e.g. traffic); but most importantly saving on airport transfers that average a couple of hundred dollars per attendee by chauffeured-sedan. With some strategically placed airport staff with meeting signage for the attendees to recognize, we are still able to deliver a personal “white-glove” experience while saving thousands of dollars.
So with a little flexibility, time, and a best in class meetings agency that leverages volume-spend with strategic vendors, your meeting could benefit from some great cost savings. This is all part of an effective Strategic Meeting Management program.
Agnès Canonica, CMP, CMM, HMCC Global Director, Strategic Meeting Management, AHM
Born and raised in the south of France, Agnès has also lived in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Grand Case, St. Martin prior to moving to the United States in 1981. Working in the Life Sciences sector since 1999 on both clinical and commercial meetings, Agnès is responsible for the Strategic Meeting Management division at AHM – implementing, growing, and leading International teams and accounts across the globe for programs outside of Speaker Bureau.