Considering the demand for meeting space is outpacing supply, one has to ponder if the massive resort style properties often held for annual conventions and corporate retreats will give way to a more unique planning approach: smaller.
In Carlson Wagonlit’s 2016 Meetings & Events Forecast, they predicted room rates to climb by 4.3% with demand growing at quadruple the rate of supply. While we are certainly grateful that new hotel development has rebounded after flat lining for many years, very few of the new properties under construction are full-service, and meeting planners are no doubt feeling the ripple effect of less venues, competitive dates, stricter cancellation policies and increased costs.
There can be a different solution to this challenge – think smaller. The auto industry has embraced smaller and although it took awhile, so too has the consumer. People everywhere are driving hybrid tiny cars and loving it. If you’ve watched recent episodes of HGTV programming, you’ll notice people are also living smaller and loving that too. So why not give it a go and see if you can switch things up a bit and select venues which may offer less space, but could quite possibly roll out the red carpet to earn your business? Are 30-foot ceilings really needed unless you have a high-wire performance during breaks?
While not every event or meeting can go small because it is difficult to fit 300 people inside a barn loft or wine cellar, if you’ve got 100 attendees or less, there are tons of venues just waiting for you to find them. Take a peek below at a few ways you can incorporate small planning to yield big results:
- Continually learn and develop your portfolio of “places.” Many of the smaller spots can’t afford snazzy marketing so you might have to dig a bit to get to the ones who fall beneath the top 10 results on Google. Your number one resource should always be the local CVB. We know places in our community better than anyone, so give yourself a break and let us help you!
- Just because your type of meeting or event has never happened at a location before, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t. Give the owners a call and start a conversation. Chances are they’ll be just as excited as you to do something new.
- Local is big right now and many corporate properties don’t allow outside catering or vendors. Look around and find those who do. No one has ever complained about not eating another pressed chicken plate and your attendees would love to dine local if given the option. Food and beverage has always been and will always continue to be a very big deal to attendees so feed them good food and watch your evaluation results climb. I would prefer my association invest in good food over large, spacious meeting rooms any day of the week.
- When technology isn’t widely available or all the new gadgets aren’t in place at the facility you are considering, use what you have. So, if you’re in a woodsy retreat center with 50 industry associates, chuck the connectivity and get out in nature for a 2-mile walk before breakfast. People don’t go to the Rockies for a new app that’s offered as part of their conference experience, they go to see the mountains. Let them enjoy the mountains.
- If the smaller hotel you’ve selected is missing a lounge, setup a happy hour drink station (check with management about permits and licenses) with a signature drink and options for people to gather. It’s tough to chat with people during the 15-minute breaks so gathering times are important.
- Incorporate fun after-hour activities. Think scavenger hunts, haunted tours, amazing races or minute-to-win-it games. Final evening banquet festivities are nice and all, but fun trumps a banquet any day of the week. After a 2-3 day meeting, people need a break from the announcements and pressed chicken plates
- While going smaller may not always yield great savings, if it does, pass that on to your clients. You’ll earn respect and repeat business for thinking outside of the big hotel box, coordinating a unique and fun experience and saving them money!
Karen Crane is the Director of the Merriam Visitors Bureau in Merriam, Kansas…next door neighbors to Kansas City! Learn more about Merriam at www.exploremerriam.com.