Want to book more business this year? If you answered yes, my first recommendation would be start thinking like a planner. We all have heard the saying "To put yourself in someone else's shoes." So, let's start by using some empathy to win over our customers and get more business.
Meeting planners want communication that is clear and concise. Have you ever received an email asking for a picture of the meeting room, the menu and what the dimensions are and you answer it with what you think they want but you miss the mark? As a planner, we are looking for details, we are looking for visuals and we want to make sure the space you are suggesting will in fact fit the needs of our client's request. We like honesty, if you feel the room holds 50 theater style and the group is requesting 40 theater style, be proactive and ask the right questions so your client has a wonderful experience.
When communicating, most planners want emails. Yes, we love information. Ever call a planner and you ask if this is a bad time? Well a day in the life of a planner can be crazy from conference calls, WebEx meetings to putting out fires. When Forbes puts out the list of most stressful jobs and the event planner is listed in the top 5, there is definitely some truth behind that. What can you do to get our attention?
No cold calling please, send an email with what anything new and unique, and special offers to place business at the venue.
Meeting planners are looking for details, the best thing is to take an extra few minutes to know your client. As a planner, I have client information sheets available for all our planners who work on our team. It answers those great questions such as what is their favorite beverage, food or snack? When you know your client, it goes along way. How amazing when your client comes for a site visit and you have their favorite drink and snack at the pre-con. If they valet the car, how about having the bell stand place a cold water and a memorable snack for their ride home.
When you get to know your client, you will get to know their hot buttons. As a planner, mine is lines. I do not like lines and I do not want my client or attendees to have lines. Be proactive, let them know what you are going to do as a hotel to eliminate these lines to the best of your ability whether it's the front desk, the bar at the client's reception or checking out at the hotel.
Stand out, be creative, memorable and unique. Last fall I had a great game night at a hotel in Orlando with Jenga, bags, an oversized Connect 4 and fire pit. After I worked with my local destination management company, I then worked with the chef to plan a menu. The chef came up with the idea of a s'more station. Not just any s'more station, the chef picked out a beautiful tree on the property to make this magic happen. He created a 's'more tree and the branches consisted of chocolate, marsh mellow and the graham cracker to create the illusion of additional branches on a tree.
This simple thing was the most photographed item of the evening. My advice to you, stand out, do something different where guests are talking about your product and adding their favorite experiences to social media.
Another one is when you finish your meeting and the audiovisual company starts removing the equipment immediately when it ends. If you can wait an extra 15-20 minutes till the guest leave, this will improve you guest experience. Turn these negative experiences into a positive by communicating to your staff and by asking the right questions to set up for a positive experience.
• Melissa Hahn is a certified meeting planner.