- Think big when planning small meetings
- Keep an eye on minor details
- New world of options available to small meetings
So what exactly defines a small meeting? Ask three different hoteliers and you’ll most likely get three different answers. Some base the designation strictly on number of sleeping rooms, some on total body count, others on meeting space requirements and still others on projected revenue. All these factors must weigh in when discussing small meetings, but whatever criteria you use there’s no doubt among any suppliers that small meetings can still mean big business.
“With a total of 187 sleeping rooms and 40,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, the small meeting market is very important to us here at the Country Springs Hotel in Pewaukee,” said Jeff Seidl, Director of Sales. “We call ourselves an ‘Executive Oasis,’ and our team of six sales managers take the small meeting market very seriously.”
So, let’s say you’re a planner who has had success in managing your annual large conference but has now been given the task to book and oversee a series of smaller groups. Where to begin? One way to face it is to think big. By that we mean, look at the sum total of business this series of smaller meetings can bring to the negotiating table, whether the entire series is held in one city over multiple dates or the series moves around the country. National chains can be approached to source all of them, and even if preferred dates can’t be obtained in every location, just booking a portion of them through one national sales office can save the planner time and money with pre-negotiated rates and contract terms.
Another tip under the ‘think big’ category, which applies even to stand alone or single meetings, is to estimate the projected revenue the group will bring to a chosen facility and share that during the RFP process with the hotels. By providing a total working budget, even as a best-guess estimate, you will help any facility you approach quickly assess the overall value of your business. To get the hotel’s attention, be honest and start with the basics - sleeping rooms, meal functions, meeting space and AV. Even when your boss can’t yet give you the specific details, it’s your job as a planner to fill in some of those blanks before you attempt to book that meeting.
A good tip from the supplier side: if you can, ask for meeting space in proportion to the number of sleeping rooms. When the square footage request is exceptionally larger than the total amount of sleeping rooms per night, the hotel could have trouble in considering the overall value and may ultimately have to turn down your request. If you need more space, communicate with the hotel to work out some creative options, such as utilizing outdoor space or using a single meeting space for multiple functions.
And from the planner’s side: “Never forget that just because it’s a small meeting doesn’t mean it can’t have big problems!” said Karen Peterson, CMP, Sr. Manager Meeting Planning & Events for Tupperware, US and Canada. “Even when the meeting is small, you need to keep your eye on all the minor details in order to manage a successful program.”
Finally, booking smaller meetings sometimes allows a planner to investigate boutique or specialty hotels and conference centers they might not ever have looked at for larger groups. For many, it opens up a whole new world of supplier options, and many of these facilities will devote better resources to small groups that more specifically fit their target market.