Webcast Series: Bring it On, with Kristi White
Gearing Up for The Road Ahead: How Savvy Meeting Planners are Preparing for Tomorrow with Deanne Vigil, Regional Vice President, HelmsBriscoe
Highlights from our webcast on what meeting planners are looking for and how hotels can attract and respond to meeting and event planners.
On August 26, I spoke with Deanne Vigil, Regional Vice President at HelmsBriscoe to learn how meeting planners are managing the current situation. She confirmed many of her clients are pushing for smaller, regional meetings, particularly in local drive markets. Deanne pointed out that instead of having meeting participants take a 4-hour plane ride to attend an all hands meeting. Her clients are choosing to break up their activities into smaller regional meetings of 20 people or so spread across the country where attendees may only have to drive an hour or so. From a Knowland perspective, this is a trend we have seen in prior downturns.
While HelmsBriscoe initially saw its clients were focused on cleanliness and social distancing, today those same clients understand the lines may be blurred as policies and recommendations change, often daily. Now they are more concerned about the specifics of the space agreement and how they are protected should the hotel not be able to accommodate them when the event comes around.
“They still want to have the programs as they know them,” Deanne said, “but they now recognize the standards of social distancing might change. This requires a lot flexibility, to adjust to those needs. We are also keeping a close eye on attrition. We know this is always important, but more so today.”
Some of the advice she is giving to her clients include patience and understanding, from both sides. She also notes that relationships matter more today than ever before, and it is likely this may be a catalyst for determining better and more effective ways to hold meetings.
“We’ve seen many planners want to hear success stories from hotels. They don’t want to come up with their own solutions (why re-invent the wheel) and are looking for hotels to help them strategize and plan,” Deanne said. “Hotels should share their successful events with other planners to get the confidence built up and keep the creativity flowing.”
While virtual meetings have been in vogue, the hybrid-style meeting (physical and virtual) is a short-term trend they are witnessing, such as doing a live feed between several hotels with small groups gathered, while others attend virtually from different locations as we noted above.
The reality is that people enjoy being together and networking face-to-face, and while that is not happening in a big way now, it will come back extremely strong.
She noted that pro-active communications from hoteliers is comforting, especially when they offer to work with meeting planners to determine next steps and are willing to put it in the contract. One of the bigger challenges they have seen is that hotels sometimes hold back on the latest market changes. “That can be challenging for us, but it’s helpful if the hotel is keeping us informed on those local restrictions,” Deanne noted.
At the end of the day, flexibility and relationships are key. Both in terms of contract negotiations, the timing of decisions and outreach. “I prefer to speak to people with whom I have established a relationship, especially if it is not a hard-core sales call.” she said.
Deanne re-iterated the fact that hotels need to communicate to meeting planners that they are open, as well as communicating the ways that they can help her team. She noted that customers are saying that they want to get back to meetings sooner than later.
She said that they are already seeing a lot of positive momentum through the end of the year and into 2021. Now that’s some good news!
To listen to the webcast in its entirety, click here.