Have you even been tasked with booking a space-only meeting? If you have, then you understand the struggle. If you haven’t yet, you need to be prepared for when that day will come so you don’t break out in an itchy rash from stress!
Whether it’s a one-day employee rally, a dinner meeting, or a 14-city roadshow, it’s pretty much always painful to try to rent meeting space when you have little or no sleeping rooms.
The go-to option would be to eliminate hotels from your list all together, opting for restaurants, event spaces or club houses. However, hotels want your business you just need to know how to approach them.
To guide you in booking your next space-only meeting, you need to start with POMS, Principles of Meeting Space.
Space is the number one asset
Hotels can’t sell their sleeping rooms to groups if they don’t have meeting space to match the availability. That means that the hotel’s most precious asset isn’t its sleeping rooms but rather its meeting space. With this in mind, how and when you use that space will be key to whether the hotel can sell it to you or not.
No credit where credit is due
This is a fact of hotel sales life. Your GSO (Global Sales Office) or property sales person doesn’t get credit for your space-only program. This doesn’t mean they won’t walk to the ends of the earth to help you place that roadshow. But it’s good information for you to know. (So who does get credit? Read Tip #2 below to find out)
Timing is everything
As with most things hotel-related, when you book your space-only meeting has an enormous effect on whether you’re successful or not. You can in fact book a meeting further out if you know what questions to ask (check tip #4 below for one such question).
Now that you know the POMS, here are some tips to help you position your space-only meeting to hotels:
1. Know what “Free Sell” means and ask your hotel contact for it.
This is a term used to describe a date when the catering department takes over the sale of the meeting space and can sell it without approval (or at least with fewer hurdles to jump through for approval). That could be 90 days, 120 days, or as close as 30 days.
2. Know who to call.
The catering department in most hotels is the one responsible for selling the meeting space and meals. So start there as they do get credit for booking your space-only meeting.
3. You are what you eat.
Instead of paying room rental, host a meal or two with some coffee breaks in between. Often, hotels will waive any rental in lieu of a good food and beverage package. Want to increase your chances of locking in that space? Add a bar.
4. If you’re in big cities, find out the closest city-wide convention to your dates.
Nothing spells “available space” more than a city-wide group. In a city-wide, hotels commit rooms and most often, no space. A rare moment when there’s more space than rooms to sell.
5. Be flexible on dates.
When talking to your hotel contact, give them a range of dates. You want to work hard to fit in where they need you. This will play a big role in the overall savings as well. Oh, and be open to a weekend.
6. Try to book your space-only meeting as close to the meeting date as possible.
As time dwindles down, hotels have a tougher and tougher time selling their space and rooms. This works in your favor, as hotels shift from conserving their space to an outright fire sale. The adage, “Better to get some revenue than no revenue,” plays well here.
7. Keep your series of meetings with the same hotel.
If you are booking a series meetings for lets say a roadshow on different dates or locations, try to keep it with the same hotel or brand. This will give you some leverage because they will be securing additional revenue.
8. Leverage future meetings with sleeping rooms.
Sure you are only booking space now, but you may have events or meetings in the next coming months that you need sleeping rooms for as well. Try to negotiate both meetings together.
9. If you need to book further out, try to find days just before or after a holiday.
If you don’t want to wait until just before to book your meeting space, try looking for dates around a holiday. Hotels will be looking to fill space just before or after the rush.
Yes, space-only meetings can be challenge to book but with the above tips in mind you can go through the process almost stress free! Think from the perspective of a hotel sales manager and what would make the most sense for them. By going into the conversation with these tips and POMS top of mind, you will become an expert at booking space-only meetings!
Written by: Mike Mason