As an event professional, you may already know what meeting history is and why it’s important. But if you’re new to this term, here’s a quick definition: meeting history is a record of your meeting’s past locations and room pick-up.
Hotels will almost always ask you for your history before heading into the final negotiations. It’s in this history that many decisions are made regarding pricing, availability, and overall value offered from your hotel partners.
So why is your meeting history so important to hotels? The short answer: credibility. Hotels receive hundreds of meeting RFPs a week, and they’re constantly trying to find the meetings that not only have the greatest chance of booking, but also are most likely to perform to the original specs in the RFP.
There are three factors that hotels can determine from your meeting history:
- Does your group fit our hotel profile? If your history shows you used hotels or venues that are of lesser quality or that are unlike the current list of hotels, you’ll have some explaining to do. Although this one is the most subjective, it’s often the go-to factor for disqualifying your RFP. Hotels want groups that ‘fit in’ with the other groups in-house. So it’s unlikely that an upscale hotel would book a tractor-pull over the top of a pharmaceutical product launch. A bit of exaggeration? Not really. Hotels get those requests all the time.
- Can the group pay our rates? Similar to #1, this is really about profitability of your group. Can your attendees take advantage of the full range of services offered by the hotel? The more services you and your group use, the more profitable the group is. Your past hotel selection will give them a good indication of overall profitability.
- Is the actual room block request accurate? Let’s face it, some of you out there are positive thinkers and believe each year that your room block will grow by 50%. Hotels know otherwise. It’s in their best interest to block fewer rooms – and hence less meeting space – so that you are more likely to pick up your entire block. This information is rarely provided by you, the planner. So where does a hotel get your prior few years of room block pickup?
Here’s a little-known fact about hotels: They all talk. Sure, their first order of business is to compete for your meeting. However, meeting history is so important that hotels have agreed to share at least some information about your meetings with each other. The most common information shared is your actual room pick-up compared against your contracted block. (It’s important to note that hotels don’t share everything. Things like your room rate, catering prices, overall spend, etc. are top secret and are never part of the history request.)
So sharing meeting history with hotels is a powerful incentive for them…and for you. There are many ways you can use your history to get great deals from hotels. But what about first-time meetings – those that have no history? Are you out of luck? Absolutely not. Here are some questions you may be asking yourself, as well as some relevant information you can provide when you have no meeting history.
- Can’t I just make something up? Not a good idea. Nearly every meeting hotel has a history coordinator, whose job is to contact those other hotels to confirm the room block (what you promised) and the pick-up (what actually happened). So it’s really important that the meeting history you provide is accurate.
- When should I provide my meeting history? Do it at the very beginning of the process, when you first send your meeting request to hotels. Remember, you need your RFP to stand out from the ocean of requests hotels get every day. The best way to do this is to show that the meeting has happened before and has taken place at hotels that are similar to the ones that you’re sending the new RFP to.
- What happens if this is a first-time meeting? If you have history from other similar meetings, you can let them know that while this is a first-time meeting, that you can provide the meeting history for those other meetings you’ve held in the past. This will show that you understand the importance of history – and more important, that your meetings are real and valuable.
But if you are planning a first-time event, and your company has no history of holding other meetings in the past, you’ll need to do a little extra work up-front to help create the credibility you need for hotels to offer you great deals. The focus should be on how you’re going to drive attendance for your meeting. It may be as simple as, “This is a mandatory meeting for all western region salespeople.”
Some other ways include describing your key marketing tactics, the size of the universe of people you’re going after, and top speakers you have confirmed for the event. If you’re a professional planner and have a history of planning meetings, make sure you mention your own tenure.
Meeting history is an element of your sourcing and booking process that can often be overlooked. Make it a point to call out your past performances, and you’ll be surprised at how attentive your hotel partners will be – not to mention the offers that will come in as a result.
Written by: Mike Mason