Kate Anastasi is the director of sales and marketing at the award-winning Radisson Blu Mall of America. With more than 15 years of experience in events and hospitality, Anastasi and her team create one-of-a-kind experiences for clients and guests, always seeking to elevate their offerings and service. Named the 2021 Radisson Blu Manager of the Year, Anastasi has deep expertise in events—from contract negotiation to execution and everything in between.
4 Tips on Navigating Shorter-Term Bookings With Venues
If you’ve worked in the meeting and events industry, you know that the only thing that is constant is change. And the past three years have been no exception. With meetings and events back in full swing, we are seeing some lingering impacts from COVID days that seem to be sticking around for the long haul. Perhaps the most notable: The shortening of the planning and booking window.
Prior to the pandemic, events were typically booked 12-18 months in advance, however, since the pandemic, this booking window has often been reduced to six months or less. Whether an event is for 15 or 600, this condensed timeline can be tricky to navigate for both meeting planners and event venues. Here are four tips on how meeting and event professionals can navigate shorter-term contracts to maximize their gatherings.
1. Show all your cards from the start. Often, when negotiating a contract, things start with the basics: dates, space, hotel rooms, etc. With events that are on a tighter timeframe, go above and beyond in your RFP to ask for all of it at once. Anticipate what you might need to pull off a successful event — from start to finish and top to bottom. What are your AV needs? What type of meal experiences are you envisioning? Are you looking for show-stopping entertainment? If you have firm budgets, don’t hold that information back either. It will be easier and more efficient to sift through proposals if you’re able to compare apples to apples.
2. Welcome creativity. Don’t be afraid to ask venues to think outside the box – in fact, consider outright sharing in your RFP that you welcome creative ideas that help accomplish the goals at hand, even if they might be a little untraditional or unexpected. For example, if you need more breakout rooms than a property has, ask what creative workarounds they can think of. Perhaps they can facilitate sessions using technology, such as noise-canceling headphones and screens to turn one space into several areas that can function as separate breakout spaces. There often is a solution to nearly every possible roadblock when it comes to event needs. Be transparent with venues about what elements are absolute must-haves and what might be more nice-to-haves.
3. Communicate efficiently and effectively. This is fairly obvious, but with shorter-turn events, time is of the essence, which means quick responses to questions are essential in making the planning as stress-free as possible. This goes for both the venue and the planner. During proposals and contracting, prompt responses with plenty of detail are imperative.
Developing an authentic relationship with the venue contact can also be incredibly helpful when time is tight, as higher levels of trust and understanding will help find efficiencies. Along with this, it’s important to clarify your preferred methods of communication. A quick phone call will many times clear things up and avoid numerous emails, and sometimes a brief text is all that’s needed. Confirm what works for you so everyone is on the same page.
Once under contract, prioritize timely responses and honor deadlines. Whether it’s making decisions about décor elements, locking in the menu or providing final headcounts, do all you can to provide replies and approvals as quickly as possible.
4. Be flexible. Both the meeting planner and venue need to be flexible when it comes to short-term bookings – of any group size – as it’s likely that there might not be an exact fit for what is desired. Be open to options without dismissing something that isn’t a perfect match for what you had in mind. It’s unlikely a venue will have everything you’re seeking on short notice, so ask them to come forward with creative solutions to ensure everything is addressed – even if it looks a little different than you’d imagined.
As the meeting and events industry continues to reshape itself and settle into a new way of doing business, there is a tremendous opportunity to rethink how to approach shorter-term bookings and ensure a successful event for both parties. Keep these tips in mind to work toward a memorable experience for all and maximize the potential of your event – even if it’s on a shorter timeline.