By Kelli Vettoretto, Regional Vice President at HelmsBriscoe
Venue sourcing during an endemic certainly has its challenges, but it does not mean we need to reinvent the wheel. What it does mean is that we need to do the basics as well as we possibly can. Focusing on clear and effective communication and utilising the tools that are available to us are important in developing effective RFP’s and obtaining valuable and concise proposals. Partnerships and relationships become even more important, especially when negotiating contracts for our clients. Working together with venues to convert more business opportunities and having happy clients are the ultimate aims.
This article is entitled ‘Effective Venue Sourcing During an Endemic’ and I will certainly address the challenges we are currently facing. However, before we do that, I think it is worth taking a step back and considering whether we have the right mindset to help us navigate the venue sourcing challenges in the most effective way possible.
1. Your Current Mindset
Firstly, how are you feeling right now?
- On a roll
- Firing on all cylinders
- In the zone
- Riding high
- In a sweet spot
- Going with the flow
- In synch
- In your element
- In a groove
Or perhaps you are feeling the opposite, or a combination of both up and down sentiments? There is no right or wrong; it is simply reality.
- Lost your mojo
- Come off the boil
- Hard slog
- Lost traction
- Going through the motions
- In a rut
- Daily grind
Are you feeling inspired?
- What excites you about the next 6-12 months?
For me, it’s the fact that my team continues to grow in Australasia and business is back with a vengeance and this excites me! I am sure many of you are also experiencing unprecedented success.
- What results would represent a disappointing failure to you in 12 months’ time?
What would you NOT like to see happen from a business perspective? Perhaps not recognising and pursuing opportunities as they present themselves, or a new COVID resurgence and its impact once again on our ability to book venues for conferences and events?
- When did you last feel proud about what you do?
Personally I feel proud and appreciative every day to work in an industry where we are all so supportive of one another. I also feel proud of my team every single day and love helping them celebrate their successes.
Think about these questions and how they may apply to you and your business right now.
When you lose momentum, how do you get it back again? Sometimes when we are working IN our business, we do not take time out to work ON our business. It’s worth taking a step back and asking yourself some tough questions such as:
- What do I need to stop doing today?
What am I doing now that is either holding me back or not helping me towards achieving my goals? Am I doing things that will help me achieve success? For example, am I getting bogged down in unimportant tasks each day instead of prioritising and actioning what will have the most impact?
- What must I never stop doing?
Think about what is working for you and identify some things that you should never stop doing. Perhaps it is that you should never stop looking for new clients, by actively networking.
- What should I not have stopped doing?
Are there any things you have stopped doing that in hindsight may have been a mistake? Maybe something that you stopped during the pandemic, that you wish you had not?
They are not always the easiest questions to answer, but think about how these may apply to your individual circumstances.
2. Building a Strong Mindset
To build a strong mindset, think about some of these things and how you may apply them:
- Change your thoughts by creating positive affirmations, reframe negative thoughts to something positive. Never just give up.
- Study how to cultivate the right mindset and look for ideas and people to inspire you.
- Practise gratitude helps build a strong mindset. Learn to count your blessings.
- Be present—Live now rather than in the past or future. Experience happiness and joy today.
- Shift your mindset by meditating daily—Take time out to calm your mind and become refreshed, less stressed and anxious.
- Make time to think—Imperative to take time to stop and think. Make goals and reflect on your success and failures. Review goals and strategies, have a written business plan and find a mentor.
- Learn to deal with negative thoughts—Acknowledge them, think of a productive way to deal with them and let them go.
- Don’t listen to the haters—Don’t allow them in and don’t let one person’s opinion impact you. Learn to block out their negativity and surround yourself with people who lift you up.
- Have clear goals—Wanting and doing are two very different things, but have clear goals and take action to achieve them. Be fully accountable to yourself.
- Keep learning—Make a commitment to turn up, learn and get out of your comfort zone.
Think about which of these things you already do and others you may like to start doing to help improve your mindset.
3. The Venue Sourcing Challenges
Now we have the right mindset, we should be ready to face any venue sourcing challenges head on, whether you are doing it for yourself as a corporate or association planner or on behalf of your clients.
Now, what are some of the challenges our industry is facing during this ENDemic phase?
- Venue sales teams short staffed, overworked and often inexperienced
- Limited accommodation and or meeting space availability
- Price increases across the board
- Venue operations staff shortages impacting on guest experience
- Delegate experience not living up to expectations and this can reflect negatively on organizer or company
- Less flexibility in contracting with some new previously unseen clauses being added to the fine print
- Increased cost of travel
We are experiencing these things in Australia where I am based, but as a global company, we are also seeing these trends all over the world and I am sure many of you are as well.
I am sure you have all heard of the concept of ‘Skimpflation’ by now, where clients are paying more and receiving less. It is not confined to our industry. For example, have you looked at the size of takeaway coffee cups and how they have changed?
This is certainly also happening in the business events space. Most of our clients are OK paying higher prices, to a point, but are often left disappointed when they get to the venue where there is a lack of service on check-in, food and beverage outlets are closed or have limited opening hours, a lack of staff means that rooms cannot be serviced daily or room drops are unable to be delivered, and the list goes on.
How can this be overcome? We cannot change most of these things, but EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION can help. I encourage our clients and venue contacts to communicate clearly in the lead up to their event to discuss any potential impacts and to agree on a set of solutions ahead of time.
4. Back to Basics
a. Communication is Key
Whilst these challenges exist, what can we do to alleviate the stresses associated for ourselves and in particular for our clients? I believe the answer is simple: Get back to doing the BASICS as well as we possibly can.
First, have patience and stay professional in all of your dealings. It is easy to get frustrated; however, it is important to stay calm and communicate effectively.
Here are some things I recommend:
- Provide venues with as much information as possible through whatever RFP platform you use. Provide event history if it is available.
- During the RFP process, set clear and realistic deadlines for venue proposals to be submitted and advise when the client is likely to be making a decision.
- Encourage venues where possible, to have multiple ‘catchers’ and request they are trained to respond to RFP’s in a timely and thorough manner.
- If event dates are flexible, communicate that as part of the RFP and ask venues to offer alternate options.
- Request concessions/value adds to help offset higher prices and the perception of ‘skimpflation’. Ask about venue staffing levels and what impact this may have on an event operationally.
- When reviewing client contracts to help mitigate risk, read the fine print and ensure you and your client are comfortable with all terms and conditions. Be as flexible as possible when negotiating and contracting as we all want to find a ‘WIN/WIN’ solution.
Effective communication every step of the way is one of the keys to success.
- Asking the right questions and gathering all relevant information, including understanding what things are most important to our clients.
- Have a good knowledge of venues in key search destinations.
- Communicating clearly and comprehensively through the RFP process, including keeping your clients updated on your progress.
- Putting everything in writing and paying special attention to the details, particularly in the contracts.
- Encourage venues to communicate changes to service/outlets to clients in advance and agree on what is acceptable.
- Address any issues as they arise and always remain focused on finding solutions.
- Provide feedback to venues and celebrate positive outcomes.
b. The Importance of Relationships
Last but probably most importantly, I am a firm believer of what goes around comes around. Partnerships and having respectful relationships with all parties is so important. Be proactive and nurture all relationships. Be respectful of the commercial reality of doing business today by not asking for things from venues that may be perceived as an ‘unreasonable’ request or not commercially viable.
Stay connected at every step of the way and keep lines of communication open.
Remain gracious and show your clients, venue contacts and industry partners that you appreciate them and are extremely thankful for their support.