Not only has COVID-19 brought unprecedented change to how venues host their events, but social distancing and contactless technologies have drastically changed how venues sell their events as well.
Before 2020, there was already a growing trend to digitally transform the event planning process. The industry was seeing increased demand for virtual site tours and fewer in-person proposal and contract reviews. While we don’t expect large events to return quickly, there is an opportunity to market smaller events. Venues who find a way to market and sell these events while decreasing the personal interactions necessary in the booking and planning process will find themselves at an advantage compared to venues who do not.
For venues looking to host and sell meetings, consider these five steps to reduce direct contact in the booking process. Doing so will allow your offerings to appeal to a broader audience, help your staff feel safer and happier, and increase your chances of closing more business.
1. Enable Social Distancing in your Event Diagrams
Make it easy to find and visualize your meeting room information. Most event venues have room capacity charts for each room in every available layout on their websites. Have you updated your website to show what your space looks like in a socially distanced setting?
In a study conducted before the pandemic, planners said the following were the top priorities they wanted to view on a venue’s website:
- Property photos – 88%
- Floor plans – 88%
- Capacity charts – 85%
- Function space diagrams – 66%
- RFP links – 39%
- Video tours – 38%
- Interactive room plans – 19%
An event space diagram available on your website can solidify a decision, allowing the planner to see how your space can be set up for their event, with accurate details before they even sign a contract. To inspire even more confidence with planners, make sure your diagramming solution can automatically showcase social distancing features such as 6 feet of space between chairs, hand sanitizing stations, or boxed lunch stations.
2. Add Online Booking to Your Website
When you empower planners to book events right on your website, they can make decisions on their own time, book at any hour, and confirm their date, time, and cost without stepping foot on your property. Plus, your sales team will save time exchanging a multitude of emails or combing through requests that may not be a good fit. Planners with tight timelines will be especially appreciative of this capability.
When planners are taking research into their own hands and more attentive to details than ever before, adopting technology like Amadeus DirectBook to add direct booking capabilities is another way to help them take control of their planning.
It might sound surprising, but the ability to book meetings and events online is actually still considered new technology. That means it’s possible to get ahead of your competition!
3. Automate RFP Submissions
You can make the RFP process easy for both you and your planners by providing submission details that integrate directly with your sales and catering software. You can also leverage automation rules by routing the appropriate leads to the right sales team member, ensuring no lead is left behind.
According to a review of RFP submissions and responses generated from MeetingBroker, 72% of first responders win the business. So the only way to be competitive, especially when demand is scarce, is to ensure your venue can respond quickly to submissions received!
4. Respond with Dynamic, Multi-Media Rich Proposals
Once you’ve collected a qualified event request for proposal, you still need to “wow” the planner. Statistics show that people’s average attention span on any one topic is only about eight seconds, so every moment a planner looks at your proposal counts. Including beautiful photos and videos with an easily navigable online brochure could make the difference in enticing a planner to book. Your digital experience should impress a planner in such a way that they’ll know you’ll deliver that same level of professional expertise and detail for their event.
To make sure that you don’t lose any time crafting this wow-worthy experience, there are software solutions that can pull information directly from RFPs and send responses quickly so you can close that business faster.
5. Introduce eSignature and Online Payments
Connecting your sales and catering software with a solution that offers eSignature means you can send a contract, and the planner can sign right online, even from their mobile device, without having to print and then scan or fax the contract back. This is especially critical now when so many people are without their standard office setup of printers and scanners, and it saves you time when you have to counter-sign and send the contract back to the planner.
The same goes for online payments. Rather than authorization forms and credit card information around the office – or various people’s homes – your planners can make payments online, wherever they may be, through a secure system.
With the new understanding that travel and events are unlikely to “go back to the way things were” soon, it’s time to truly think differently about what we can do to drive demand, create confidence, and book business. With limited opportunities and fierce competition introducing a frictionless booking process without the need for direct person-to-person contact could be the difference between winning and losing a client.
While this business may look different – whether it’s distanced or a lot smaller than you’re used to – in the hospitality industry, we still have the opportunity to bring people together safely and create memorable experiences.