Busy Event Planners Expect More from Venues

The recently released 2019 Cvent Planner Sourcing Report (Global Edition) delves into several aspects of the event planning decision-making process. To determine its findings, the report surveyed 2,650 meeting and event planners across North America, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and South Africa. The majority of those polled (69 percent) plan 11 or more events each year, while 37 percent say they organize 50 or more and 16 percent plan 100 or more.

The report revealed some positive event industry news, such as this year’s attendance is up when compared to 2018, according to more than 50 percent of the planners surveyed. This same amount of planners saw their budgets jump up as well, especially those who planned trade shows, conferences, conventions, and fundraisers.

According to the report, “This trend toward more attendees across a large portfolio of managed meetings underlines the importance hoteliers should place on making every interaction with a planner quick and service-oriented. Planners simply do not have the time to waste on inefficiency or miscommunication. In fact, 44 percent say that they have lost interest in a venue because of poor communication.”

A significant portion of the report highlighted these pain points for event planners. Seemingly, a majority of their difficulties are centered around the process to secure a venue.

From the report, “Faced with expectations from their own organizations, planners turn to venues for help – something that starts long before the event begins. They want hoteliers to be visible, responsive, and precise during the RFP process. They expect venues to invest in collaborative technologies that automate reservation management and meeting room layout planning. With more events to plan, the margin of error is smaller, and the time planners have to focus on just one event is compressed. The expectation is transparency, professionalism and efficiency.”

Venue Sourcing and the Headaches of Time

Simply finding an appropriate venue for their events is becoming a huge hassle for most (81 percent) event planners. The biggest complaint is the amount of time that sourcing takes. However, it is not possible to pinpoint a single issue in the process that needs to be fixed because multiple points along the journey are causing headaches.

When asked to explain why they experienced the most difficulty in the venue sourcing stage, 69 percent said it requires more time than most other stages, 41 percent believe it is the most resource-intensive stage of the process, and 18 percent lack the software necessary to expedite the stage.

As they went into further detail regarding the difficulties in sourcing, the following pain points were brought to light:

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There were also some fortunate individuals (17 percent) who said that they did not experience any significant difficulties throughout the sourcing process.

“Overall, busy planners are telling hoteliers to be efficient and get to the point, so that they can make timely decisions that help deliver a great event and also allow them to focus on the next step in the process, or event. It shows the importance of speed to busy planners, and that time is a precious resource,” according to the report.

Submitting the RFP

It likely comes as no surprise that the RFP process causes some headaches while sourcing a venue. When selecting which venues will even receive an RFP, several factors affect event planners. Price is overwhelmingly the top consideration, but it is not the only factor to impact the decision.

The primary factors that influence sourcing decisions are:

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While a venue’s cost is certainly important, its reputation, positive reviews, and the activities held outside of the venue are vital considerations, as well. Venues that can highlight strengths in these areas may have an advantage during the RFP process.  

Most event planners believe that several improvements could be made to the RFP responses, with many event planners calling out “attention to detail” and “thoroughness” as issues with the submissions they receive.

According to an anonymous event planner quoted in the Cvent report, “Every year we get proposals that say our 16x24x3 stage will fit in their ballroom with x number of chairs, and a minimum ceiling height of 11 feet. When it comes to the details of the contract, I look at the capacity chart and realize the hotel was incorrect – either the square footage is too small or the ceiling is too low.”

In all, event planners believe these areas need to improve in RFP responses:

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“Even if a venue does not provide something we want, this should be clearly stated in their RFP response. We do appreciate, however, when a venue applies lateral thinking to our needs and makes unexpected recommendations,” said another anonymous event planner.

One area that the report noted as a marked improvement was “trustworthiness.” In the 2018 report, 30 percent of planners cited trustworthiness as an issue of concern. However, this year, that value fell to 16 percent, indicating a positive swing in the relationship between event planners and venue management.

Venue Selection

When it comes to venue selection, the factors most likely to influence the decision are the available space and the cost. In fact, 45 percent of the planners surveyed listed both price and the particulars of the layout either first, second, or third in importance.

The top features that influence booking decisions are:

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Interestingly, even though many planners place importance on cost, a minimal price reduction is not enough to encourage a venue change. Nearly three in four planners (72 percent) stated that they would not consider switching to even their second-choice venue without seeing cost savings of six percent or more.

From the report, “Cost matters in your bid to win the business. But other factors, including space layout and location and other items that play into how your venue can support an outstanding event – matter more.”

However, once a venue meets a planner's expectations, they are likely to return the following year. Of course, the opposite is also true, in that a disappointed planner will quickly take their business somewhere else. More than half of the planners surveyed (59 percent) stated that “lack of professionalism” was the main reason that prevented them from giving repeat business.

The top factors preventing a return to a previous venue are:

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Ultimately, what the Cvent report illustrates is that, while price remains a significant consideration throughout the venue selection process, many factors play a role in a planner’s choice. Venues that can meet (or exceed) a planner’s needs – and, importantly, live up to those promises – are likely to earn a planner’s loyalty and repeat business.

TTG Marketing