Lisa Astorga, CMPDirector of MeetingsInternational Society on Thrombosis and Haemostasis
Welcome to our webinar: 5 Way to Avoid a Half-Empty Room Block
[Shimo] self introductionAnd Im joined here today byLisa Astorga, Director of Meetings at the INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY ON THROMOBISIS AND HAEMOSTATIS (ISTH)
[Lisa response hello, glad to be with you]
[Shimo] In fact Lisa, youre headed out shortly for your annual meeting to be held in Paris! So we are especially grateful that you were able to carve out some time to be with us.
[Shimo] So not only is Lisa, exceptional at time managementshe has been an accomplished association management and meetings professional, for much of her 15+ year career. In her current role, Lisa is responsible for further professionalizing and standardizing ISTHs congresses, overseeing the long term meetings strategy, and being the advocate for the overall attendee experience and impact of the Societys meetings. ISTH currently organizes annual meetings attracting between 1,500 and close to 10,000 attendees around the world, as well as a number of smaller educational courses. And in her free time, she volunteers for a number of industry associations like PCMA and serves on our CVB advisory boards.
So perhaps like many who have joined us today.Lisa has just about seen or experienced every issues from event conceptualization to execution and back to conceptualization. Her experience includes budget and financial management and coordination with Local Organizing Committees and partner vendors and likes to put an emphasis on keeping up with industry trends. So this whole discussion of the contracted room block is right up your alley, right Lisa?
[Lisa response.make a comment about trends].while many things change, there is a lot that remains the same!
[Shimo]and the issues around contracted room blocks isnt any different.
Results of the Event Room Demand Study
Will room blocks become a thing of the past?
Identify the key reasons room blocks still matter
Our Room BlockWebinar Roadmap
Five things you can DO
[Shimo] So in the short amount of time we have together todaylet me share what we will cover.
To begin to frame our discussion, we will begin with the results of the Event Room Demand Study.which of course begs the question will room blocks become a thing of the pastwhich will ask for a little audience participation, so we hope youre ready to vote in our live poll. Then well identify why we need to be concerned about room blocks and wrap up with 5 things you can actually DO about avoiding a half empty room block and all the risk that goes with that. Are you ready Lisa?
ALL ATTENDEESROOM BLOCK PICK-UP5,7402,210WHAT WE KNOW
AND WHAT WE DONT
ALL ATTENDEESROOM BLOCK PICK-UPROOM DEMAND5,7402,210?
The Event Room Demand Study July 2015How Many Rooms Does Your Convention Really Use?
1 out of every 3 (34.1%) rooms are being booked outside the room blockUNTIL NOW
BUT OUR EVENTS ARE ALL SO DIFFERENT
[Lisa] And Shimo what I found particularly interesting that 1 our of 3 is for all event, but for citywide events that figure closer to 45% are outside the contracted room block.
Here to Stay?Thing of the Past?PREPARE TO VOTE
[Shimo] Thats correct Lisa and this of course begs this question
Are room blocks here to stay or will they become a thing of the past? Certainly there is strong evidence that our attendees are finding their own accommodations. So before we hear your own prediction Lisalets first hear from our audience.
[Go to online voting]
While results are up.[Shimo to cite the results][Shimo] So Lisa, you see where the audience weighs in todaywhat you do you believe?
[Lisa] Comments on why room blocks still matter.keeping it to a US model7
No Room Block = No Space
In the US, there are two fundamental reasons why I believe, like everyone else, that the contracted room block is here to stayThe first reason centers around the business modelwhich is completely independent of our attendees behavior, because the attendee is not bearing the brunt of the business model. We are as planners and host organizations. That business model focuses on the value of room blocks and therefore is a requirement of space, whether youre working on a citywide or a single hotel event. The principle is the same.
[Shimo] And if you have a poor track record of picking up the rooms in your contracted room block, this business model will impact the amount of space you reserve into the future.
So room blocks are here to stay because the business model shows no sign of changing, even though a third or in some cases nearly half of our attendees are finding other accommodations.
[Lisa] thats rightNEXT8
Protecting the Attendee Experience
[Lisa]And the second fundamental reason rooms blocks are here to stayis all about protecting the attendee experience.I mean last months webinar on site inspections was popular for a reasonas planners we have a responsibility to vet all the accommodations before we include them in our room block. And while these picture are perhaps extreme to make a point
We also have to think about the attendee experience when they are unable to find rooms because of competing destination events or other more lucrative consumers of the hotels rooms.
[shimo]Yes, so planners may not think about the fact that their event may actually have to compete for rooms. And if they dont have adequate room blocks to make sure there isnt too much friction in their decision to actually attend.
So LisaI think our planners are all probably nodding their heads and would like to understand what they can DO.9
1. Dont Keep the Reasons a Secret
[Lisa]So first of all.we should keep the reasons to book inside the block a secretI think we operate under so many assumptions and forget about the fact that our room block needs to be actively marketed. And this is a senior level discussion which may require some different marketing communications and then changes in registration policies. So its the responsibility of the meeting planner to bring together the team and look at this differently.
Its very important that you declare whats the right behavior, which is booking inside the room block.Anything short of a declaration is essentially passively communicating that its really okay to go outside the room block
[Shimo] So Lisa, what youre saying is that we need to influence the right behavior through education and then back this up with some potential changes in policy. I have seen where planners are tying together the registration and housing process either formally or informally. Formally means that there may be a financial incentive or disincentive to booking inside the block versus outside.
30 Day Cut-Off2. Continue to Sell Past Cut-off
[shimo] Number two.is somewhat of a paradigm shift. Traditionally we have thought of the cut-off date as the end of your housing process. And what were saying is that it shouldnt be. If you are in the hotel reservation business then you need to always let your attendees know to come to you for their housing needs. Attendees dont really understand what cut-off dates mean. They just need a hotel room and want to attend your conference. Lets not create any friction from their ability to do so.
[Lisa] Shimo this isnt something that our association does presently so Im really intrigued with this practice. How do planners continue to sell when their room blocks have closed per the contracted agreement with hotels?
[Shimo] The reason why there is a 30 days cut-off date to your contracted room block, is because hotels do not want to be left holding onto rooms you have not filled to close to the arrival date. It doesnt give them adequate time to resell the rooms. So after cut-off the inventory is released to general inventory.
So now the practice is for housing companies or reservation companies like ARES to take over after the cut-off and continue to sell general inventory hotel rooms to your attendees who have missed the deadline. The benefit is that you continue to receive tracking of these rooms and if could possible, based upon your negotiated contract, avoid attrition charges. So the moral of the story here is dont let the cut-off date stop you from continue to sell hotel rooms.11
OBBOBBOBBOBBOBBOBBOBBOBBOBBOBBOBBOBBOBBOBBOBBOBBOBBOBBOBBOBBOBBOBBOBBOBBOBBOBBOBBOBBCommunicate Directly to Outside the Block Bookers (OBB)
[Lisa]For number 3, I thought perhaps this might be a no brainerand then I realized that many planners do not segment their email marketing lists to separate the past attendees who have never booked inside the contracted room block. We know who they are and they should receive special marketing communications.going back to our #1 point, which was to not keep the reasons to book inside the block..a secretAND especially with this group.
4. Dont Ignore Pirates and PoachersYourEvent.com
[shimo] For this 4th method.perhaps we could do another webinar on this topic alone.but we need to be proactive about the fact there will be pirates and poachers, impacting our room blocks. CICs APEX Intiative had a Room Block Poaching Workgroup who created a toolbox for meeting professionals combat the complex issues of priacy and poaching. Their survey of over 600 meeting professional reported that 73 percent have had their event targeted by pira