Picture this: you’re nearly ready to go on a major international conference. The hotel is booked, the exhibition is coming together, the food and beverage have been ordered, and the marketing is in full swing. Then you check the latest numbers and it doesn’t look good. Not enough people are registering. You realize you might not meet the minimum requirements with the hotel. The client might have to pay the difference. The world might end…
Okay, not that last one. But the above is known in the industry as attrition and it is (quite rightly) considered to be a nightmare. So what to do? How can you avoid attrition in the first place and what are some of the potential remedies if it happens?
Know what you’re dealing with
Basically, this is all about risks versus rewards. You’ve got to get the balance right. The potential benefits of signing a contract up front include reduced room rates for attendees, savings on food, lower meeting space costs, and room upgrades. The risks are… well, we’ve been through that. Like I said, it’s a nightmare.
So what can you do about it? The first option is not to sign a contract in the first place. If you don’t have confidence that the event can meet the minimum obligations, then the risks outweigh the rewards and there’s no point getting tied down. But if you decide that the rewards outweigh the risks (and they often do), go ahead and start negotiating a contract.
You should know as much about your organization or client as possible. Can you find information about previous events – attendance rates, costs, venues, lessons learned etc.? If so, use it. When selecting a venue:
- Make sure you get multiple hotels competing for your business
- Provide information about what you need
- Ask for a proposal in the form of a contract that includes real dollar values
- Ensure there’s a reduction in the contract for potential attrition
Next, review the proposals, make a shortlist and negotiate. Some questions you’ll need to ask yourself:
- Can our attendees afford this rate?
- Are you comfortable with the room block?
- Will the hotel guarantee this is its lowest offer?
Promote your event
In your conference marketing, promote the convenience of staying at the hotel and don’t advertise unofficial alternatives. Book smaller meetings, events and receptions at the same hotel and start your tours (if you have them) from the main lobby. It’s also worth providing some extra incentives for people to stay at the official hotel – things like free breakfast for early reservations, prize draws for room upgrades and free Internet access.
If it’s looking like attrition may happen, speak with the hotel right away. If the room price doesn’t match economic reality, they may be willing to work with you on the rate. You could also take your attrition reduction and/or release an appropriate number of guestrooms for the hotel to resell.
There are no guarantees, but if you prepare thoroughly and follow the above guidelines, you’re likely to steer clear of attrition most of the time – and avoid nightmares.