How to Talk to Your Attendees About Your Room Block

Author: David McMillin       

When a typical attendee starts looking for a place to stay during a conference, the search often isn’t confined to the housing links provided on an event website. The quest for a hotel room frequently starts with a visit to Priceline, TripAdvisor, Expedia, or another travel website. What can event organizers do to prevent attendees from opening up a new tab for one of these travel industry giants promising “the right room for the best price?” In a recent PCMA webinar, Christine “Shimo” Shimasaki, CDME, CMP, president of 2synergize, Inc. and a 30-year events and hospitality veteran, highlighted ways that organizers could articulate their own advertising messaging about their room blocks.

“Don’t keep the [reasons for booking] a secret,” Shimasaki said. “We really need to actively educate our attendees on what the contracted room rate is all about.”

That education involves more than touting the “most affordable rates for members.” Shimasaki shared an example from the American Mathematics Society that helped prospective attendees recognize the hard work that goes into room-block negotiation and the benefits for participants of staying within the block.

“The importance of reserving a hotel room at one of the official Joint Mathematics Meetings (JMM) hotels cannot be stressed enough,” the meeting’s website states. “The AMS and the MAA (Mathematical Association of America) make every effort to keep participants expenses at the meeting, registration fees, and hotel rooms for the meeting as low as possible. They work hard to negotiate the best hotel rates and to make the best use of your registration dollars to keep the meetings affordable. The AMS and MAA encourage all participants to register for the meeting. When anyone pays the registration fee and reserves a room with an official JMM hotel, he or she is helping to support not only the JMM in 2018, but also future meetings.”

The language is simple, but many event organizers fail to include this type of disclaimer in their housing materials. Shimasaki said that it satisfies three essential responsibilities: stressing the importance of booking within the block; highlighting the staff’s bargaining efforts; and showcasing that room pickup powers meetings down the road.

While written messages are important, organizers should also consider creative ways of connecting the dots for attendees about their housing decisions, she added. “Maybe you can create an infographic,” Shimasaki said, “or a video from your [organization’s] president on the importance of booking in the block.”

Looking for more insights into keeping your host hotels full and rethinking your approach to cutoff dates? Click here to watch the entire webinar.

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