Managing Housing

Managing Housing

As a planner, one of the most important things you handle is managing the block of rooms. Use this as a guide to keep that bit of your job organized.

  • Selection of Properties
    • Know your attendees’ needs, preferences, frequent-stay affiliations and preferred price-points.
    • Know your group’s history of picking up blocked rooms; review frequently to determine the number of rooms to block and your pattern.
    • Complete at least one site visit to the hotel you select.
    • Review potential hotels with your shuttle contractor for cost value.
    • Keep abreast of and consider any new properties being built, as well as any renovations planned.
    • Do your homework and know when the property and the destination’s peak times are, and research what the potential rates will be during that period; and, if possible, find out what other groups are in-house at the time and what rates they are paying.
  • Monitor Room Pickup
  • Monitor the process constantly. Also test the call centers. Be prepared to make adjustments, which may include:
    • Lowering the block or adjusting shoulder blocks (i.e., move-in and move-out days or other days immediately preceding or following the official meeting dates).
    • Adding rooms (easiest to do in properties already in your block).
    • If possible, allow for all modes that attendees may use in making a reservation – phone, fax, email, Internet, mail.
    • Keep detailed pickup reports.
  • Communications
  • Determine what information you need from hotels in your block in order to communicate to your attendees what they need to know to make their reservations.

    This could include:
    • Room rates, taxes, other costs.
    • Amenities – fitness center, coffee in room, Internet access, room service and hours, etc.
    • Suite descriptions and diagrams.
    • If the hotel will be included on a shuttle route.
    • Number of rooms available.
    • Information on special-needs rooms and services.
    • Make sure your staff, whether internal, bureau or third party, is prepared to answer questions via phone.
    • Attendee information. Create a “Frequently Asked Questions” section on your website or in print, and publicize it.
    • It is important to communicate with your partners. Items that need communicating include:
    • Group profile (your policies and procedures, key staff, VIPs, traffic patterns, etc.).
    • Past histories.
    • Special needs of VIPs, meeting staff, show contractor, speakers, etc.
    • Billing instructions and master account authorized signers.
  • On-site Management
    • Prior to the start of the meeting, meet with the hotels to go over any changes and answer any questions. Always set up a pre-con meeting.
    • Obtain last-minute pickup reports.
    • Set up an information desk, or office, where attendees can go to ask questions or get assistance.
    • Go over reservations by board members, VIPs, speakers, staff, contractors and others that need to be specially billed, handled or protected from being sent (“walked”) to another hotel.
  • Post-Convention Evaluation
  • Require completion of a post-con report in the hotel contract. Some contracts require a completed post-con report before payment of master account.

    Review the post-con report with hotel. It should include:

    • Pickup of rooms at various numbers of days in advance: 120, 90, 60, 30, 7.
    • Final pickup, plus complimentary/staff rooms used.
    • Meeting room and catering revenue.
    • Outlet revenue: restaurants, gift shop, health club, etc.
    • Number of suites used and pattern.
    • Meet with the hotel staff and record any trends or factors that may have affected your group.
    • Communicate this information to future properties and use it to determine future room blocks and patterns. This is your most valuable tool when selling the value of your program to another property.
    • Include a question about the hotels and your housing service on your post-show evaluation. Follow up with those attendees that gave negative feedback to determine what can be improved.
    • Internally evaluate your housing process. Determine what changes need to be made for the future.
  • Miscellaneous
  • Backup Plan A

    Make sure you have one. Professional speakers are on the road a lot, and you can't blame them for wanting to limit the amount of down time they spend at any conference. However, you never want your speaker taking the last flight on the night before the meeting, especially if he is scheduled to speak first on the agenda.

    Backup Plan B

    • What else could go wrong? It's anything you can think of, from demonstrators and pickets at the front of your hotel or meeting venue to inclement weather delaying the speaker's arrival, and even laryngitis.
    • What is your emergency plan? What steps will your speaker take to help find a suitable replacement?
    • Strive for excellence.
    • Provide the best attendee environment possible.
    • Classroom and theater-style are not the only setup possibilities. Be open to suggestions that have worked for this speaker before.
    • Involve the conference planner to discuss ways in which the room setup can enhance the program that has been developed.