A handshake between business partners

Properties Deserve a Better Way to Connect With Planners (and It’s Here)

Over the past decade, three important shifts have taken place in the meetings and events industry. In concert, these shifts have had a profound impact on event planners, transcending them from administrative taskmasters to strategic business partners:

  1. Events have become an important component of an organization’s overall strategy. They are now seen as a measurable product that is used strategically to reach business goals.
  2. Event planning technology has proliferated the industry, automating monotonous and manual tasks and affecting everything from project management to event registration.
  3. Planners are now tasked with creating memorable experiences that go far beyond the traditional notion of an event. 80% of event planners report that their jobs require more experience creation than just two to five years ago.

In light of these changes, PCMA is encouraging planners to start referring to themselves as business event strategists, instead of simply “event planners.” Planners who adopt this title, are now, more than ever, expected to create strategically-tailored experiences that contribute to the success of overall business strategies. It begins with making events themselves as successful as possible — and the hallmark of a successful event is its ability to meet objectives.

There are countless elements that planners affect and implement to bring those objectives to life. Food and beverage quality can increase the energy of attendees. Thoughtful room layouts can maximize learning efficacy. The list goes on…  

However, within that list, there’s one element that has a disproportionate impact on meeting success and the many pieces that comprise it. Just as importantly, it’s an element that properties can capitalize on to drive demand and grow group bookings.

Meeting Destinations Matter

According to recent research from the International Association of Exhibitions and Events, the destination alone is a key driver for 78% of attendees.

What makes a destination?  

The destination has three components: the location (ex: New York City), the venue (ex: the Marriott Marquis Times Square), and the space within the venue (ex: the Broadway Ballroom). Ensuring that each of these components aligns with an event’s desired outcome significantly increases the probability of a successful event.

A great example of this comes to us from the Forbes Under 30 Summit in Boston last October. As a key piece of the multi-day summit, Forbes organized a day-long event focused on closing the gender gap in the tech field. To reach this objective, they chose the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as their destination.

What made MIT the right choice? For one, its location in Cambridge, just outside of the city of Boston — a symbol of revolution thanks to its role in the American Revolution. In many ways, the goal of this event was to spur a much-needed revolution in the tech industry, which made the city a perfect backdrop. Just as importantly, MIT is an educational leader in the world of technology. Having 500 women convene on a traditionally male-dominated campus made the university more than just a venue — it was the ideal canvas for an illustration of necessary change.

Choosing MIT made the content more powerful, the event more desirable, and the mission more tangible. In simple terms, the destination mattered.

How Can Properties Benefit?

Obviously, not every event has the freedom to pick a destination like MIT or a city like Boston. Every event does however have the same type of opportunity to choose a destination that best aligns to objectives. On the flip side, every property needs the ability to showcase the unique elements they can offer to help strategists bring successful events to fruition.

A board of directors meeting for a pharmaceutical company should take place at the top floor board room of a luxury hotel in Philadelphia, a city known for its pharmaceutical industry, in order to inspire and energize participants. It makes much more sense than choosing a windowless and outdated conference room in a midscale suburban hotel just because it’s close to the company’s headquarters.

It’s this notion that inspired us to create a venue search & discovery platform (commonly referred to as a “supplier network”). We want to help venues not only connect with engaged planners who are creatively thinking about a destination, but also communicate the ways in which they can help planners meet their objectives. Our platform does this in a few ways:

  1. Discoverability is at the core of Social Tables supplier network. Planners can search for, filter, and compare venues by the specifications they care about most. These include location, max capacity, total meeting space, breakout rooms, guest rooms and more.
  2. We encourage venues to include to-scale floor plans, common room layouts, and interactive campus maps as part of their listing. Planners that have a Social Tables account (more than 30,000 nationwide and growing) can even select a floor plan and start diagramming their event with one click.
  3. The Social Tables supplier network enables properties to drive more direct bookings with virtually zero extra effort. Any hotel, from a boutique to an international brand, is able to communicate the details that they think will result in RFPs and own the customer relationship from RFP to close.

a results page from social tables venue search engine

A Better Business Model

There can’t be any real change without innovation in regards to the business model by which today’s supplier networks operate. The current business model is ad-based: Venues that pay the most money are the ones that planners see the most. Plus, the lines between a listing that’s an ad and a true listing are obfuscated in ad-based platforms, which adds an extra layer of complexity and misdirection to the sourcing process.

It’s not just unfair — it’s counterproductive to exposing the right destinations to the right planners. In a world where supplier competition is greater than ever (after all, every space can now be an event space), properties need allies in finding ideal customers. The industry needs a system where the venue that’s the best fit has the highest chance of being selected. In essence, it needs a system that enables properties and planners find their best partners for success.

Third-party Planning Firms and the Poor-Fit Problem

The poor fit problem is further exacerbated by third-party planning firms that make between 7-11% commission on venue sourcing for their clients. They get paid when the event is booked, regardless of how successful it is. It’s in their interest to pump out as many RFPs as possible to increase the chances of making a booking. Since they make their living through commission and use ad-supported supplier networks to source venues, they don’t always approach destination selection in strategic ways that truly benefit clients.

This is why we’ve committed to developing a unique planner network that’s comprised of Gen Y and Gen Z planners who plan small- to medium-sized events — a place where they can easily source directly with venues. We’re creating new technologies that provide the tools both parties need to connect and forge mutually beneficial relationships based on event success.

Connection Without Commission

Our sourcing platform doesn’t have ads, and we don’t charge commission. We make money when venues invest in our event sales and event services platforms, which enhance the way venues operate and provide planners with a better experience. A byproduct of being a customer is a rich listing on our sourcing platform — one that includes the engaging visuals planners need to find meaningful destinations. However, any property can claim a listing within the platform for free and make themselves more discoverable to planners.

It’s just one of the ways we’re helping the industry create better events, together.

Drive direct group sales 
and foster planner loyalty.

Interested in building a venue sourcing platform for your portfolio? Our direct booking software gives chains a customizable channel to connect directly with planners, avoid intermediary fees, and drive RFPs.

Dan Berger is the Founder and CEO of Social Tables. He has received nearly 20 leadership awards, including the Pacesetter Award from the Events Industry Council and Top 25 Most Influential People in the Meetings Industry by Successful Meetings. He has been named Tech Titan by Washingtonian and was named a finalist for E&Y’s Entrepreneur of the Year. Born in Israel and raised in New York City, Dan now calls Washington, DC home. He has a BA from Hunter College and an MBA from Georgetown.