Conference Organizers Get Help With Keeping Down Costs

IEEE makes it easier to leverage its buying power with hotels

8 November 2013

For conference organizers, some of the most time-consuming tasks involve finding the right hotel for their event and negotiating the lowest possible room rates. IEEE is helping to lessen the workload by automating the rate bid request process for multiple hotels in any one city or geographic region or even for a specific chain. Also, it has set up standard contracts with several major international chains, resulting in opportunities for pre-negotiated concession offerings.

“We want to provide the tools and resources organizers need to inform their decisions and make their jobs easier,” says Sherry Russ Sills, director of Event Management Services, which is part of IEEE Meetings, Conferences, and Events, in Piscataway, N.J.

ONE-STOP SELECTION

Choosing the location for a meeting and then contacting area hotels can involve hours spent on phone calls and e-mails. Negotiating the best room rates is not easy, either.

Instead, IEEE Meetings, Conferences, and Events can help with its new RFP (Request for Proposal) Wizard tool. RFPs are already required by IEEE when procuring a service from a supplier. The tool populates a form with the organizer’s details about the event—such as the preferred dates, estimated number of attendees, and requirements for meeting rooms—and sends it electronically en masse to multiple hotels, hotel sales offices, and even convention centers. The form requests the hotels’ availability for meeting space and/or guest rooms and the rates offered. A report is then generated that compiles all the responses.

“The tool lays out all the information in one easy-to-read report,” Sills says. “It gives side-by-side comparisons of the hotels under consideration and their rates. Just by virtue of the IEEE name, the hotel rates are often lower than the organizer alone might be able to negotiate.”

Organizers will be able to use the RFP Wizard beginning in the first quarter of 2014, according to Sills.

NEGOTIATION MADE EASIER

Negotiating a contract can also be stressful. IEEE has tried to make it less so by setting up agreements for pre-negotiated rates and standard terms with several major hotel chains such as Hilton and IHG, which manages Intercontinental Hotels. PDFs of the templates for each chain’s contract are on the Tools and Resources for Conference Planning website under the Contracts and Agreements link.

“Having these partnership agreements in place leverages IEEE’s buying power,” Sills says. “These agreements aren’t so much about lower room rates as they are about a standard set of concessions on other things based on the size of the event. Opportunities are sometimes lost because organizers are not familiar with the nuances of the hotel and travel industry and may not realize all the negotiation possibilities that can contribute to a better bottom line for their program. There is more to consider than just the room rate.”

For example, concessions could include a complimentary welcome reception, free Wi-Fi, discounts on audio/visual equipment, or room upgrades. Look on the website under the Customary Hotel Concessions link for a list of suggestions.

The pre-negotiated agreements also cover an industry term called attrition. Attrition occurs when more hotel rooms are set aside than there are attendees or a minimum agreed-upon amount to be spent on food and beverages can’t be met. The difference between what was agreed to and what is needed is known as attrition.

“No one likes to pay for attrition, and there’s a lot of negotiation that goes on to minimize it,” says Sills. “These contracts try to anticipate contingencies to mitigate loss.”

The conference organizers website has other helpful information for organizers, including tips for, well, getting organized, how to select a conference site, and a contingency guide for emergencies. For more information, contact Sherry Russ Sills, s.russ@ieee.org.

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