Beautiful facilities, exceptional food and superior service probably come to mind when you think about what makes a great conference or meeting venue. These may seem like obvious considerations on a list of elements that leading venues have in common. Yet, there are other pragmatic concerns that determine which venues are the most successful and perhaps the most profitable.
Let’s take a look at some of the elements that the world’s best venues have in common.
1. Setting high quality standards.
Striving to maintain the highest standards of quality in service, facilities and culinary offerings is a hallmark of leading venues around the globe. For members of a professional meetings alliance, it may even become a condition of acceptance. For example, IACC requires members to make a commitment to quality standards that cover a range of best practices from management of the physical environment to the services and support they provide.
It’s a clear, distinct point of differentiation – quality standards are the benchmark for what a meeting venue should aspire to. They elevate the meeting experience to a level that only the best-in-class meeting venues can reach.
IACC members agree. Lotta Boman, CEO of Sigtunahöjden conference venue in Sweden, says that membership in IACC helps venues continue to raise the standards of their offerings ranging from “the professional way of hosting meetings when it comes to the technical things, like having a good sound system or fast wifi, to the importance of finer details like design of flipcharts covers or a specific colour on the walls in meeting rooms.”
“IACC venues stand out from the main stream by creating authentic and valuable experiences,” added Jeu Bressers, Owner and General Manager of Kapellerput. “Whether by their design, their location or hospitality.”
2. Committing to productive meeting outcomes.
Leading venues work closely with their customers to achieve meeting outcomes that improve the performance of their people and companies. Whether this means providing opportunities for networking among delegates or ensuring that educational sessions happen without a hiccup, top venues make the success of their customer’s meetings and events a priority.
In today’s world, technology typically figures heavily into the success equation for meetings. “Good quality venues are those who can offer the same levels of technology that clients enjoy in their office environments and even their homes within in a setting that brings the best out of delegates," said Craig Emmerson, Group Business Development Manager at Prestige Retreats. “The standard of the technology is a ‘given’ now, plug and play is crucial so staff and delegates can use it quickly.”
Whether it’s offering the latest audiovisual equipment, teleconferencing tools or hi-speed internet, top meeting venues do what it takes to accommodate their customer’s technology requirements. Staying updated on the latest meeting technology being used around the world is an important goal for the top-rated meeting venues.
3. Offering transparent pricing.
When it comes to pricing for meetings, the top meeting venues make certain that their customers aren’t left with any surprises. In fact, they work closely with meeting planners to ensure that budgets are managed.
A flexible delegate package is one way to make it easier for planners to budget. This means there are no surprises at the end of the meeting as these comprehensive and value-driven packages incorporate catering, technology, event planning, meeting rooms and guest rooms. Just as some meeting planners may charge a flat rate for their services, and others may charge an hourly rate or a percentage of the budget, venues may create meeting packages and pricing to accommodate the needs of their clients.
Henrik Karsten, CEO of Karsten Conference Centres in Australia and New Zealand recently commented “packaging the venue offer in a transparent way is both better for the client running the meeting and for the venue. There are always core elements every meeting needs and then others added to the per person package to make it truly personal to each event. Just like it is when you buy a car today!”
The key for pricing transparency is to have a written agreement up front. For meeting planners, this type of transparency in pricing makes it easier to focus attention on must-haves and more successfully manage event budgets.
4. Staying updated on best practices.
Whether by attending conferences, educational sessions or roundtable events, leading venue managers make an effort to stay in the know about the latest ideas and practices in the meetings and conference industry.
Staying updated may include attending sessions that focus on training staff, developing ecofriendly policies or understanding the latest experience-creation techniques being used in meetings today. Associations like IACC also strive to offer their members ongoing education through resources such as the Meeting Room of the Future reports, professional development courses and webinars.
The IACC community helps members to discover trends in the way meeting guests want to work and learn, as well being able to better anticipate changing needs and be proactive in the market place. “Successful venue operators adapt to new challenges and participate in a global network where inspiration, information and best practices are disseminated,” said Bressers. “This includes everything from generational differences to technology or design.”
For venues managers, attending these sorts of educational sessions can be critical to staying relevant. "Every time you come to a conference, or are involved with a regional meeting, you’re getting something out of it that you can bring back to your team or your property, even if it’s just one small thing that you can do in your food and beverage program,” said TJ Fimmano, General Manager of Dolce Hotels and Resorts in New York City.
Transforming food and beverage service is exactly what Louise Silberman, Chief Experience Officer at Summit Executive Center in Chicago, said that attending an IACC conference did for her facility. “Chateauform changed the way I think about how we serve our food and beverage – to become less institutional looking,” she said.
5. Finding inspiration through global networking.
Networking locally and internationally with other venue professionals that have the highest standards provides an advantage for high-caliber event and meeting properties that want to stay in the top 1% in the world in terms of service and offerings.
Being exposed to international ideas is not only inspiring but also can be transformative. “We have learned there is not just one right way to host meetings and conferences,” added Silberman. “I think the international aspect of the IACC community is what drives our creativity and inspires us to evolve. We are a global tribe!”
TJ Fimmano would agree. “All of us are better together than separately. Every time you interact with another IACC member, even if they are also a competitor, you’re learning something,” he said.
Global networking also provides members the opportunity to benchmark against other markets. “There is a benefit to networking with other operators to compare where the local market is at,” said Karsten. “Plus members may refer customers to other member venues when they are fully booked or need a different location.”
Finding a connection with like-minded venue operators can also be hugely valuable. Andrew Hodd, co-owner and managing director of St. Andrew's Club and Conference Center in Toronto said that having exposure to an association that is committed to working with venues like his was a new and transformative experience for him.
“Day meeting venues (those with no guest rooms) have their own unique set of challenges,” he said. “And before, I didn’t really have any peers or like-minded professionals that I could turn to for advice, or just to discuss the different challenges that we do have. Now I have a whole network of peers that can discuss different issues, opportunities and innovations. Professional colleagues who were previously unavailable to me.”
Having a global network also gives you someone to offer trustworthy advice. “IACC can help with the real day-to-day challenges within a business when you need a second opinion from someone not living the business you are in every day,” added Karsten.
Benefits of belonging
For meeting venues, some of the benefits of joining IACC include:
Sales & Marketing Support. IACC assists its members through a global sales and marketing effort at trade shows, educating meeting planners and by providing members a venue directory listing on its website including a form to request proposals and facilitate enquiries.
Credibility/Endorsement. The IACC wall plaque and logo lend credibility and an endorsement for your brand.
Professional Education. IACC is a resource for continuing education and training for venue professionals. In addition to the highly acclaimed educational component of the chapter annual conferences, IACC throughout the year offers workshops specifically geared to the development, operation and marketing of IACC certified venues.
Benchmarking. Whether an owner, an investor or an employee, being in a position to see statistical evidence of your property’s performance against other event venues is a significant benefit to being a member of IACC.
Global Networking. Educational forums and annual conferences provide excellent opportunities to make contacts and develop relationships with professionals from every segment of the conference venue industry locally, regionally and around the world who are willing to freely share ideas with each other. See IACC’s Event Calendar for regional and international events
Global Copper Skillet Chefs Competition. Annual country, continent and global chefs competitions celebrate the culinary quality of IACC venues and provide important development for chefs.
Global Staff Exchange. Exchanges provide benefits for participants and hosts. Participants can gain new skills, motivation, new perspectives and an expanded network; plus it might be a reward for outstanding achievement.
Find out more
What to know more about what it takes to become a IACC member?
Download the IACC Member Benefits Brochure.
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