Mr. Beaubien

Group Meetings

The Rise of Generation C and Small Meetings

A New Buyer Persona

By Charles de Gaspe Beaubien, President & CEO, Groupize Solutions

According to Google Research, Generation C is a powerful new force in consumer culture. It's a category of people who care deeply about creation, curation, connection, and community. It's not an age group; it's an attitude and mindset. Brands that take the time to understand Generation C and better engage with them will find a willing and influential audience.

For this new group of consumers, the internet no longer sits behind a screen - it's a way of life - engaging with technology whenever they want. Gen C wants access to goods and services from all their devices in the fewest possible clicks. Archaic hotel mindsets will ensure some properties will never even be considered by today's buyer.

In the past several years, there has been a distinct shift toward smaller meetings - yet this is one area in which technology has not kept up with the times or the expectations of the buyers.

According to Skift's "Megatrends of 2015," the events and conferences industry is going through a "creative renaissance" with the "the rise of new technologies affecting every stage of the event planning process." While Skift references South by Southwest (SXSW) and TED/TEDx-massive conferences seemingly intent upon reshaping the landscape-why are we not giving the same attention to small meetings?

As an aggregate, small groups and meetings represent a significant market opportunity. In the US alone, two-thirds of all meetings have 50 participants or fewer representing a $124 billion industry. This breakdown of the market by number of attendees illustrates a striking realignment that has occurred in the corporate meetings landscape. Day meetings alone are a $10B industry, with one meeting easily generating $5-6K for a hotel. Many of the largest meetings have become medium size; medium-size meetings have moved toward smaller; and, in many cases, small meetings are now staying on-site or going 'virtual'. It is this small meeting segment that presents the biggest opportunity for the hotels and the greatest challenges to the planners.

The traditional booking and management processes for smaller groups and meetings is hampered by numerous manual steps. Small, simple meetings where options have become commoditized are more appropriate for automation than are larger groups with needs beyond a meeting room, break-out room, simple catering and limited audio-visual requirements. A common challenge in small meetings is the cost and complexity involved in managing the reservation process. With these groups, significant time savings can be achieved by the planner but out of date hotel processes do not facilitate the savings of time or money.

Generation C - Connected, Communicating, Content-Centric, Computerized, Community-Oriented, Always Clicking.

The deconstruction of the traditional conference and the innovation in event technology are part and parcel to the rise of the most connected workforce the world has ever seen: Generation C. While Generation C includes millennials, it is not confined to them. Generation C is psychographic. Google states that 65 percent are under 35, but they span the generations, empowered by technology to search out authentic content that they consume across all platforms and all screens, whenever and wherever they want. One in three workers in the U.S. is under 35, what hotel can afford to alienate more than 30 percent of their potential customers?

It is worth reiterating that Generation C expects the ability to make arrangements online. A hotel's ability to deliver online reservations not only meets their expectations but also assures them that your property is capable of handling their technological needs when they are on-site. Take this a step further and offer packages for various small meetings that can be reserved with just a few clicks. Moreover, if a meeting is booked by phone, offer the planner the ability to book and manage a room block of sleeping rooms online. The ability to handle event details virtually via a responsive app that works on any device is critical.

The Gen C planner should be able to open it, make requests to the hotel sales manager, and communicate with attendees in one easy-to-use platform. Part of doing business with this innovative workforce is doing things differently. It is one of the ways they prove themselves to their colleagues. Offer progressive meetings, such as green meetings, or design a virtual interface meeting plan aimed at small meetings that will have remote employees or clients joining.

Defined by the fluidity of people and technology, they have a new way of interacting with devices and handling both business relationships and processes. More than 28 percent of their time is spent online with much of it on mobile devices, and PwC's "Millennials at Work" reports that 41 percent say they prefer electronic communication to in-person or phone contact, and three-quarters believe that access to technology makes them more effective.

Need a more compelling reason to engage with Generation C? Recent studies report that 80 percent of small meetings are unmanaged. This means that the planning of those meetings lands with managers, admins, and assistants-staff that is made up largely of Generation C. To capture these small meetings, hotels must take a cue from the renaissance happening in the events industry and innovate for this new generation.

Ensure your hotel offers the technology they need-and then be clear that you have it. At least one high-tech meeting space is a plus. At the very minimum, Gen C wants to know they can plug in multiple devices with ease, including docking stations; Skype with remote staff without interruptions or grainy pictures; and give multimedia presentations on the fly and without lag time.

Tech Interfaces with hotel staff are expected. A big plus for Generation C is to offer digital communication not just before but also during small meetings. Allow them to stay focused on important issues by providing text service for requesting water, snacks, technical assistance, or making group dinner reservations. Mobile check-in and checkout are a plus for overnight meetings.

The convenience of online shopping must be adapted to the new generation of occasional and professional meeting planners. They are part of the 'now generation' and want to do everything online, from shopping for facilities to booking and communicating their needs. According to a study by the Professional Convention Management Association, 71 percent of meeting planners and attendees like online communication, and 81 percent consider themselves technologically savvy. Ultimately, these men and women have embraced a fast-paced and efficient system and do not like to spend hours on a site hashing out options.

Meeting the needs of the 'now generation' planners involves establishing online communication, in addition to offering small and intimate meeting settings. These are technologically savvy customer groups who like environmentally-friendly, green approaches to both marketing and physical event settings. This means it is essential to offer virtual and electronic materials and communication via text messaging, Internet chat and email channels instead of outdated hard copies.

If you think this is not happening in your hotel, check again. Try to book a simple meeting at your hotel. How long does it take to find availability and rates? The process is typically tedious and takes hours to accomplish. While executives rely on assistants and planners to take care of the details, do they understand the process still lacks efficiency and convenience? Many think those days are long gone now that you can easily book a few rooms online from your computer, tablet or phone- but what about if you want more than four rooms, meeting spaces or events? Well, it may be hard to imagine, but those requests are still handled the 'old school' way with forms, phone calls and emails. However, times are finally changing, and the self-serve revolution is here.

Hotels are now making the commitment to improve the experience of booking small meetings and groups at their hotels to capitalize on this profitable customer base and meet the demands of Generation C buyers and millennial travelers, ease the RFP lead fatigue on sales managers and reduce costly dependencies on 3rd parties.

The Future is Here

  • Self-Booking Tools - If the responsibility of sourcing smaller meetings lies within admins or sales departments, let's give them self-service tools that will allow for direct communication with the hotels while having enough visibility and discipline to control a significant area of spend for the corporation. Industry leaders from Travel Management Companies anticipate that by 2018 90% of all booking tools will be self-booking.

  • Better Payment Options - Payments for Meetings and Events (M&E) often fall outside standard payment processes, which can lead to inefficiencies and nonstandard procedures, wasting your employees' time and costing the company money. Meeting Card solutions help eliminate waste by optimally capturing all of your M&E expenses. From cards in-hand to virtual payment options, meeting card solutions provide the flexibility and controls needed to accommodate a meeting of two or two hundred with confidence and ease - all while helping to keep everyone on a budget. Meeting cards provide efficiency and cost savings at every step of the meeting management process. Premium tools provide the right data and controls to help lower event-related costs and enforce pre-allocated meeting budgets, as well as reduce your reconciliation workload.

Registration Tools Designed for Small Meetings

The meeting and event technology ecosystem has evolved into a very sophisticated offering of tools that satisfy very specific needs. Registration has been the foundation of this evolution, but it seems to have lost the crucial role it had in the past.

Problems with current registration systems:

  • Too expensive

  • Too hard to set up

  • Doesn't handle sleeping rooms and travel arrangements

  • Too much functionality that is not necessary for small meetings

  • Not integrated into Expense Management Systems

Furthermore, according to a survey in The Good Registration Guide 2015 by Event Manager Blog:

  • 21% of respondents do not use any registration software, manual forms and spreadsheets are still preferred by a large chunk of the industry.

  • Top 3 reasons causing frustrations with registration platforms are; lack of functionality, high fees and how time-consuming the setup can be.

  • Binders seem to be a thing of the past while 1 in 5 event professionals prefer tablets to manage the attendee registration flow.

  • Registration apps and tools are one of the most popular integrations professionals demand. In your next sales meeting, benchmark your current online tools. Listen to the voicemail messages of all your sales managers. If their greeting does not even provide an email address to contact them - then maybe you will understand why all of today's buyers are so frustrated…not just Generation C.

It is time for hotels to embrace this new age of communication and to change the way they market to the modern, tech-savvy occasional meeting planner. Tens of millions make up the connected generation, and it's important to cater to their needs and expectations. By giving them the ability to self-serve and engage with you easily on their preferred channels, hotels can enjoy a significant boost to their bottom line.

Visionary entrepreneur Charles de Gaspe Beaubien has been a disruptive force in the group travel industry, building technology solutions to automate and transform the group hotel booking experience. As president and CEO of Groupize, Inc. Mr. Beaubien is recognized for pushing boundaries through all facets of technology to benefit travelers and the industry. Mr. Beaubien thrives on developing new capabilities and architectures, building strategic partnerships, expanding business models and pioneering new technologies. His hands-on planning involvement, combined with his extensive knowledge in travel technology fuels his passion to bring efficiencies to the difficult processes involved in online shopping, booking and managing of groups and meetings. Mr. Beaubien’s dedication resulted in Groupize being named the most Innovative Emerging Travel Technology Company by PhoCusWright at the Travel Innovation Summit in 2013. Mr. Beaubien can be contacted at 508-332-7319 or charles@groupize.com Please visit www.groupizesolutions.com for more information. Extended Bio...

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Feature Focus
Hotel Group Meetings: Blue Skies Ahead
After a decade of sacrifice and struggle, it seems that hotels and meeting planners have every reason to be optimistic about the group meeting business going forward. By every industry benchmark and measure, 2017 is shaping up to be a record year, which means more meetings in more locations for more attendees. And though no one in the industry is complaining about this rosy outlook, the strong demand is increasing competition among meeting planners across the board – for the most desirable locations, for the best hotels, for the most creative experiences, for the most talented chefs, and for the best technology available. Because of this robust demand, hotels are in the driver’s seat and they are flexing their collective muscles. Even though over 100,000 new rooms were added last year, hotel rates are expected to rise by a minimum of 4.0%, and they are also charging fees on amenities that were often gratis in the past. In addition, hotels are offering shorter lead times on booking commitments, forcing planners to sign contracts earlier than in past years. Planners are having to work more quickly and to commit farther in advance to secure key properties. Planners are also having to meet increased attendee expectations. They no longer are content with a trade show and a few dinners; they want an experience. Planners need to find ways to create a meaningful experience to ensure that attendees walk away with an impactful memory. This kind of experiential learning can generate a deeper emotional connection, which can ultimately result in increased brand recognition, client retention, and incremental sales. The September Hotel Business Review will examine issues relevant to group business and will report on what some hotels are doing to promote this sector of their operations.