September 2013
Booking Multiple Meetings:
Building a Reputation for Preparation

sponsored by Starwood Hotels and Resorts

It is a quote that has been attributed to classic thinkers, creators and overachievers from Confucius to Alexander Graham Bell to racecar driver Bobby Unser, and it reads, in essence, "Before anything else, preparation is the key to success." That sentiment is, conveniently enough, a mindset that the best planners share with anyone who is in the business of making it convenient, practical and preferable to book more than one meeting at a time.

The key is, how do you get that service going, and whom can you trust? A recent survey of 178 meeting planners and executives conducted by Northstar Travel Media and Starwood Convention Collection asked the question, "In working with an onsite conference services manager at a hotel or convention center, which of their services do you find most useful?" The overwhelming choice, selected by 72.3% of those responding answered, "Confer with the planner before the event to hammer out logistical details."

The Starwood Convention Collection offers that specific service through the work of a personal SCC Convention Service Consultant, who acts as a planner's personal point of contact across their multiple meeting programs. CSCs hold the historical data shared between all applicable hotels about meeting preferences; keep abreast of planner needs; and facilitate the introductions, conversations and transfer of information between properties—in other words, they are the keepers of the keys to great multiple meetings.

"Oftentimes, multiple meetings—over several years or at multiple different meetings hotels—it's usually a relay race, where the onsite CS manager does a great job while you're on property, but then you move to another location, and they pass that information on to the next hotel," says Kevin Shelledy, associate director of sales, business development, North America, Starwood Hotels & Resorts. "What makes the consultant role so much different is it's not a relay race; it's more a long-distance run, someone running along with you, helping you move along from one location to the next. They don't just hand over the baton, they work with each hotel as the event progresses, and build upon more and more information. The CSC facilitates conversations, plans meetings, makes sure they take what they learn from the past and improve it. That dedicated consultant is the biggest differential from what we are doing in the SCC and a lot of our competition."

With the initial legwork done by the CSC, and the information collected, amended and passed from one location's manager to the next, the process ensures that continued preparation leads to success not only for one meeting but for all the ones booked. And it's that one-on-one connection—a reliable, trained, first line of defense—that planners who use the service truly value.

"We'll stay in contact with the meeting and event manager when the group is on-site to make sure it's all running smoothly, and that one-touch contact with the client works like an extra backstop if the customer needs anything," says Lisa D. Wingerter, CMP, meeting and event manager, Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers, and a certified CSC. "I think the personal connection is really important to make our customers feel special, and that will transfer down to their attendees and that will make for a happy meeting."