Planner Pet Peeves: Straight talk for meetings industry suppliers; how planners really think, act, and buy
Supplier Pet Peeves: Straight talk for meetings industry planners; what suppliers really think about how we behave
by Shawna Suckow
This is a unique pair of books aimed at educating buyers and sellers in the event industry about how they can work more efficiently with each other. Understanding the other side of the business helps to avoid conflict and streamline communications. Shawna Suckow has surveyed senior meeting planners and suppliers to uncover their biggest frustrations.
The first book is Planner Pet Peeves.
In the context of these books, planners are the clients. They include freelance meeting planners, corporate event managers, conference logistics coordinators, etc.
“Your cold calls are our number one pet peeve.” Suckow offers advice on how to communicate with planners, including the initial contact. She stresses the importance of humanizing communication and building relationships. She also advocates the strategic use of LinkedIn. “LinkedIn lets you belong to 50 groups. I recommend you join groups where your target market hangs out.”
The author advises suppliers to ask about the goals and objectives of the event and to tailor proposals to those needs. “We want to hear strategic solutions to serve our clients and make us look like rock stars in the process. That’s the key to the kingdom… You’ll win big points if you help us envision what other planners have done with your property.”
Ridiculous fees are a major source of frustration for event planners. “Nobody likes to feel like they’ve been duped, and that’s how planners feel when we uncover hidden costs after we’ve gone to contract… Service charges have gotten out of control, with some properties charging 28% and little or none of that ever makes it into the pockets of the hard-working servers… ‘I had a hotel charge me a service charge on meeting room rental. It really burned me.’” Aside from feeling gouged, “we are trying to create meeting budgets that are realistic. We just need to know up front (without having to be Sherlock Holmes) what we are going to be charged so that we can do that.”
Master bills are another source of problems. “Planners tell me that a perfectly accurate bill is like the legendary… Loch Ness Monster: we might believe they exist but most of us have never seen one… Please don’t ruin that last impression by making us sift through a lengthy final bill full of errors.”
The second book is Supplier Pet Peeves.
Suppliers include hotels, convention centers, convention visitor bureaus (CVB), destination management companies (DMC), etc.
The frustrations begin with the request for proposal (RFP) process:
- Unreasonable deadlines: “I’ve been asked to propose on a citywide in a day, and they don’t respond back for four to six months—what was the rush?!”
- Sending RFPs to venues that are not under serious consideration: “Why do meeting planners source 10+ properties in 10+ destinations? Sometimes I’m competing with cities that are apples-to-oranges and I don’t know what the planner even is looking for.”
- Vague requirements: “The RFP says ‘a room for 300 people.’ Please clarify: theatre, classroom, banquet? This makes a huge difference in the space I propose.”
- Unrealistic demands: “Please understand why you are not going to get 20,000 square feet comped for only 10 rooms of peak night.”
Sometimes requests have unintended consequences. “We completely understand if you want to see a contract for the clause content, but if planners could be upfront with us, that would be great. First off, it takes a lot of time to properly prepare a contract. If the planner just wants a shell, I can produce that in a matter of seconds. Secondly, when a hotelier sends a contract, [it] then becomes a tentative piece of business that is now forecasting for our Revenue Managers. If the planner is not truly ready for a contract, no problem, just be up front with us.”
From the operational side: “Planners miss my deadlines for production all the time, and I have to scramble. They end up not getting my best work at that point.”
Other complaints include sleazy behavior. “The planner calls up a DMC, requests a proposal, and uses it to gather ideas and pricing. She then uses that information to go directly to the individual tour operators and transportation companies to book directly, at cheaper prices.”
Suckow has done a great service to the industry by surfacing the most common problems on both the planner and supplier side. This research can help both sides work together more productively.