Economics

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What Facilities Really Want from an Event

30 Jun, 2009

By: Ramona Moon

For anyone struggling to put a large event together, it's easy to get tunnel vision and think of the event only from an event planner's perspective. You know what you want from the event and may think of the facility as only the place where it's going to be held. But to get the most value and cooperation out of that facility, it's important to ask at every step of the process, "What does this facility really want from our event?"

The easy, obvious answers are revenue and economic impact. But that's only the starting point for what could be a lasting, symbiotic partnership between your organizations.

Start by finding your common ground. Success begets success for both the event owner and host facility. Recognize that everyone is working toward creating a highly successful, entertaining event at every level. Great events grow in popularity with the athletes in their sport, building a reputation for both the event and the facility, which receives great press for hosting a successful event. By understanding and openly expressing that each group wants the same outcome, event planners can get everyone on board in a spirit of cooperation.

Finding a Perfect Fit
Every event is not right for every city. It's like putting together a very large jigsaw puzzle. Selecting the correct city and facility for an event - and vice versa - remains a challenge for event owners and event sites. A few guidelines can help make the event matchmaking a beautiful thing.

First, beware of eager sales people who feel a need to "SELL" you on their location or facility, regardless of its appropriateness for your event. Responsible facilities will respond to your Request for Proposal (RFP) when they see a possible match with their site. It's important that this RFP be as clear and comprehensive as possible. Host facilities have a boilerplate checklist that each prospective event must meet before the location will submit a bid proposal for your consideration. Be sure to include in your RFP as well a boilerplate checklist that each prospective host location must meet before you will consider that facility.

Make sure that every element of your RFP has been addressed in the bid proposal you receive from a prospective host facility, either eliminating those that have not addressed every item, or contacting them for further information. The importance of open communications in planning an event together cannot be underestimated, and it starts early. Establish a dialogue with those locations that meet your criteria and begin to build a relationship with them during the bid process.

Prospective host locations will invite you to come for an in-depth site visit. This is your chance to give everything a careful examination. The Sports Commissions and Convention & Visitor Bureaus have the necessary resources to take care of the expenses that will be incurred during this site visit.

Once you have selected the site, you are now ready to bring the various members of the host location on as your partners and begin laying the groundwork for your event.

Building and Communicating with Your Event Team
Get everyone on board from the start. Convention and Visitors Bureaus and Sports Commissions at your location of choice need to be included as equal partners during the entire planning process. Include representatives from the host city and host facility in all communications and at every stage of the planning process. It is better to include them at every step and allow them to choose where they need to ultimately be involved, than for you, the event owner to make these decisions for the host location.

If your host location has a local organization that is actively involved in your sport, remember to include key members of this group as well. Your sports commission or convention & visitors bureau will be able to help you connect with these individuals.

Information is power, and surprises are never welcome in event planning. There is no room in the industry for organizers who operate on a need- to-know basis, withholding what could be key bits of information from another member of the team. If either side of this partnership operates with this mindset,it will lead you both down a very bumpy road. Discover during the bid process if this is the host location's management style, and make your communication expectations explicit.

The Gold Medal Goes to...Information!
Your event information is gold. As an event owner, you will maintain complete and accurate records about your events. The list of items is quite long, but each element is of critical importance to the success of your future events, and it is important that you share each piece of this information with the members of your host location.

In addition to a complete history of each host city and facility, include specifically what other locations have done to enhance or detract from the success of your event. The goal of every host location is to meet and exceed the successes your event has experienced in other locations. The information that you provide will help them to accomplish this goal.

Provide history for the last three years at a minimum, and more if available. We have hosted events that could provide this information from well over 20 years ago.

Include complete and accurate hotel room night pick-up numbers (your hotels can provide you with that information at the completion of your event if you let them know at contract signing what data you will need). Be sure to ask the hotels for a breakdown for each night's lodging. It helps to know how many two-bedded rooms were filled, how many suites, and how many single rooms were used.

Know how many of your guests checked in a couple of days before the event and how many stayed over afterwards. Many people are combining a few vacation days with their attendance and participation at sporting events. Additional information that is of value to a host city and host organization is an accurate number of attendees at any meals and meetings that may be a part of your event celebrations. Provide accurate athlete and audience numbers.

This level of detail will help you in the selection process for a future host city and will be invaluable in your hotel negotiations. Many convention & visitors bureaus and sports commissions have rebate or grant programs that you can take advantage of if you can provide this type of accurate traceable historic documentation.

Details, Details, Details
It is better to provide host locations with too much information than to leave out even the smallest of details. What are your audio/video needs? Scoreboards - are they electronic? Media needs, such as press rooms, set up styles for press conferences and a detailed list of every piece of equipment that will be required is needed by the host city and host facility at bid time and again as you begin the planning process.

Don't wait until the pre-event meeting to ask for any additional technology needs. A seemly small element such as the number of phone lines for the phone bank in a press room or finding out that the facility is wireless could turn into an unwelcome last-minute surprise. Just because certain items were included in the bid proposal, do not assume that these items are still available through the host location upon arrival. Reconfirm that every item in the bid proposal and every item on your "Request for Proposal" can still be accommodated.

Now is the time to add anything that you or the host location may have inadvertently neglected to include during earlier conversations. Be sure that all aspects of your event including any that may have been added or changed after your decision was made are addressed in written form.

Host locations experience unavoidable staff changes; having everything in writing promotes a smooth transition despite staffing changes. Be sure that all changes are signed off on by the supervising person at your host location so everyone is aware of all your needs.

Calculating the Value of Your Event
There is much debate these days about the importance of knowing the economic impact of your event. When you keep accurate records from each host location that includes the guest room rates at each hotel property, the number of athletes and attendees, the number of meals and how many meals were served at what cost, the facility fees, etc., it is simple to then just add everything up.

As you move your event from location to location, especially if you move from coast to coast, you will experience a large variance in hotel room prices and facility rentals. Most convention & visitors bureaus can provide you with what they estimate a visitor will spend in their city for each day of their visit. Inquire if this daily total is based on a single corporate visitor or a visiting family. Be sure to ask your host location for a breakdown of each item that is included in this per day total and the amount of each. This per day amount will vary from city to city as you hold your event in different areas.

When you finish your calculations, you can ask your convention & visitors bureau representative to check your numbers and included data. The National Association of Sports Commissions (NASC) recommends that you do not use a multiplier and rely only on direct spending figures. Be sure to let your host locations know that your economic impact numbers are based solely on direct spending.

These changes need to be taken into account because a tournament may generate $2 million in an expensive location and only $1.5 million in a more affordable location. Both host locations will value your event; however, it would not be a wise business decision for you to promise $2 million of economic impact to a city that may only generate $1.5 million. While that $1.5 million would still be very welcome, not generating an expected $2 million could be a disappointment. It is better to under promise and over deliver than to fall short and risk the credibility of your event.

Also require your host location to use only the economic impact numbers that you have provided when they prepare press releases on your behalf. Historically both convention & visitors bureaus and event owners have either mistakenly or intentionally inflated the economic impact of events. This practice has jeopardized everyone's credibility; now this profession must operate with complete transparency to gain back what has been lost.

Pre- and Post-Event On-Site Meetings
Scheduling both a pre- and post-event meeting are standard operating procedures for all events. Plan to arrive on site at least three to four days,or a full week, before your event and plan to stay over for two to three days after your event. A pre-event meeting catches anything that might have been missed or overlooked during the pre-planning process. The post-event meeting gives you an opportunity to thank everyone for contributing to the success of the event and a forum to give and receive feedback on the event and the host location. Because they always want to improve their services, your host location will find your candid feedback valuable and beneficial, whether positive or negative.

You've done your homework, practiced your moves and strategies and identified your teammates. Now go get your game on!

About the Author

Ramona Moon

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