Creatively Captured – a Q&A Session with Rob Frank
Recently Rob Frank had the pleasure of having a one-on-one interview with the Editor of CEI Magazine (a leading conferences, events and incentives publication in Asia). He was asked to provide insight into what it’s like being an Event Management and Destination Management Company, and what key factors to look out for when considering an inbound or outbound event.
With incentive groups, it’s all about high-end experiences. What do event organisers/DMCs need to take into account when choosing a quality hotel to impress the delegates?
First, you need to work backwards from the overall objective. With incentive groups, the ultimate goal is to reward the high achievers and at the same time cause enough desire to motivate them to work even harder the following year, so that the incentive program continues. With that in mind, a few initial factors come into play, the first of which is budget. Other things to consider are the culture of the organisation, demographic of the delegates, the sorts of activities the delegates are interested in or capable of, and how adventurous are they. Another very important factor to consider is: what is the delegate expectation? Are there experienced travellers in the group? Have they been on incentives before? These questions will shape the requirements of the hotel and overall event.
What tips and suggestions would you offer when picking an ideal hotel?
Naturally, the facilities need to match the requirements of the group. Off the top of my head, here are a couple of things I would consider and do first:
Select a number of properties in the target destination for consideration.
Do a site inspection of each of those properties. Be super critical (because let’s face it, the delegate would be!) about the quality of the properties. Look at the facilities, the Food & Beverage offerings and rate the overall 'vibe' of the place.
Watch the service standards closely. No matter how fabulous the property, if the service standards are below par, the whole incentive program could be at risk.
Review what inclusions are part of the accommodation package. There is nothing worse having to ‘unexpectedly’ pay for things. For example, delegates should never have to pay for Wi-Fi (paying for Wi-Fi is like being asked to pay for tap water). Try to anticipate what delegate expectations are around these inclusions and negotiate these into the overall cost from the property.
Check the property’s locality. Is it close enough to attractions and places where delegates can partake in FIT activities? Does the property provide free transport to surrounding attractions, shopping etc.?
If the incentive program includes the option to bring children, are there adequate child care facilities available both day and night?
What are the most important features of a good hotel that make it suitable for incentive groups?
It goes without saying, the property needs to provide delegates with the all the facilities written in the brief. You also need to focus on the intangible things, such as the attitude of each and every member of staff, are they proactive? Have they been welcoming? Has their service been top-notch? It’s sometimes the little things that make a big difference. CEI:
If high-achievers make up a VIP group and are treated to a more exclusive experience, is it likely they will stay at a more upscale hotel? What do organisers need to take into account if and when groups are split between two hotels?
I personally would recommend using one hotel rather than splitting the group. The highest achievers should be accommodated in suites or larger rooms. This way, the high achievers are receiving extra benefits for their efforts, yet they are still able to easily participate in group activities and feel part of the team. If you wanted to take it one step further, you can always organise exclusive experiences for this group, but staying in the one property encourages team cohesiveness. The additional intangible benefit from this strategy is that the high achievers' experience will be visible to the rest of the group – motivating them to reach even higher next year.
What advice would you give on getting the best rate?
Negotiating is an acquired skill. You need to know how far to push before the person you are negotiating with 'shuts down' and gets the impression that you have little or no respect for the quality of the product they are selling. Most hotels will be open to negotiation.
If you are considering a number of properties in the same location, you can always use comparison rates as a starting point.
I have found the best results have always been achieved by being totally honest and transparent. More often than not, you will know what your budget is, so you know where you need to get to with the hotel. Tell them up front. From there you can have a constructive dialogue with them so that you can reach a mutually beneficial outcome. CEI:
What additional arrangements can be made to make the stay extra special for incentive delegates?
Anything that they are not expecting. Delegates will feel loved if they feel pampered and surprised. Anything from a bonus massage to a gourmet meal in an exclusive location, an extra activity and special gifts delivered to their rooms. Be creative. Be generous. Generosity will be appreciated and repaid into the future. CEI:
Finally, could you please give us one example of an arrangement you made for an incentive group. Perhaps one that involved a logistical challenge, or one that was unusual in some way, and explain how you managed to make it successful.
We often incorporate a corporate social responsibility component into incentive and conference programs. Even with the most luxurious, action packed programs, these community activities become the highlight of the event. For example, we have worked with local communities to include visits to village schools. The client provides resources such as furniture, IT infrastructure, stationery and other equipment and delegates spend an afternoon at the school assembling furniture, doing maintenance, installing new computers … and of course, interacting with the whole school community.
The day concluded with a feast, provided by the hotel as their contribution to the exercise and supplemented by school parents.
As an incentive, this was one of the most memorable, ‘feel good’ experiences delegates have ever experienced. Knowing that they have made a significant contribution to a local community, got hands on and had the opportunity to form an ongoing relationship with the school – it was certainly rewarding – not only to the delegates, but to the client and community involved.