How do large companies find meeting venues in a huge city like NYC?
May 16, 2011 1:56 PM   Subscribe

How do large companies decide where to hold meetings in a big city like NYC? There are hundreds of options if not more. Has anyone participated in this process and can you please shed some insight?

Trying to do some creative work for a meeting space in the city and needing to know whether big companies (e.g. Citibank, etc.) have in-house meeting planners, hire others to find the best spaces, or some other option. How do they get started, find a hotel, etc.? If they need conference spaces, do they get recs from the hotels? Apologies if this is all too basic. It's really hard to figure out the pathway from idea to meeting!

Any light you can shed on this would be so helpful to me! Thank you.
posted by brynnwood to Work & Money (12 answers total)
I can't really speak to organizing a big meeting for a super huge company, or in a super huge city, but I have planned AGM and conferences for medium-sized organizations and I imagine the principle may be the same.

Many of the companies I have worked with don't necessarily have an in-house meeting planner, but an administrative-type role that provides this sort of support. Usually this person has either created contacts or inherited inherited them from their predecessor in the position. I have found that this person often has a giant file full of glossies from various hotels and conferences centres around the city. You may have to phone and make some inquiries as to the currency of their price list, but it gives you something to start with. Once you determine your budget it's easier to whittle down what you do or don't want and narrow your search from there.

Most hotels have full-time meeting planners that will help you navigate the process. If you haven't decided on a space, they will often invite you over for a free meal and a tour of the facilities. Depending on the swank factor of your facility, the meeting planners can be either very accomodating or a total nightmare. Sometimes they are available for your every whim and question, and sometimes they seem to disappear within moments of signing the contract. Trust your gut and go with someone that seems like they will help you figure out what you do or don't need, and that will be flexible as you change your mind. Don't be afraid to say that you're new to the process and ask for guidance. When I first started doing this I was always afraid that admitting that I was green would mean that I'd get fleeced, but for the most part I don't think this has been the case.

Another avenue you may want to try is a tourism and hospitality conference. They often bring together many venues, caterers, hotels, events rental companies etc and can be a great way to make contacts and get recent price lists (and swag. Loads and loads of corporate chocolates, pens, gift bags, mints, hand santizers, wine draws, etc. Bring business cards).

I hope that this helps! Good luck!
posted by owlparliament at 3:08 PM on May 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

I can't answer your question directly, but I'll add that NYC has fewer "really huge venues" than you'd think. There are certainly not hundreds and hundreds - more like a few dozen, depending on the nature of the event and the type of space needed.
posted by Sara C. at 3:55 PM on May 16, 2011

When working for a very large company, we had a whole department called "Meeting Planning". They set up in-house and external meetings, chose locations, managed equipment, catering, electronic communication, room reservations, invitations, etc. Often the external venues were hotels with which we had contract pricing.

As for city locations, it was usually the place most centrally located to the participants (airport hubs also were popular city locations like Dallas). Sometimes the locations would rotate so not everyone was forced to travel long distances every time (Dallas, New York, LA, Chicago). Otherwise, we had large meeting spaces (auditoriums for upwards of 150 people) in our larger offices where we could hold meetings when bringing in clients from across the country.
posted by cecic at 4:34 PM on May 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

This might be different perspective, but I currently had to do the legwork for this for a Large Government Department (over 300 people) for their annual conference, and I started off by contacting the large city Convention and Visitor's Bureaus (nearly all big cities have them).

I sent them an RFP (you might be able to send them somehting similar) and the CVBs distributed them to the hotels and convention centers that could accommodate the requests (the number of meeting rooms needed and the number of guest rooms, etc.). Then those hotels/ccs returned bids to us with all their prices itemized (separate meeting rooms, use of audio/visual equipment, food and beverage, etc.). But one thing is that we were told to stay away from airport hotels simply because a downtown venue has much more to offer in terms of accessibility and things to see/do. That is, if this event is more than one day type of thing.

This might work for what you need to do as well!
posted by foxhat10 at 4:55 PM on May 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

I really appreciate the help, guys! I'm sorry if I was unclear, but I'm working for the venue in an advertising sense, so trying to figure out how to get to the people, like some of you, who plan/have planned events. They're a new space and though not super-sized, they're can do many hundreds and want to target people who want a really tailored experience (so higher-end companies). Sorry, that seems like I'm trying to sell the place to you (I'm not). But ultimately, that's my job. At the moment, I'm trying to determine how the decisions get made. I suppose one goes to the companies one wants to talk to and sends along some materials (the glossy packets and whatnot), but in the digital age, there must be other ways of connecting. Is anyone aware of any resources online that meeting planners might use? I totally get it about the rolodex developed or inherited. I guess my challenge is to figure out how to introduce this place to people. Anyway, thanks again. And please let me know if there's anything else I'm missing.
posted by brynnwood at 5:44 PM on May 16, 2011

One thing I'd really be interested in seeing is a typical RFP for these events. Is it pretty nuts and bolts (numbers, budget) or more than that?
posted by brynnwood at 5:45 PM on May 16, 2011

What we had on our RFP were our requirements per day, such as one large room that could fit the 300+ crowd, with particulars, such as the request to have round tables and fit at least 6 people per table (which would usually constitute a large ballroom request for starters.

Then different rooms would be needed for separate conference meetings (breakouts) that could seat approximately 50-75 people per room. and for those rooms, we'd request one laptop, one display screen, one microphone (cordless or podium, whichever), etc. etc. These different equipment requests could be broken down.

We'd also ask them to itemize the cost for audio/visual equipment for the whole she-bang.
Laptop computers
large screens for display (if you need)
microphones (per separate room and for the large meeting ballroom)....
and so on....

Note: the audio/visual estimates were ALWAYS confusing because the venues would just want to send you their glossy package about what they offer. They usually include super detailed A/V "packages" that, to the non-A/V person, is total Greek! DONT ACCEPT THAT! Send the RFP with the requests for itemization and emphasize to them to break it down exactly with what you are asking for in order to become part of the potential list of venues (trust me, they WANT your business so they will/should do what it takes to make the information they provide clear and more likely to make them the winner!) :) Obviously, you'll want to be tactful in your emphasis to follow the RFP, but you'd be surprised in how many would just respond with their glossy package deals, and guess what, no one had the time or expertise to decipher all their "package deals" (2000 lumens versus 4000 lumens....hmmmm? which one do we need??) so, in the end, their bids ended up at the bottom of the pile.

We also would ask for a separate estimate/price on the food and beverage, including mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks and drinks.

Many of the bidders also made awesome concessions (free parking, free rooms for every 10 paying guests, free A/V even!)

I hope all of this helps! I'll be happy to answer any more questions about it.
posted by foxhat10 at 6:38 PM on May 16, 2011

Oh, and to actually answer your question - we just designed the RFP ourselves and included instructions for them. We made little tables for them to simply insert their prices.
posted by foxhat10 at 6:41 PM on May 16, 2011

Ok, i just read your last comment, and i think I misunderstood what you were asking. Anyway, maybe it helps in someway!
posted by foxhat10 at 6:42 PM on May 16, 2011

You might find it useful to talk to hotels nearby - most large events need accommodation and you could work together with a hotel that may have the accommodation but not the conference facilities. It may be mutually beneficial to be able to jointly tender for events. Otherwise, you are gong to be up against it trying to compete with facilities that can offer a complete service. One thing that people want when organising conferences and similar is to be able to deal with one organisation that handles all the facilities rather than trying to co-ordinate it themselves.
posted by dg at 7:33 PM on May 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

I would start with the Convention & Visitors Bureau with a description of what I was looking for an a request for a referral to appropriate venues.

Depending on how impersonal the process is, it may or may not be worth it for you to network with the CVB employees. Does the local Bureau sponsor any professional, networking, or informational events for people in the event planning business? What about other professional organizations?
posted by Jacqueline at 10:36 PM on May 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Starcite is one piece of software used for corporate meeting planning.
posted by smackfu at 5:48 AM on May 17, 2011

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