Meeting Mentor Magazine

December 2018

ConferenceDirect Solutions: Kim Earle

‘Mini-block’ Within Housing Resolves
Room Rate Issue for Government Attendees

When an association sets up a government room rate for a subset of its meeting attendees, it hopes that the right people benefit. But that turned out not to be the case for a client of Kim Earle’s.

In previous years, this association would advertise the block and the rate, and “that would be it,” the ConferenceDirect vice president of global accounts explained. Prospective attendees could see the government rate of $129 alongside $159 for everyone else, and inevitably some who were not eligible would book the lower rate. No one verified until check-in that the attendees were legitimately “government.” Asked for government credentials that they couldn’t produce, these attendees then would be charged the standard group rate.

That process left many a government representative who hoped to get the rate “high and dry,” Earle noted. Just as important, it left the association uncertain as to where these attendees were staying in the host city and how many were booking outside the block.

Earle devised a solution: a “mini-block” created within housing that is only available to those with the credentials to access the government rate. When eligible attendees arrange their housing through the association, their information is verified through the membership database and directed to the appropriate block. This enables the association to capture the true number of government-rate rooms needed for its conference, keep those attendees within the block, and get full credit for all the rooms utilized at the conference.

Of course, “we try where possible to contract the group rate for the client at the government per diem rate,” she added. “But when we can’t, the mini-block process comes into play.”

Solutions like these happen because Earle not only sources meetings and negotiates contracts with her clients, she is embedded within her clients’ operations — either as head of the meeting department or the meeting department itself. “Going to the pre-con and being at the conference is second nature to me because that’s what I’m contracted to do for my clients,” she said. “I can tell them where I’m able to save money because it’s an essential part of my job.”

This is standard operating procedure for a 20-year veteran whose previous work in associations included senior management. “When the client and I talk about a conference, we’re not just talking about what lettuce and tomatoes cost,” Earle noted. “We’re talking programming, membership, education, and how the meeting as a whole impacts the association.” She has “walked in their shoes” before, experiencing first-hand what her clients go through as they decide to have a conference, where to locate it, how to achieve the end result, and work through the planning from start to finish.

Tapping these skills and experiences, Earle is presently helping a client create a new, five-conference series that will be introduced in 2013. She and the client did the research and put together the strategic plan in 2011, when it was presented to leadership and approved by the board. The calls for proposals are out now, and specific topics for the workshops will be determined this summer. The final programs for each of the five-day events, which expect to draw 200 to 300 attendees, will be a win-win, producing revenues and fulfilling the educational mission of the organization.

Indeed, associations are more challenged today than they have ever been to make their programs as relevant as possible for constituents, who have many other events they can attend. It is a big reason why client events are becoming more topical, focusing on solid, high-value reasons to bring people together. “As important as networking is to face-to-face, the critical issues that are discussed are what drives attendance,” Earle emphasized. — Maxine Golding


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About ConferenceDirect
ConferenceDirect is a global meetings solutions company offering site selection/contract negotiation, conference management, housing & registration services, mobile app technology and strategic meetings management solutions. It provides expertise to 2,500 corporations and associations through our 325 Associates globally. www.conferencedirect.com

About MeetingMentor
MeetingMentor, the leading publication for senior meeting planners, is circulated to the clients, prospects and sales associates of ConferenceDirect, which books more than 3.87 million room nights. www.meetingmentormag.com

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