Meeting Mentor Magazine

April 2014

ConferenceDirect Solutions: Matthew Dykstra

Easing the Rocky Road to a Successful Co-location

It’s never an easy decision when organizations decide to co-locate their meetings. When it comes, often after long and protracted discussions across operations, the idea, let alone its execution, can be a shock to their systems.

Matthew Dykstra (photo left) has had a consultative seat at the table, helping some of his clients wrestle with the resulting changes. “When two organization co-locate, one is generally larger than the other and has the destination procured,” he noted. “That leaves the other organization to play ‘hurry up’ to carve out inventory and make arrangements in a short timeframe.” That can impede the success of the co-location, especially in a highly desirable destination.

That’s where the global accounts/team director at ConferenceDirect comes in. “We can disperse the request for proposal through the destination, roll up pricing for timely decision-making, and leverage our relationships with participating hotels to ensure enough inventory for both parties,” he explained.

Dykstra did just that when one of his clients announced a co-location. He worked hand-in-hand with the other organization’s housing firm, the destination, and hotels. “It’s always a touchy subject,” he acknowledged, especially with 10,000 room nights combined, as in this case. Engaging a neutral partner like ConferenceDirect can overcome any inherent mistrust the two organizations had for each other after competing for so long. “We were able to bridge the trust gap,” he said. They could then “meet nicely in the same sandbox and become greater than the sum of the parts.”

Just imagine the magnitude of the challenge, though, when four associations decide to co-locate, with two of them Dykstra’s clients. None had ever co-located, and now their boards had decided that the way to go was to meet together every odd year. Each had different past practices and booking windows; three were tradeshow-based, the other professional. How do you effectively manage housing for three exhibit components — whose exhibitors will book immediately — with continuing education attendees who book inside of 90 days?

Since two organizations already worked with ConferenceDirect, all four agreed to consolidate housing — a total of 14,000 room nights — for consistency. The four organizations saw the joint benefit of real-time block management and close consultation on deposit and cancellation policies. More importantly, they would not “burn through inventory” that will be needed later on, Dykstra said, when professional attendees registered.

Business rules were put in place that required names and credit cards for every registrant, and encouraged exhibitors to cancel rooms earlier so that they could be resold. “We were able to adjust policies so there would be no pain points,” said Dykstra. “The supplier partners win and the attendees win.” — Maxine Golding

Best Practice: Managing Housing
At a time when people routinely book airline travel and rental cars online (and even order pizza!), too many organizations are not taking full advantage of online housing services. “They lose the ability to manage inventory real-time, take evasive action to limit risk, and consequently drive buying behavior,” said Matthew Dykstra, global accounts/team director at ConferenceDirect.

An in-person audit of hotels participating in the room block enhances the value of these services. “A 10 percent increase in capture drops right to the bottom line, especially when convention center rebates are involved. Plus an audit provides a more accurate history moving forward, which is a huge benefit for the organization,” he said.

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About ConferenceDirect

ConferenceDirect is a full-service meeting solutions company specializing in site selection/contract negotiation, conference management, housing and registration. It provides expertise to 2,200 corporations and associations worldwide through 325 Associates and regional offices. 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 2.9 million room nights. www.meetingmentormag.com

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