Meeting Mentor Magazine

December 2018

ConferenceDirect Solutions: Brian Melton

Clients Want Hotels to ‘Have Their Back’

In simplest terms, a hotel’s responsibility in a contract is to provide a group with the environment and services that will make a meeting a success. More than ever, clients want to know that their hotel partners “have their back at all times,” said Brian Melton, CMP,
global account executive at ConferenceDirect.

Example: One client wasn’t sure that was the case after discovering that its meeting hotel had unknowingly booked a competing company’s meeting right on top of the client’s dates. In the hotel’s defense, the business was booked out of the United Kingdom as a generic meeting. Still, “whether or not a contract has a non-compete, a hotel shouldn’t book a ‘General Motors’ on top of a ‘Ford,’” Melton maintained.

How did the client find out? Both meetings happened to solicit the same sponsor at the same hotel for the same dates. Both would be competing for revenues.

In discussions, the hotel wouldn’t budge, claiming the right to sell sleeping rooms and meeting space to other clients, an unacceptable response to Melton. So he tapped ConferenceDirect’s access to the chain’s national sales office. Thanks to that connection, the hotel allowed the client to cancel with no liability. But that’s not the end of the story…

By making that offer, the hotel showed Melton’s client that it was willing to be a true partner. That “psychological token,” he said, convinced the client to go on with the meeting at the contracted property as planned (with the competing meetings housed on separate floors).

Secret weapon. The third-party intermediary’s role in the industry “has really grown in the past five years as we’ve shown we can save clients time and money, and ensure they are protected with the lowest possible liability,” he noted. Most meeting professionals aren’t executing contracts day in and day out, as Melton and his colleagues are. Especially now that clients are asked to do more with fewer resources, he sees his own role as a secret weapon. “We set them up for success.”

Indeed, Melton helps with more than the core tasks of site selection and contract negotiation. Examples: Recently, a client learned that his IT specialist was leaving 90 days before the annual meeting — with no registration site set up. Melton immediately connected his client with ConferenceDirect’s in-house registration team, and the problem was resolved. Similarly, when another client contracted meetings in Orlando, Washington, D.C., and Phoenix, Melton was able to recommend a DMC that he knew serviced all three cities. “We see certain needs and often can help connect the dots in ways that save clients money,” he said.

This assistance is particularly critical now; with the economy on the mend, hotel rates are rising and availability is declining. “The window is closing on values we’ve secured in most major markets over the past few years,” Melton said. That’s why a number of his clients are agreeing to sign multi-year agreements that lock in the best possible deals.

He is also directing them toward one of the most underutilized resources in the industry: convention and visitor bureaus. Some clients worry that a bureau will “spray a request-for-proposal all over town,” he said. Not so. He finds they are invaluable at setting up and subsidizing site visits, as well as stepping in when issues arise with local vendors.

Perhaps the thorniest issue for his clients today is one that did not exist five years ago — Internet cost negotiation. Hotels have identified this as a profit center and built in large margins. “You might get a hotel to agree to wireless Internet in the meeting space, but the system crawls because you only get enough bandwidth to support 35 people,” Melton acknowledged. “And once a group is contracted into a hotel, it is pretty much stuck with the pricing that’s there. So it’s a new fundamental we have to address to our client’s benefit.” — 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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