Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What is a Group History?

This is another topic that most meeting planners should be familiar with – the Group History.  Though the phrase is pretty self-explanatory, a new planner may not be sure what they should include or how long to keep the data.  Here is a brief overview…

Simply put, a Group History tracks all of the information about your event.  It can be used for several purposes but I believe its real power comes into play when locating and negotiating for space and rates for future placement of that event.

At a minimum, your Group History should include:
·      Dates event was previously held
·      Locations of previous events (city and venue)
·      Actual number of guest rooms used (and type of rooms used) for your event
·      Actual number of attendees/participants
·      Actual amounts spent on Food & Beverage functions
·      Total budget (amount spent) for each previous event
·      If you have Exhibits, how many exhibitors did you have each time

When compiling a Group History for an event, I don’t stop there, though.  Here are some other good pieces of information to include:
·      Function space used (number of rooms, room sets, etc.)
·      Audio-visual equipment used
·      Reservation patterns (does the group make reservations early or just before the deadline)
·      Registration patterns (again, do the attendees register early or at the last minute)
·      How much the attendees spent at the venue’s outlets (coffee bar, restaurant, gift shop, etc.)

Bear in mind that the above lists are not comprehensive but are meant to give you an idea of what you should include in creating your own Group History.  You will need to create your own list based on your event. The goal here, though, is to get as much hard data as you can about your group.  The more you know, the better placed you are come negotiation time.  Why is that?

Let’s say I have a group of 500 people for a meeting, need 400 guest rooms, 10,000 square feet of meeting space, and plan to do four meals over three days.  As a hotelier (or venue manager), you might be pretty skeptical about my numbers if I have no data to back them up.  As a result, you are more likely to build in a “safety net” in the contract to protect your property in case my group does not deliver on its promises – higher F&B minimums, perhaps, or an earlier cut-off date for room reservations, maybe.  However, if I can show you ten years of Group History for the group, I may be able to get reduced minimums or a later cut-off date.  Having a solid Group History does not guarantee that you get favorable contract offers compared to not having one – but it does show the other party that, yes, you do know what you’re talking about when it comes to the group’s needs and what they can realistically promise to deliver.

Having a Group History also allows me to be more specific in my negotiations because I know exactly what the group needs.  And, because I know exactly what my group needs (and have the History to prove it), the venue can give me a proposal that addresses those needs more directly.  They can offer incentives that my group would actually use instead of a generic incentive package that contains items irrelevant to the group.

So how much History should you have on your group?  When sending out an RFP, you should include three to five years of history (dates, locations, and venues), but I like to hold onto a Group History for as long as the group exists.  If the group has held meetings for the past 14 years, then I want to have data for all 14 years.  That much history allows me to be confident about their needs, as well as a tool for analyzing trends in the group’s requirements as needs and wants change over time.

If you don’t have that many years of data, don’t worry too much about it.  Go back and pull it out of old files if you can.  If you can’t, then start a new file where you can track all of that information in one place.  Build a Group History for your group and you will find that you have just added one more great tool to your kit.  Remember: Knowledge is Power!

~ Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director, RDL enterprises