Event Management

It’s About Time: 5 Faster Ways to Source Your Next Venue

A view of a computer screen from the perspective of a meeting planner who has just used Groups360's instant booking tools to secure both overnight rooms and meetings space.

Skift Take

Time is a planner’s most precious resource. Make the most of it by utilizing venue sourcing technology to cut through the clutter and book your meeting essentials at record speed, leaving you free to get back to what you do best: creating event magic.

If there’s one quality that makes the best event planners stand out from the crowd, it’s creativity. When it comes to the growing trend towards festivalization and experiential design, it’s absolutely essential. And in the age of rapidly-advancing artificial intelligence, creativity is a soft skill that will only grow in importance. The problem with creativity, however, is that it takes time — arguably both the most valuable and the scarcest resource that a planner has. To keep up in this new high-performance era, planners will have to find efficiencies in managing the logistical legwork behind meetings and events. Fortunately, new technology is arriving just in the nick of time to streamline one of the most stressful aspects of the job: venue sourcing.

“It’s about time,” says Tim Flors, senior vice president and chief customer officer of Groups360. Working closely with the world’s top hotel brands, Groups360 has made its hotel booking platform available at no charge for event organizers. Called GroupSync, the platform includes multiple tools and features that help to speed up the entire venue bookings process. Many meeting planners have already converted to the new way of doing business.

Think of it as an automated assistant that comes with a readymade set of RFP templates, checklists of selection criteria, and real-time data on the best available group rates for your selected dates. Then once you’ve pinpointed the right venue at the right price, it can lock those rates up for you with instant booking or an RFP. Discover 5 ways that this new tech can help you work smarter, not harder.

1. Skip the Waiting Period: Book Instantly

There are few bottlenecks more frustrating than going through the hoops of an RFP process when you already know exactly what you want, particularly if you’re trying to book a small meeting on short notice. We live in a world where it’s standard to book leisure travel instantly at the click of a button. It’s about time that group bookings caught up.

At long last, meeting planners can avoid the tiresome delays of waiting for RFP responses altogether — with GroupSync, you’re able to instantly book overnight rooms for small groups at over 9,000 hotel properties on the platform. To put that in more concrete terms, over 1.4 million group guest rooms are available for instant booking at best-available group rates, along with 66,000 meeting and event venues. And just as you can filter for properties offering incentives, you can narrow your search to hotels that have enabled instant booking.

Lock Down Rooms, Meeting Space, AV Equipment & Catering

You’ll be able to see how many of each room type is available for your chosen dates, and modify your occupancy pattern to accommodate individual arrival and departure times by changing the quantity and type of each room on a specific date. You’ll also be able to review the contract before confirming, and all of the hotel’s standard policies and loyalty points will apply.

More and more brands are also making meeting space, catering, and equipment available for instant booking. Want an LCD projector for your meeting space? And maybe a flipchart easel with markers for collaborative brainstorming?

Screenshot of the Groups360 platform showing meeting space layout options and AV equipment that can be booked instantly as part of a more automated venue sourcing process.

How about a plate of vegan nachos at 2:15 pm? You can iron out all the details in one go, confident in the knowledge that everything you need will be available. And that ultimately means more peace of mind — and precious time — to dedicate to the creative side of planning your event.

Screenshot of the Groups360 platform showing a variety of catering option for snacks, breakfast, and lunch, along with a field for additional information.

“I can unequivocally recommend GroupSync,” says Michael Gagnon, founder and CEO of the Academic Orthopaedic Consortium. “Within minutes it provided me with top tier hotels, pricing options, perks and the micro details associated with all of this — within or below my budget.”

Similarly, hotel partners are also experiencing time-saving benefits that allow their sales teams to devote more time to their big wins. “Moving our meeting rooms to direct online booking has brought us enormous benefits. We are happy because our team members are freed up to focus their time and effort on larger revenue opportunities,” explains Keith Hudspith, head of food and beverage for Premier Inn Hotels.

2. Get to the Good Stuff: Find Your Perfect Venue Quickly

Even if you still haven’t landed on your dream venue, there are faster ways to develop a short list of top candidates. When time is of the essence, you don’t want to spend precious hours brainstorming destination or venue ideas, then sifting through mountains of options to find what might work for your requirements. With GroupSync, you can name your event, set your dates and preferences, and start browsing the system instantly.

Identify and Rank Venues & Destinations Against Key Priorities

Narrow down what’s out there by selecting the priorities that are most relevant to you from the outset. In its market research, GroupSync found that the following categories repeatedly came up on planners’ must-have checklists when evaluating potential destinations and venues:

  • Room pricing
  • Outdoor temperatures
  • Specific amenities (e.g. a fitness center, onsite restaurants, etc.)
  • Distance to the airport
  • The availability of direct flights from your attendees’ top departing cities

For this reason, GroupSync lays out all these categories in a simple interface at the beginning of your search. You just have to input your preferences among the options — and if some aren’t relevant, you can skip them. To make things even easier, you can rank these requests in terms of importance.

Screenshots of the Groups360 platform showcasing the option to indicate if both meeting space and overnight rooms will be required, how many people will be attending, desired room price, the amount of meeting space required, preferred outdoor temperatures, and hotel preferences (rating, miles from airport, amenities) — as well as the option to rank each of these categories in terms of importance.

Vet Venues Based on Pre-Calculated Meeting Space Needs

Meeting space requirements can be another major headache, particularly since different room layouts will require different space allotments for a given number of meeting participants. Wouldn’t it be great to know from the outset whether a venue will have the type of meeting rooms you’ll need, with the right amount of space in each?

GroupSync has found a solution here as well. You can indicate from the outset whether meeting space will be required, and if so, whether you’ll need breakout rooms, a ballroom, or an exhibit hall. A built-in calculator lets you know how much square footage you’ll need depending on attendance numbers and the seating arrangements you choose. All of this automation makes it easy to nail down your meeting space requirements from the outset — lowering the tedious legwork even further and reducing the need for repeat visits to check on the space once you’ve made your choice.

Let AI Do the Heavy Research for You

The system will then leverage massive data feeds and powerful algorithms to help you home in on the most suitable options and find the perfect fit for your event — leaving you free to dedicate your time to working your magic elsewhere. Suggested destinations are even given a score that shows how well they match your criteria.

“GroupSync has truly transformed our planning process and has been a bigger benefit than I ever could have anticipated,” says Jason Ferrill, admissions experience officer of the National Christian Counselors Association.

There are no paid placements, so you can rest easy knowing that the recommended destinations and venues really are the best available options for your event.

Screenshot of the Groups360 platform showing AI-powered recommendations for destinations based on venue sourcing requirements.

3. Skip the Small Talk: Don’t Waste Time Sending Mismatched RFPs

Ever sent out an RFP and waited a week for a response, only to find out that your dates are no longer available, or the pricing is out of your budget? With GroupSync you can save time on both sides of the equation by accessing all the information you need upfront. The GroupSync platform can streamline the RFP process at 203,783 hotels globally.

First, it enables you to browse details about meeting space and amenities and see both real-time availability and the best available group rates. Second, the platform also automatically generates RFP templates based on your search criteria, speeding up the process of getting the information you need even more.

The standard template covers the key questions, such as when you need the space and what type of space you’re looking for, and allows you to add multiple meeting space requirements. You can then also add food and beverage needs and requests, plus any other attachments drilling down into the specifics of your event.

Aside from saving your time, doing everything through the online platform helps to keep everything organized in one place. No more bouncing between emails, file-sharing services (like DropBox and Google Drive), paper print outs, and multiple hotel booking sites.

4. Hit Your Targets: Get a Faster Response from Venues

Traditionally, you might have had to work through a new RFP every time you approached a new property. But with GroupSync, you can send RFPs to multiple different properties at the same time – saving you the headache of going through the same process over and over again, as well as making it easier to compare answers like-for-like across properties.

Being able to reach more matching properties at once means you’re likely to find the right fit faster. This saves time for hotel sales staff as well. And since the GroupSync platform is fully intergrated with the booking systems of partner hotels, the venue’s sales team is able to skip several manual entry steps that they would normally need to take when reviewing RFPs. In turn, they’re able to respond that much faster.

“The entire team loves the way GroupSync simplifies and automates the process, which is saving them considerable time,” explains Norman Leong, director of reservations for Swissotel the Stamford & Fairmont Singapore.

5. Get Simple Sign Off: Easy Price Comparisons Your Executives Will Love

Inflation and price rises mean that companies everywhere are tightening their belts — and that meeting planners are under ever more pressure to show that they’re spending their budgets wisely and securing the best deals for the company.

GroupSync’s comparison tool, GroupSync Insight, uses AI to calculate the best windows for booking, even taking into account which lead times are likely to get you the best rates. In keeping, it will warn you if you’re sourcing your venue outside the optimal range, so you can consider whether to shift your dates to secure top savings.

To help you find the information you need to impress your company executives, GroupSync also sifts through a wealth of data to evaluate average hotel rates in each destination based on the time of year. You can access all of this data on pricing and occupancy rates in easy-to-read charts to help you evaluate whether properties are charging above or below the norm — and how likely they are to sell out. This information is not only handy for gauging how early you’ll need to nail down a contract, but is also valuable context for contract negotiation purposes.

To show you’ve really done your homework, you can browse other nearby venues to compare real-time group rates. This can help you spotlight properties or geographical areas you might not otherwise have considered, but which represent a better deal for you and your company.

Cost-Saving Tools

Want a little extra from your booking? There’s also an option to filter venues by those offering incentives, as well as instantly apply rewards or loyalty programs, such as Marriott’s Bonvoy points, to make the deal a little sweeter. Plus, you can use your account as an automated record of your company event spend. Bases covered!

“GroupSync has been such a tremendous help for us,” says Craig Keilitz, executive director of the American Baseball Coaches Association. “I can’t imagine doing business like we have over the last few years without it. It’s been absolutely incredible, and it’s saved us money.”

Visit Groups360 now to request log-in credentials and begin saving time using the GroupSync service free of charge.

This content was created collaboratively by Groups360 and Skift’s branded content studio, SkiftX.