A strong economy and an increase in corporate meetings and conferences have event marketers scrambling to lock in dates and venues much earlier than they have in years past. Convention centers in major cities are booked up as much as five, 10, even 15 years in advance. Key dates are taken and hotel rooms are filled. Besides panic, what’s a marketer to do?
It’s a dynamic that Event Marketer will delve into in further detail in the June/July issue with input from brands, visitor and convention bureaus and event agencies. For now, if you’re feeling the squeeze, here are three tips based on our interview with Mike Trovalli, vp-events at SAP, an industry veteran with 35 years experience. SAP Sapphire, the company’s marquis customer program, draws 20,000 physical attendees and as many as 200,000 virtual ones. SAP’s Forum Series holds another 60 events around the globe as well as two global Tech Ed Series meetings, and the company hosts a spate of other programs as well. “We are a huge event company,” says Trovalli. “In our complete marketing spend, events is always in the top three.”
Trovalli has experienced the event squeeze firsthand and is well aware of the problem, which he sees happening around the world. Here’s how to plan for it:
1. Think much farther out.
“We have always booked our events three to five years in advance, but now we have to think longer term than that,” Trovalli says. “Even booking 10 years in advance, there are years where I couldn’t get my ideal dates. We are having to ask ourselves, what will my portfolio look like in 2020, 2022?”
2. Relationships are important.
SAP enjoys a close relationship with the city of Orlando, where Sapphire takes place. “We work closely with the facilities, hotels and convention centers, city officials and even the government,” he says. “Our events have a huge economic impact.”
3. Be flexible.
SAP holds its events in cities where its customers are concentrated, which limits its choices somewhat, but it is flexible on dates, especially for some of its mid-market events, which bring in 3,000 to 8,000 attendees.