There are a myriad of details that go into planning a meeting or event, and anything that can simplify a meeting planner’s search for the best venue and destination quickly becomes that planner’s best friend. Launched in 2003, ConventionPlanit.com is the innovation of David and Katherine Markham, both seasoned professionals in the meetings industry with unique insider’s knowledge of planner needs. Together they created a cost-free, one-stop shop for planners to find and book the best venue for any type and size of event. Both registration and commission-free, this search directory and RFP portal provides time saving tools, industry resources, and personized services.
The ConventionPlanit.com platform offers a Search Marketplace, Special Meeting Offers, an e-Newsletter that reaches over 40,000 meeting and event planners, a Best Practices and Guides section, a Blog, and more. A main highlight of the site, however, is a unique system called the RFP Valet®.
Designed with input from experienced meeting planners on ConventionPlanit.com’s own Advisory Council, the website offers a sortable database of hotels, convention bureaus, convention and conference centers, service providers, and sourcing tools to expedite the RFP process.
“Our business model places buyers and sellers together and we get out of the middle,” says David Markham. “Our RFP Valet® service is completely free of charge. We do not accept commissions—in fact over 25 percent of meeting planners that utilize our sourcing tool earn commissions themselves; they work through the site and we protect their commissions throughout the process.” The entire site is, as Markham points out, completely transparent with no markups or hidden fees.
The process is also extremely user-friendly for planners, especially those who wish to use their own, original RFP. “Planners simply send us their specs (no retyping) in the original format. Our team qualifies their specifications, then sends out their RFP to requested suppliers through the platform. Planners may continue to work with their National Sales Office reps and still use ConventionPlanit.com.”
“Quotes and concessions are emailed directly to the meeting planner and compiled in real time onto their personalized online chart. The spreadsheet also includes capacity charts, banquet menus, airlift options, A/V, etc., if requested. All information can easily be exported to others involved in the decision-making process. This virtual spreadsheet also organizes the responses in such a way that offers easy comparisons for planners.”
By allowing planners to go on without having to register, they can conduct research under the radar, “and when they’re ready to go to one of the listings for hotels, convention bureaus, or service providers, they can reach out to them by email, phone, or website.” For planners worried about privacy: ConventionPlanit.com does not share their emails with hotels automatically, instead providing the planners with a link giving specific consent. This works well for the suppliers (i.e., the site advertisers) as well, who can compile a database of planners willing to receive their latest offers and information.
And though the platform provides the latest in high-tech, ConventionPlanit.com remains, above all, a personalized experience. “We’re high tech but also high touch as our team follows up each RFP with a phone call to the supplier to confirm receipt of the specs,” said Markham, effectively moving their user’s RFP to the provider’s shortlist.
As Markham sees it, the future for the meetings market continues to be online. “We do things based upon feedback from the marketplace. The Internet is not going away: it’s everything,” he says. “More dollars are being shifted to the digital world because of a trackable and higher ROI. It’s definitely a younger crowd out there and they all want an efficient experience; meetings are moving that way as well.”