This post is part of the HopSkip Planner Spotlight Series where HopSkip spotlights planners across the industry to bring awareness of how they adapted to COVID-19, communicating and lessons learned and sharing how they are viewing the meetings and events industry in a post-pandemic world.
Name: Mayur Patel
Company Name: Asian American Hotel Owners Association
Job Title: Director of Events
Years of Experience: 2
How did you get your start in the events industry? What made you pursue this role?
I joined AAHOA in 2019, and I had the opportunity to attend several of our events. And ever since my first event at AAHOA, I have wanted to be a part of the events team. After the post-COVID era, AAHOA was hiring for a Regional Events Manager, and I applied for the position and was very blessed to receive an offer.
How do you compare planning your first in-person event post-pandemic, to planning meetings/events pre- Covid? What was different and unique? What was similar?
What was your number one challenge in hosting your first in-person event(s) and how did you overcome it?
I joined our team post-COVID era, but planning for our 2022 AAHOA Events Schedule was fairly easy when sourcing venues compared to planning for our 2023 events. However, it was difficult to negotiate pandemic clauses or verbiage in the agreements. Post-COVID, it has been difficult to find availability with venues which is great news for the hospitality industry with events returning back to in-person.
The number one challenge of hosting my first in-person event was the different restrictions in various cities. It was crucial to monitor the local guidelines and ensure the event met the comfort level of all attendees. A week before one of my events, the venue informed me the city had updated their COVID guidelines due to the rise of COVID cases in the city, and we had to require all our attendees to provide us with their proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test. We were able to communicate this message to all our attendees quickly and were able to collect this information through our registration.
What is the top learning that you uncovered from the last two years that you’re implementing in your planning process today? (any other tips or tricks you want to share?)
One of the most important things for our team at AAHOA is to have a platform to streamline the RFP process. We source venues for roughly 25-30 events per year, so having a platform to send RFPs to multiple venues, and tracking proposals all in one place is very important.
My advice is to be flexible with the negotiations and the pandemic clauses. I would also recommend starting the RFP process early and being responsive to the venue once to receive the event proposal.
Yes, in the post-pandemic majority of the venues are not very flexible with negotiating clauses, and the turnaround time is also short and limited. When we are sourcing venues for our events we ensure we respond to proposals and review the contracts within 24 hours.
I think communication is the key during this process, but I think they are doing their best to accommodate as many events as they can. Our team has hosted nearly a hundred events this year the biggest challenge the hotels are currently encountering is labor.
Since education and relationships are two major pillars in the meetings and events industry, any suggestions on how other planners can learn and network with their peers across the industry?
I recommend that all event planners be engaged in local chapters of organizations like PCMA and attend events in the industry to further their education. One of my goals for 2023 is to work on my CMP certification.