Herding Cats: Keeping Rooms in the Housing Block

October 12, 2013

Adam Schaffer

Adam Schaffer is Vice President, Tradeshows and Exhibitions for HelmsBriscoe and a member of the IAEE Senior Executives Programming Task Force.

Tradeshow organizers are generally an easy-going group of folks. They are jovial, fun and even occasionally well-mannered. The massive exception here is when you are talking to them about things like attendance, labor rules, revenue and … I am whispering here … keeping rooms in the block. Yes, that latter topic will typically unleash a diatribe on human behavior theory and the decline of Western civilization. It’s like herding cats, they will tell you.

The good news is that attendee behavior can be influenced when it comes to keeping rooms in the block. I have found that there are two key elements to getting the attention of an attendee: Money and convenience.

Four broad ideas to consider:

• Offer special benefits for staying within the block, such as restaurant coupons, a free spa visit, airport shuttle pass, etc. (can all be provided by the hotel)


• Take steps to restrict shuttle bus access to those within the block by issuing special wrist bands or badges.


• Consider innovative offers such as three nights at $149 per night vs. one night at $199. Also, offer early bird room rates, just as you offer early bird registration rates.


• Combine Registration and Housing.  Package the hotel room with event registration. For example, the registration fee is normally $400 but those staying in the block pay only $250.


Along these lines, doing the right thing and risk avoidance are also factors in human behavior.  I am a fan of communicating the benefits of booking in the block to attendees and exhibitors. It’s important to know that by doing so, they are supporting the event and their industry. 

Additionally, it is good to also inform travelers of the risks of booking out of the block, particularly with sites that might not offer changes or refunds and, that in the event a hotel is oversold they will likely be the first to get walked.

No rocket science here, just good business that’s good for our business.  

Happy herding!

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