A Guide to COVID-19 and the MICE industry

What it’s time to do now is to focus on what we can control – we can control how we react to this – both you as a leader and the sales team.

Sales teams are communicators – and need to be able to respond to every fear clients have.

There are a few important skills/areas to be looking at now in your business.

Your communication on this is critical. Are the team just reacting to this and handling cancellations or is there a pro-active element in client communication?

Now is the time to get on the phone and really listen to your client.

What is going on in their business – what are their fears?   


1. Now is not the time for a hard sell, it's a time to listen – does your client feel really listened to or do they feel it's a sales pitch? 

2. Are your sales team asking the right questions?  A very powerful question to ask clients right now is "how can I help you?"

3. Have you thought through options for them, plan B and plan C?  Are the team clear on that and able to communicate that with clients?

4. What is the kind of business that is going ahead?  Are you calming their fears of bringing people together? What precautions are being taken at the event to control the spread of germs? Think about food service such as individual portions instead of buffet style where everyone is touching the same serving spoon.

5. What business is ready to book? For Q4, 2021 and beyond.  Have you designed a hybrid offering?  This can encourage taking small steps with small in-person events while extending their reach with a virtual offering.

If you are a mainly MICE and business event focused business, can you adapt to more local business and social family gatherings that are more comfortable getting together.

Competition is going to be fierce for the clients that are booking – are your team skilled enough to hold the rates – are they high converters?  Do they have the skills to maintain profitable booking patterns? 

6. Can the team help clients think through different scenarios?

7. Some sales managers are paralysed with fear. They are sitting back, hoping for a recovery. We are not there yet. Action has to be taken now to save what they can.

8. Can you facilitate virtual meet ups – if air travel isn’t an option for some, joining the rest of the conference virtually will still help people to connect and share ideas.

9. How can you support with your terms and conditions? The relationship you carve out now will be a deciding factor in if you are their event partner of choice when recovery happens.

10. Most of all – are the sales team fit and ready for the recovery – what does that look like?

Is your team hungry for the business or are they complacent? It is quite common in big city destinations that business is converted just because of the location. It's not necessarily down to great sales skills. This won't work in the new economy that is dawning.

I got a call from 2 hotel owners this week. Their fear is that the team don’t have the right relationships to get them through this and they don’t have strong enough skill set to handle the tough competitive environment that will exist when recovery begins. 

I was in conversation with a very experienced Director of Sales yesterday and I was struck by what she said. “It’s not easy to keep motivation going when every attempt to drive business seems to fail.”  That’s the danger of this situation – the team giving up and saying what’s the use.

There are a lot of order takers in this industry whose idea of thinking they have done enough to WIN the business is if they have given a competitive rate and put together a great package. That is not going to cut it when events are booking again. Competition will be fierce. The teams skilled in building business relationships who have the right tools in place to convert the business will WIN more.

As an industry we have survived SARS and Swine Flu, we survived 9/11 and thrived after it. We can do it again, now is the time to prepare for the recovery.

Thank you for your time, stay safe and remember – keep smiling as that is infectious too.

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Ciara Feely

Ciara is the subject matter expert in the area of sales growth for DMCs, agencies, hotels and CVBs.  Her clients warmly refer to her as “an international black belt in Conference & Event Sales”. Ciara is a best-selling author of “Steps to WIN in the Meetings Market”. Her Steps to WIN™ Sales Program is a framework and methodology that shows teams how the Buyer Buys.  Ciara’s work results in client’s knowing how to get the EDGE on their competitors and generate sustained revenue results faster.

Ciara shares rich content in webinars and workshops around the world that is purely practical and based on reality.  She has been an agent for 10 years and a hotelier before that so she deeply understands the Meeting & Event industry.  She looks at what happens in our industry every day – how the buyer makes decisions to help with the daily challenges sales teams face in trying to get the attention and interest of the Planner.

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