In all the hype about visionary products and sleek design, people often forget a core innovation that made Apple the success story they are today.
It was the simplicity with which they packaged and priced products.
While other computer companies had customers pick out each individual component—hard drive, video card, processor, operating system, software—in order to purchase a machine, Apple opted to bundle these things into a sleek package, limiting choice but making the process simple and easy.
When Ryan Simonetti and Chris Kelly co-founded Convene back in 2008, they were entering a meeting and events world that had largely stuck to this type of à la carte pricing model. Planners were presented with a base rate, upon which every extra was added—coffee priced by the gallon, Wi-Fi, power strips, A/V support, and more.
“What we realized was that when somebody is hosting a meeting they’re not hosting it for the explicit purpose of having a meeting. There’s a business purpose behind that meeting,” says Kelly. “We want to move the conversation to how we as a host can support the strategic purpose of that meeting, instead of ‘Do you want cheddar or swiss on the sandwiches?’”
Deriving inspiration from Apple’s elegantly simple packages, Simonetti and Kelly implemented a similar pricing model into the meetings packages at Convene—”Fewer, better options so that we can focus on excellence in everything we do.”
“Out of the Box” Solutions
The team set out to create packages that worked “out of the box” for meeting planners, so that they could be free to focus on the content of their meetings instead of logistics. “There’s no such thing as an all-day meeting that doesn’t have coffee, snacks, Wi-Fi, and power,” says Kelly. “If we know that every meeting requires these basic things, why ask every time if planners need it? Of course they do!”
There’s a scientific element to this idea of less choice being a better choice. In his 2004 book The Paradox of Choice, psychologist Barry Schwartz argues that modern Americans enjoy an unprecedented level of choice, yet that has not translated into higher levels of happiness. The solution, then, is to slim down the amount of choices we face, freeing our psychological energy to focus on what is most important to us. In a 2005 TED Talk on the subject, Schwartz reveals the story about the consequences of too many choices when it comes to retirement plans offered by an employer:
“For every 10 mutual funds the employer offered, rate of participation went down two percent. You offer 50 funds—10 percent fewer employees participate than if you only offer five. Why? Because with 50 funds to choose from, it’s so damn hard to decide which fund to choose, that you’ll just put it off until tomorrow.”
“For us, it’s about being a solution provider and partner,” says Jill McCluskey, area director of sales for Convene in Washington, D.C. “I’m here to provide solutions to meet your needs, while helping you stay within a specific budget as well.”
Convene at 333 South Grand Avenue in Downtown Los Angeles
Peace of Mind
Besides easing the mind of planners, packaged pricing also cuts down on the number of vendors event planners have to coordinate with (and later manage). “At almost all other venues in our area, technology management is outsourced,” says Emily Swan, area director of sales at Convene Los Angeles. “We don’t do that. All of our packages include the technology needs of any business meeting, and that includes a knowledgeable in-house tech manager.”
Packages are also customized for locations, ensuring specific geographic areas have their specific needs met. In Los Angeles, for example, free parking for attendees is baked into the base pricing—ensuring no surprise charges in a city where most rely on cars to get around town. Swan says her team is focused on making life easier for event planners by making pricing transparent for her clients. “I know our packages will check off 5 to 6 line items on their budget, so I know I’m making their life easier by already giving them less to worry about.”
Ultimately, it comes down to providing the best experience possible for clients, Kelly stresses. Take care of the essentials, and do them extraordinarily well.
“One of the means you can use to arrive at greatness is focus,” says Kelly. “There’s a reason the nicest restaurants have short menus.”