Planners often fail to give the contract due date, usually found in the last paragraph of the last page of the contract, the respect it deserves. With meeting demand rising and hotel availability shrinking, knowing how to manage contract due dates will help you keep your cool when things start to heat up — that is, when another group wants your space.

Even after you've given the hotel a verbal commitment, your skill at keeping that hotel confident that the signed contract is coming back will alleviate potential headaches. Remember these four things:

  1. Agree on a realistic due date.

    Always have a thorough discussion around the contract's due date. Setting the parameters upfront about your process and the hotel's expectations avoids misunderstandings in the sprint to the finish line.

  2. Know what “verbal definite” really means.

    That's hotel lingo for “they picked us, but no contract is signed.” There is a misperception that your dates and space are safe once you verbally commit to the hotel. This isn't true. Hotels know that a lot can happen between the verbal definite and the definite, so they're always pushing to place groups in and around your dates as a plan B, just in case.

  3. Keep your foot on the gas.

    Once the booking decision is made and the contract is requested, planners tend to take their foot off the gas and cut back on communication to the hotel. Doing so may lead to your hotel losing confidence, and could cause them to pull out the second-option contract, meaning you're suddenly rushed into getting your contract signed or potentially losing your space. (When a group is interested in your space on your dates, they may ask the hotel for a second-option contract. If that contract gets signed, you'll be given a short window — typically 48 hours — either to submit your own signed contract or to release the space.) Give the hotel confidence to turn down other groups and not issue a second-option contract.

  4. Don't let the due date come and go.

    Nothing good comes from an expired contract due date. Legally, the terms can change. Space can be released. And generally, it opens the process up to unnecessary challenges, especially over a set of high-demand dates. Help the hotel by staying engaged with information about the signature. Don't worry if your only update is that there is no update. The point is that you're proactively communicating — something not every planner does. And that is the key to building the confidence you need for the hotel to take it over the finish line.

Mike Mason is “ZEO” of Zentila, a free online RFP and booking tool. This article is adapted from his blog. Read more at zentila.com/blog..