Is your request for 10 fruit baskets a deal-breaker, or just something you'd like to have? Planners need to be up front with hoteliers and prioritize those wish-lists, says Nancy Schelhorn Bennett, CMP, director of conference and meeting services, American Physical Therapy Association, Alexandria, Va. Until recently, Bennett was on the other side of the negotiating table, serving as associate regional director of southeast national sales for Marriott.

Her main concern with planners: They are not always completely honest when negotiating. Many planners think if they share too much information about their budgets, history, and needs, that they give up leverage, she says, but, in fact, the opposite is true.

"A hotel or city makes decisions based on specific criteria, just as planners do. Little games lead to lost opportunities for both sides."

Bennett's negotiating thoughts: * You must have an understanding of your meeting objectives and communicate them to the hotel. "If you are having an intensive board meeting, and need a distraction-free environment, you want to ensure you're not [situated] next to a band competition."

* Give hoteliers more than your room rate budget. Suggest ways they can help you offset costs--perhaps by sharing a speaker with another group coming in-house.

* "Don't berate a city or hotel if they tell you your meeting is an 'ugly baby.' This is business."

To sound off on any issue, contact Tamar Hosansky, fax: (978) 466-8961; e-mail: thosansky@mail.aip.com.