Finding downtown hotel space for a reasonable rate can be a daunting task. Here are six tips from veteran planners:

  1. APPLY PRESSURE — If you're not getting anywhere with your hotel manager, go to the hotel chain's national sales representative. If you strike out there, don't hesitate to phone the city's convention and visitors bureau. Don't be shy about putting pressure on a hotel, especially if you have a large group.

  2. SEEK THE OFF-PEAK — Ask high-demand major-city hotels about room availability during their shoulder season. For example, consider meetings around Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, or Labor Day.

  3. LEVERAGE YOUR HISTORY — Stress your group's use of a hotel through the years. Present as much documentation as possible; it will reinforce your credibility and perhaps persuade a fence-sitting hotelier.

  4. DO YOUR HOMEWORK — The more you know about the downtown market, the better off you are in negotiations. Check a city's calendar of events to see if there is a citywide convention on the dates in which you're interested. If so, you probably will lose negotiating leverage. Also, consult the CVB about the hotel's occupancy and room-use patterns. Confer with planners who have booked the city.

  5. NEGOTIATE AT QUARTER'S END — Hoteliers sometimes are more flexible on room rates near the end of a company's fiscal quarter. The reason? They need to book business to meet a quarterly, or annual, revenue target.

  6. KNOW WHEN TO MOVE ON — Don't like a deal in one city? Take your business elsewhere.