Here are our top 25 tips for getting the best deal for your next meeting.
Narrowing Down Your Venue Choices
1. RELY ON THE LOCAL CONVENTION AND VISITORS BUREAU. Many of their services are free, such as photos, posters, promotional shells, meeting folders, and tourist information.
2. CONSIDER USING UNUSUAL VENUES. Try public spaces, art galleries, historical sites, university venues, or movie theaters.
3. CONSIDER CONFERENCE CENTERS. It's a great option when you expect to have extensive audiovisual requirements, as most equipment is included in the complete meeting package.
4. NEVER LET YOUR SUPPLIERS THINK THEY'RE THE ONLY ONES. Keep them honest by always requesting multiple bids for your meeting.
5. RESEARCH BOTH RACK RATES AND CORPORATE RATES. Call the 800 line or reservations desk of the property or chain. This way you will know the worst-case pricing.
6. NEGOTIATE SLIDING SCALE RATES. Negotiate a sliding scale in the so that the further out you cancel, the less you pay. You're giving the hotel more time to recoup its losses.
7. NEGOTIATE NO DEPOSIT or, at least, that the deposit will be placed in an interest-bearing account.
8. IF YOUR MEETING NEEDS A LOT OF AV, negotiate with the hotel to provide a hotel electrician.
9. ALWAYS GIVE CONSERVATIVE ROOM BLOCKS.
10. ASK FOR CONCESSIONS YOU WANT UPFRONT, INCLUDING:
--1:30 or 1:40 comp rate
--complimentary coffee and tea in the meeting rooms
--comp meeting space, rehearsal space, and setup/take-down
--continental breakfast in the meeting room
--free local calls
--free office space
--free or reduced parking for VIPs and staff
--discounted parking for attendees
--health club access or an aerobics instructor for health break
--late cut-off date
--overset for food guarantees
--reduced speaker room rates
--reduced staff room rates
--same rate after cutoff date
--room upgrades for VIPs and staff
--welcome gift and notes.
11. ADD A CLAUSE IN THE HOTEL CONTRACT that you will not pay the final invoice until you have received a detailed post-convention report from the property.
12. WORK WITH THE HOTEL TO FILL THEIR “HOT DATES.”
13. HOTELS ARE MORE WILLING TO NEGOTIATE IF YOU USE A PROPORTIONAL AMOUNT OF ROOMS AND MEETING SPACE. Also, it helps if you can build up your F&B totals with on-site meals and functions.
14. NEVER SIGN A CONTRACT UNLESS YOU AGREE WITH IT IN ITS ENTIRETY. Cross out or edit clauses that you do not agree with, initial them, and get the supplier to initial their agreement. Remember: A contract is not binding unless both parties agree.
15. BE FLEXIBLE WITH YOUR ARRIVAL AND DEPARTURE PATTERNS. Can your meeting be moved from a Tuesday-to-Thursday pattern to a Saturday-to-Monday pattern? Find out what the hotel's typical meeting patterns are and work with them so you are not competing for meeting space. This will give you an edge.
16. TRY TO SCHEDULE MEETINGS IN THE LOW SEASON, OR AT LEAST IN A LESS BUSY TIME OF YEAR. Winter in Montréal, after-ski-season in Vail … Educate your management about the value of flexibility in meeting dates.
17. SPECIFY DATES AND TIMES IN YOUR CONTRACT. (i.e., “The cutoff date for bedroom reservations is Saturday June 28, 2009, at 5 p.m.” instead of “The cutoff date is 30 days prior to the meeting.”
18. ALWAYS BUDGET AT LEAST 10 PERCENT OF YOUR EXPENSES AS “CONTINGENCY.” There will always be unforeseen expenses, such as unforeseen changes in room sets, things that were underbudgeted, labor strikes, bad weather
overtime labor, extra postage and mailings, phone and computer hookups, cancellation insurance, and speaker substitutions.
19. BUILD IN A “PROTECT YOURSELF” CLAUSE. Make sure that your cancellation clause is reciprocal. What if the hotel does major disruptive renovations? Has a change in management? Or the union goes on strike?
20. GET ALL THE CHARGES LISTED IN WRITING UPFRONT. Then add a “no additional charges” clause. These charges may include tips and service charges; labor charges (including minimum hours and minimum rates); move-in/move-out charges and setup charges; microphones, electricity, and phone hookups; risers and easels; tables, chairs, couches, and linen charges.
21. NEGOTIATE WITH THE HOTEL'S BUSINESS CENTER for a bulk rate or discounts on copies, faxes, and secretarial services.
22. BE VERY TIGHT WITH YOUR F&B GUARANTEES. Use your historical data, place conservative estimates, and track your attendees' preferences and patterns closely.
23. ASK WHO ELSE IS IN THE HOTEL AT THE SAME TIME. You may be able to gain savings through economies of scale by, for example, having the same menu.
24. IF A MEETING LASTS MORE THAN TWO DAYS, KEEP THE MEETING ROOM SETUP IDENTICAL.
25. REDUCE THE NUMBER OF BREAKOUT ROOMS NEEDED. This will save you both AV and setup costs.
Sources: Corbin Ball, Corbin Ball Associates; and Louisa Davis, CMP/CMM Metallurgical Society of the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy, and Petroleum