The true measure of the degree of success of negotiations with hotels regarding events, conferences and conventions, is often measured in the depth of the negotiations, and assuring that as many details as possible are anticipated and negotiated in advance. In my over three decades as a professional event planner and negotiator, I have discovered that organizations that prepare in advance, understand their needs, articulate them fully up- front to the hotels, and have negotiators that have had negotiations training and maintain their integrity at all times, invariably get the best long- term results.
Many inexperienced negotiators, those who have not had negotiations training, do not understand the need to prioritize their needs, and often fail to consider many aspects that will have potential impacts on the success and viability of the event. When having discussions with hotels, some of the items that need to be thought about and negotiated, include: guest rooms; food and beverage; audio visual needs/ requirements; service charges/fees; comps; and priorities. In addition, when negotiating, it is essential to use a win- win philosophy, so as to maximize the results for all concerned.
1. Will this event require securing guest rooms? Will the organization pay for these rooms, or the attendees? What is a realistic negotiations training for hotel nights usage? Has the negotiator fully considered the ramifications of certain attrition policies, and minimized these ramifications by prioritizing the negotiating down of, or elimination of, attrition requirements/ penalties? If attendees are paying for their own rooms, what is the price point that must be addressed? All of these issues are to be expected by event planners who have had negotiations training.
2. How much food and beverage is the conference providing for attendees? What are the needs of the organization and its attendees? How are these functions being paid for, as part of the registration fee to attend the conference (if any), by the organization completely, or as a paid option available for attendees? What are the negotiations training? There are many methods available for reducing food and beverage costs, while maintaining perceived value, but it generally requires a carefully designed balancing act, as well as expert negotiations, combined with organizers willing to think outside the box to achieve optimum results.
3. What are the audio- visual requirements for this event? This is an area that perhaps is the biggest budget breaker when negotiations training do not adequately understand and negotiate to meet their needs. Many inexperienced conference planners become awe- struck, when they realize what hotel audio- visual departments are going to charge. The best example is when a group negotiates complimentary microphones, but does not realize that there will be charges for the hook up, amplification, labor, etc. All of these types of needs should be pre- negotiated in as much detail as possible.
4. How much are the service charges? Many people expect ten to fifteen percent, and are astonished when they discover that some negotiations training charge as much as 24%, or even more. Is the group sales tax exempt in a state that permits sales tax exemptions (while many do, negotiations training California, for example, rarely permits sales tax exemptions).
Organizations that are eligible must plan to have the necessary sales tax exemption paperwork in place prior to the event. Regarding service charges, it is important to find out if there is any negotiations training flexibility (rare), as well as what is covered by the service charge, and what services are exempt from service charge implementation.
5. What "comps" (complimentary) are going to be needed? Who receives this (for example, speakers, organizers, officers, invited guests), and what is going to offered free? Organizations must have a clearly defined negotiations training in place in this area. Will the hotel offer some sort of accommodations to assist the organization address this area? True expert negotiators put everything on the table during the negotiations. There will always be more flexibility from a hotel at the negotiating stage, than after the contract is in place.
6. What are the groups priorities? What are the greatest need, and the biggest concern? Be sure to address these during negotiations.
What has always astonished me, when working with organizations to assist in their events, is how many of those in negotiations training leadership position seem to feel that there is no need to address all these details at the beginning. They seem to feel that the organizers should be allowed to do these things later. This is perhaps one of the costliest errors, in terms of money, resources, and result that far too many groups seem to make!