Aim High To Get The Best Contract: Meeting Concessions Edition
When pushing for meeting concessions during your RFP timeline or in negotiations, it can be difficult to know how to get what you need for your group. Saving money on convention center rentals is nice, but it might be ideal to trade some savings for the best possible WiFi service for your meeting attendees. These days, everyone appreciates a good WiFi connection.
Those are the types of things that can get lost in the shuffle when you don’t pay attention to the details. Always be looking for a concession from your hotel, your meeting space or other vendors that will be providing services to your attendees.
It could the difference between a good meeting and a great meeting.
Press when you have the advantage
Hotels and restaurants are more willing to give concessions when reservations are light. When you are planning a conference or meeting in the off-season for a particular city or venue, press that fact. Ask for more than you think you can get. It may seem like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised how many planners defeat themselves before they even begin negotiating, by being too timid.
Read the contract closely
Make sure that you are adept at reading venue contracts closely for aspects to leverage to gain concessions. Follow a repeatable process in order to research sites, send out RFPs (request for proposal) and negotiate final contracts. Make sure that you reevaluate that process every year to take advantage of new trends or changes in legislation. An organized, evolving approach to site selection and negotiation will ensure that you are obtaining the best concessions available.
Of course, you need to have a legal expert or trusted third party review the contract closely to make sure you have the proper indemnification and protection from liability. And always make sure your insurance is up to date and there is a clear resolution process for disputes.
Being the best client you can be is a surefire strategy for repeat meetings with a venue and relationship that can result in nice perks for your attendees or budget.
Be creative with your ask
Even in these days of Internet everywhere, asking for complimentary newspapers for VIPs, like the local paper, the NY Times, the Wall Street Journal and USA Today will pay off. Push the reps to get free 24 hour access to the fitness center for all attendees. Ask for a discount on spa services, if you are in a resort that offers those amenities. How far is the hotel from the airport?
Request complimentary airport shuttle service. It might not be in the hotel’s budget, but asking never hurts.
The bigger your room block, the more concessions you can get
This one is fairly obvious. The more rooms you block off, the more people you can bring to the hotel and the more you can ask for. And it doesn’t always have to be about comp rooms for every 40 or 50 room blocks. See if you can get upgrades to suites at the regular rates, which you can then hand out to select VIPs. Ask for the conference or group rate to extend for a few days on either side of the meeting, which gives attendees time to get in and explore the local flavor. That can make your meetings more popular than most.
Use the WiFi as a negotiating point
Why does it cost so much to provide WiFi for your your guests? For one, the strain on a network for a 100-person meeting, a rather small affair, can be significant. The quality of the connections for those people depends on the size of the ISP provider to the hotel, the wiring throughout the space and the team necessary to keep the network up and running. Hotels have costs too. But, if you are bringing a good size room block, with a sizable food & beverage buy, you might be able to get the hotel to budge the WiFi charge for rooms and the conference center.
The F&B Ask
When you send out an RFP or your hotel contract, always ask for a discount of at least 20% on printed food & beverage prices. Even if the venue comes back with a lesser percentage, you are still going to get a good deal. The art of obtaining meeting concessions lies in understanding where your partner has a lot of room. Food & beverage can be that place where hotels are making decent profits.
Even beyond the actual cost of food, look for other ways to save when feeding your guests. Look for a reduction in the automatic service charge for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Shoot for a reduction of 2-4%. See if the venue can provide pre-printed menus with appropriate logos for a plated function. That can add visibility for sponsors and up the fanciness of the meal.
The running theme is obvious: You don’t get what you don’t ask for. Hotels and restaurants are not going to offer up concessions out of the goodness of their hearts. Do your research, push hard and be respectful. You never know what you might be able to pull off.
What are the most advantageous concessions that you received during a negotiation? Hotel managers, what are the most likely items you will bend on for large groups? Let us know in the comments.