What have meeting planners been struggling with this year? According to our PYM LIVE registration surveys, contract negotiations and budgets top the list. So on Oct. 23, at our first-ever PYM LIVE in Alexandria, Va./Washington, D.C., we challenged groups of planners and supplier partners to come up with at least two tips: one that could make negotiations easier and one that could add value.
From there they discussed and discovered ways in which planners and suppliers could work together to make meetings better for everyone. Here are their tips.
What planners can do right now
- Throw out “set” lists of concessions and re-prioritize concessions by what your group must have, would like to have and can do without.
- Share those must-haves with potential venues on your RFPs. Don’t make sales reps guess what’s important. Start the contract negotiation conversation with what’s make-or-break for your group (e.g., free parking, free Wi-Fi, etc.).
- Share your vision for the meeting. Share your goals with your sales rep so they can help you fulfill (and maybe track) them.
- Ask sales reps what their venue/city/hotel/restaurant does really well. What they share may surprise you and lead to more inventive menus, venues and activities.
- Secure the proper insurance needed to protect your group from liability.
- Insert wording into the force majeure clause so that it covers anything that prevents most of your attendees from physically attending your event. Don’t try to articulate what each of those “acts of God” might be because that isn’t legally defensible.
- If you want to attract and please sponsors, create custom packages that address their marketing needs and find creative ways to help them build relationships with your attendees.
What sales reps can do right now
- Resist the urge to give meeting planners a “set” list of concessions. Ask what’s important to them, and build something from there. Don’t assume they’ll be impressed with one comp room per 40 just because that’s what corporate dictates.
- Ask meeting planners about previous events: What went well, what went badly, what (if anything) would they like to do differently?
- If something is agreed upon and put into the contract, make sure it happens when the group is on-site. Do this by communicating those needs to your event/banquet staff. As one planner put it, “What’s worse than a no? A yes that doesn’t happen!”
- Insert a clause into government meeting contracts that allows a cancellation without attrition with three days’ notice — government employees typically have that much warning. If you don’t include it, you won’t be able to get your clients on the phone or by email if another government shutdown (and resulting corporate furlough) occurs, and you’ll be stuck with those rooms.
- Ask planners if they’d prefer having a higher room rate and all of the concessions they’re requesting or a low room rate without all the frills.
What planners should do on-site
- Do walk-throughs the day before the event to make sure everything is as you need it.
- Schedule a pre-con with the on-site event staff to review all banquet event orders and timelines to ensure everyone’s on the same page.
- If something was promised and doesn’t materialize during the event, address it in the moment so it can be fixed and made right.
What sales reps should do after the event
- Send a bottle of wine to anyone who may have gotten their nose out of joint. (The planners in D.C. insist it helps them forget any on-site mishaps!)
- If you don’t already, take time to connect with your clients to thank them for their business and see how everything went.
Budget tips for planners
- Ask if the hotel has an in-house garden or relationship with local farmers. Sometimes using produce they don’t have to ship in for meal functions will save you money.
- Piggyback off of other meetings’ menus. If the chef can buy in bulk to feed your group as well as those coming in before and after, it will save you money.
- Ask hotels/venues what amenities or services they can offer that have a soft, minimal cost but which would add value for your attendees (e.g., nightly turndown service with chocolate, an in-room welcome letter or phone call from the general manager, etc.).
- Negotiate minimums. It’s easier to go up than to go down.
- Ask hotels or restaurants if they have a discount code they’d like to share with attendees.
- Partner with the city’s CVB. In addition to expert advice, they can provide negotiation assistance, act as your advocate with local unions, and provide added-value goods and services like registration staffing and conference bags or gifts.
Mutually exclusive clauses in contracts that protect both the planner and the host venue. After all, “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”
Supplier partner wish
Planners present their must-have concessions in RFPs (read: no laundry lists) and don’t introduce new ones after the room rate gets set. “Consider that your point of no return.”