Meeting Negotiation ABCs

By Lain Ehmann

While you might know your own company’s products and services inside and out, you probably are less certain about the details involved in meeting planning, particularly when it comes to negotiating contracts. Good salespeople know that successful negotiation begins with knowing the walk-away points. But how do you know what your limits are if you’re in unfamiliar territory?

If you’re wheeling and dealing on your own, it’s time to do your homework. Knowing as much as you can about the hospitality and meeting planning industry will give you an edge as you plan your meeting or event. “Understanding the terminology in contracts is the biggest thing,” says Todd Schwartz, CMP, president and founder of Cleveland, Ohio’s Professional Planner Group. While all contracts are different, you will run into some of the same clauses over and over, such as room block, room pick-up, rack rate and so on. Use a site such as the Convention Industry Council ( to educate yourself on the vocabulary you’ll encounter.

Next, don’t be afraid to ask for a discount, for a complimentary service, for different contract terms. While there is a trend toward standardizing contracts at the larger hotels, nothing is written in stone. “There’s always room to negotiate. The hotel wants your business,” says Schwartz. Some items that could sweeten the pot for your attendees include:

  • late check-outs
  • complimentary newspapers
  • turndown service
  • valet parking

Your chances of receiving these items is directly related to the payoff for the hotel. “It depends on how much business you’re bringing,” says Schwartz. He also says it’s kosher to play one property against the other, provided you tell the truth. In other words, don’t tell Property B that Property A is willing to cut their room rates in half if it’s not true. “They know their market,” he says. “They know what’s out there. They might know somebody at Property A and call your bluff.”

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