Bump-Proofing Your Next Meeting

By Lain Ehmann

For the greater part of the past five years, meeting planners have been in an enviable position – hotels, dealing with the after-effects of 9/11, inclement weather and a depressed economy have been jumping through hoops to secure special events and meetings. The glory days seem to be waning, however, as industry experts and businesspeople are noting a growing trend of hotels overbooked and meetings bumped by hotel salespeople in favor of more lucrative business.

This trend is nothing new, says Carlsbad, CA’s David Brudney, a consultant specializing in the hospitality industry. “It’s cyclical,” he says. “There’s nothing new about it. It’s a product of the market turning.” Cyclical as it may be, it’s still disconcerting to receive a phone call saying that the 200 hotel rooms you booked have been sold to another company. Here are things you can do to safeguard your meeting and make your event more bump-proof.

1. Choose wisely. By picking a venue with which you have a long-standing relationship you’re less likely to be shown the door if something better comes along. Also, when working with established professional meeting planners you can leverage their existing relationships with vendors and salespeople within the field. If you’re an unknown quantity the hotel is going to have fewer qualms about bumping you.

2. Collaborate with the hotel. Meeting planners should ask their hotel contacts upfront what needs to happen to make their booking more attractive, says Brudney. He suggests asking questions such as: When do you need this piece of business? When can I get the best deal possible? By working with hotel salespeople upfront, everything is laid out on the table and you can work toward a win-win, says Brudney.

3. Work the contract. “Most experienced meeting planners know how to put down what we call a bullet-proof contract,” says Brudney. He says that in an ever-changing industry, the hotel might not be sophisticated enough to get everything in writing, so it’s up to the planner to spell it all out. At last year’s MeetingWorld, the annual conference and trade show hosted by MeetingNews and Successful Meetings, attorney Tyra Hilliard, a professor at George Washington University, said planners should ensure that their contracts include a clause that says their attendees can’t be walked or includes appropriate redress if they are.

4. Check in regularly. “Make the hotel sales manager your next best friend,” suggests Brudney. Check in on a regular basis to see how the rooms are filling, whether an additional deposit may be required to secure the dates and what else you can do to keep things moving. “The more sophisticated the meeting planner and the more professional the hotel is, the less chance there is that you’ll be bumped or moved,” he says.

For more information, please click on www.davidbrudney.com.