Well-Laid Plans

By Julie Sturgeon

Sales managers want meetings to result in – well – results. To achieve results requires planning. But what exactly goes into good planning? You’ll get just as far with these good leadership instincts as you would with an insider’s knowledge of airwalls and catering distinctions, says Maureen Muldoon, president of MJM Meetings & Special Events in South Bend, IN.

  • Give the meeting planner a firm budget as opposed to a working version of the budget. The firm budget forces the planner to ask questions ahead of time, which ultimately saves you money.
  • Be flexible when choosing your meeting location and dates. “If you can be in Orlando in June or Chicago in December, you’re going to get a better rate than if you go to Orlando in winter and Chicago in summer,” suggests Muldoon.
  • Likewise, stay flexible with your choice of days of the week. “If you hit South Bend on the same weekend that Notre Dame has a home football game, no one will bargain with you. Come on an off weekend and they’ll be happy to work with you,” Muldoon points out.
  • Place a call to your chosen city’s convention and visitor’s bureau. These organizations have a wealth of materials and have help available at no charge – they’ll even do some of the initial legwork in finding a hotel for you. At the very least, they’ll provide good marketing materials to help stir excitement among your staff.
  • The more bargaining chips you bring to the table, the better the deal. If you will hold more than one meeting throughout the year, consider negotiating one rate for all.
  • Sit down at the bargaining table with a printout detailing your past meetings – how many rooms were occupied, how much food and beverage you used. “Whatever figures you can provide will be beneficial,” Muldoon reminds.
  • Pay attention to the room tax percentages. They can make a significant dent in your budget.
  • Always negotiate the final package with suppliers face-to-face.