Master planner consultants offer 6 tips for negotiating your next corporate event

Does this sound familiar? You have been tasked with producing a new event—or breathing new life into one that has been on rinse and repeat too long. What should you include in the RFP? What questions should you ask during sourcing to avoid surprises post-event? How can you word the hotel contract to protect your company? How can you manage costs when attendance might be uncertain? Smart Meetings asked two veteran independent meeting professionals: ConferenceDirect Vice President Carolyn Poole and Bravo! Events CEO Nancy Shaffer for answers.

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1. Look for Synergies When Booking Venues

For corporate planners aiming to efficiently source for their next event, Shaffer offered up some initial tips. When it comes to utilizing the resources at a venue, it helps to know who is using the space before and after you. “Request to meet with the planning teams of those organizations to see whether you can combine some of your costs,” advised Shaffer, since it could ultimately save your budget to share resources.

Whether it’s the AV, menus, or other resources, it could ultimately improve your event overall with little to no cost.

Read More: Helpful Budget Tips for Event Planners in a Post-Covid World

2. Turn the RFP into a Marketing Tool

Making your RFP as detailed as possible is also a good idea. “You want to give as many details as possible about who, what, when, why, everything about your program to the hotel,” Poole said. “Hotels are being inundated right now with RFPs and they hit the decline button real quick.”

Include enough information in your RFP to show the value of your program to perspective hotels.

3. Head Off Associated Charges

Check your charges. Requests made of the hotel onsite may come with a price. Whenever you ask for something—extra drinks in the meeting space, AV help, etc., follow up the question with: “Is there a charge associated with that?” The hotel’s role is hospitality and so they want to take care of you, said Shaffer, but you don’t want to be surprised later with how much they added to the bill for three photocopies.

Read More: Event Budget Magic, How to Hit KPIs in Any Economy

4. Get Your AV Right

Another important element of the sourcing process is managing event tech needs. Whether you’re putting on a huge, visual presentation, or require supreme sound for your speakers and music, your AV needs to be smooth. “If you don’t get your AV sorted out upfront and you don’t know the specs, you’re gonna be in trouble later. Hotels right now are charging as much as 40% upcharge on the AV and then some,” said Poole.

Remember, everything is open for negotiation so make sure you are getting what you’re paying for. “You’ve got to negotiate patch fees and all the other fees up front if you want to be able to use an outside AV team,” said Shaffer.

5. Find the Purpose

For planners executing yearly events, seeking out feedback and having long conversations about what worked and what didn’t in previous years can speed up the learning curve.

“Have detailed conversations about what is the purpose of this experience,” said Shaffer. “If I don’t understand your purpose, and I don’t understand your why. I can’t create the live experience that’s going to produce the hoped-for results. That takes work and time.”

Read More: Budgets, Models and Forecasts

6. Partner for the Win

The partnerships developed during the discovery process are the legs your events stand on.

“At the end of the day, it’s got to be a win for both parties. It’s got to be a win for the hotel. It’s got to be a win for your organization. Nobody wants to go into a conference in a bad situation because you’ve had a horrible experience up front,” said Poole. “Communicate with all stakeholders as soon as you know something.” That includes your third-party planner partners who act as an extension of your team and can bring a wealth of problem-solving to the table—even if at first it looks like there might not be a solution.

Read More: Tips for Negotiating Your Next Big Event Contract