Category Archives: Booking Advice

learn-how-to-negotiate-a-better-rate-protect-your-commission-and-more

Tips to Increase RFP Response Time

Frustrated by slow response time to your meeting RFPs?  Wish you didn’t have to keep calling to find out whether a property is going to respond?

It’s not that hotels don’t want your business – they do!  They want to make sure they respond quickly to potential buyers, but they are often inundated with incomplete RFPs that need to be qualified, or RFPs get buried in their systems.

Meeting professionals can help themselves by following these 10 tips to increase RFP response time:

  1. Do some homework and narrow your search to a short list of qualified properties.
  2. Include a reasonable range of preferred dates and be clear about which dates are the first, second, or third choices.
  3. Provide complete information about the number of rooms, number of attendees, overall meeting requirements, etc.
  4. Send a verified room block history so the property can see a strong track record for the meeting.
  5. Create a deadline for the response and a realistic timeframe for the decision.
  6. RFPs are taken more seriously if you avoid looking as if you’re fishing around for rates.
  7. Provide rate thresholds for rooms and information on how the rooms will be fulfilled and paid.
  8. Indicate how the decision will be made, including the steps properties can anticipate in the process.
  9. Call the hotel sales department to ask about the status. Properties interested in landing business should have procedures in place to respond quickly to phone requests, especially if a planner is following up on a previous communication.
  10. Consider using an online search directory to distribute the RFP and ensure that properties respond. ConventionPlanit.com offers an RFPValet® service and guarantees that properties will respond within 24 hours to say whether they will send a proposal and when the proposal can be expected.

Five Ways to Win in Any Business Situation

Want to know who’s right?

Well, determining the best approach to any business relationship or negotiation is very much situational, but still, relatively straightforward.  Whether it’s a job opportunity, a consulting opportunity, a potential vendor or customer, an internal relationship, whatever, it’s more common sense than you think.

That said, it does confuse and confound a lot of people, even senior executives and business leaders.  For example, a post by Niland Mortimer on BNET starts out like this:

The rules of business decision making more often than not are based on the principle of “I win.  You lose.”  Companies, and their employees, proceed invincibly down the path of unilateral rightness.  Compromise is out of the question.  Collaboration is tantamount to defeat.  I win.  You lose.  Damn the consequences.

Now, I’m not going to say “I win – you lose” never happens.  Sure it does.  In fact, it makes complete sense … in certain situations.  For example, it’s the only way to approach competitors because market-share is more or less a zero-sum game.  But otherwise, that’s neither the way to win nor the way it works in the real world.  Frankly, I don’t know where Mortimer’s assertion comes from, but it’s not consistent with my experience.

So, to clear up all the confusion and distinguish between the different approaches, here are 5 Ways to Win in Any Business Situation:

  1. Internal relationship between coworkers. Win-win, collaborate, all the way.  Anything else is dysfunctional.  Sure, the dysfunctional stuff – back stabbing, taking credit for someone else’s work, sugar-coating BS, CYA – all exists, but don’t fall into that trap.  You either have to play it smarter or find a company that doesn’t accept that kind of crap. 
    Goal: Win-win
  2. Boss-employee relationship. Again, Win-win, collaborate, all the way, same as with coworkers.  Companies don’t exist for you, your boss, or your employees.  They exist for two reasons: to provide a product or service to customers, and to provide value to shareholders.  All employees at every level should be aligned to do that, simple as that.
    Goal: Win-win
  3. Competitors in the marketplace. I win – you lose.  Period.  Market competition is a zero-sum game, simple as that.   To suggest otherwise is idiotic.  And yes, you should befriend your competitors, call them frienemies, hang out and party with them, anything you like.  Just listen more than you talk.  Keep your friends close and your enemies closer, right? 
    Goal: I win – you lose
  4. Customer-vendor relationship. Customer-vendor relationships should always yield the perception of a win-win, especially if you want an ongoing relationship.  That said, when you approach negotiations, your goal is to get the better deal while the other guy thinks he did okay too.  I think of that as “I win – you don’t lose.”  Camp provides a pretty good approach for doing that.  It’s not easy at first, but you do get better at it with experience. 
    Goal: I win – you don’t lose
  5. Job or consulting opportunity. It’s important to note that, in this situation, you all have to live with each other after the fact.  So, whichever side of the equation you’re on, don’t overpromise and risk underdelivering or underplay your hand and risk losing the gig.  Best to be genuine.  That said, when it comes to negotiating dollars and cents, it’s the same as customer-vendor. 
    Goal: I win – you don’t lose

Hope that helps clear things up.  Now go negotiate something!

Reproduced with permission from author Steve Tobak from BNET’s The Corner Office blog, www.bnet.com/blog/ceo

Networking for Introverts

Networking is an essential activity in the meetings industry. It’s often the value-added aspect to a meeting that attracts attendees and helps them learn and build business relationships outside the formal education sessions. Networking also extends well beyond meetings themselves, and is an integral part of success in the business world.

But networking is mainly for extroverts, right? Not always.  Plenty of people are introverts (including lots of people in the meetings industry), yet they can succeed just as well in networking by employing strategies that work for them.

Vinay Kumar, a self-described introvert who is a first-generation immigrant from India, has written about the ways he has successfully leveraged networking to get ahead in the association community.  He currently runs Vinay Kumar Associates, a firm focused on helping small women-owned and partnership-based service businesses as well as associations increase profits and productivity while improving quality of life.  His mission is to help build healthy businesses and healthy relationships.

“Lacking the gift of the gab, I am poor at making small talk,” Kumar says.

“If you were to look up the words quiet, dull, and boring in Webster’s, you’ll probably find my picture right next to them.  Furthermore, being on the quiet side, one of my biggest fears in taking a client out to lunch is what if we have total silence and I don’t know what to say.  Yikes!  Talk about sending chills up my spine!”

But the success Kumar has achieved belies his self-deprecating style.  

He offers these tips to his fellow introverts:

  • Be clear on what’s comforting for you. For example, if you don’t like hanging out at the bar, then don’t take your clients there.  Your discomfort will come through.  You will not enjoy it nor will your client.  I select places that suit my style as often as I can.  Also, I only ask individuals out to lunch with whom I am comfortable.  If I do have to take someone out to lunch and I have a strong feeling it’ll be uncomfortable, I’ll ask a colleague to join me, someone whom I feel will get along well with the client.
  • Plan something unique and memorable. When I discover someone likes Indian food, I’ll often take ‘em to some hole-in-the-wall Indian restaurant that sells tasty Indian cooking, a place a non-Indian would probably never discover or go on their own.
  • Always be on the lookout for challenges, personal or business, your clients may be having. For example, over 15 years ago, one my clients had adopted a daughter from overseas, who was having trouble learning English.  Once I understood the challenge, I realized it’s very similar to what my daughter had faced.  To help her learn, we had purchased a series of cassettes, which had helped her immensely.  As my daughter didn’t need them anymore, I hand delivered them to my client, and they helped her daughter immensely, too. Today, even after all these years, every time I run into this client, she makes it a point to update me on her daughter’s progress and thanks me for the tapes.  She still remembers.  I feel happy that I made a difference, and it’s been good business too.
  • Send out, by snail mail, handwritten thank you cards. They are so rare these days, making them even more special.  In today’s time where nearly everything seems to quickly become a commodity, standing out from the crowd becomes an increasing challenge.  Sending out handwritten cards really helps you stand apart and makes you memorable.
  • Send information such as articles that you may have read that will be of interest to your clients. Again, by snail mail whenever possible, with a short handwritten note, saying something like, “Hey Myron, thought this might be of interest to you – Vinay.”  It demonstrates to clients you’re thinking of them, which you are.  By the way, this doesn’t have to be just business-oriented.  It can be of a personal nature also.  Again, the key is to be authentic and from the heart.
  • Send white papers and articles that you have written. If you haven’t written any, I urge you to do so.  It’s one of our top-secret weapons to sales success, especially for us introverts.  In the end, no matter how much you and the client like each other, the client has to find business value in the relationship.  Of course, many such relationships turn into lifelong friendships. First, however, is providing the business value.  By sending out such materials that you have written, you are positioning yourself as the expert in the field, and that’s something we introverts do so well.  So leverage it to the max.

“Look, my fellow introverts, we may not be the life of the party,” Kumar says.  “We may not be the ones going to games screaming for our teams, and we may not be the ones who can easily ‘wow’ folks at a gathering.

But when people know you can help solve their problems, that they can count on you, that you’ll take the time to truly listen, they’ll be heard, and you take the time understand their challenges and then help them solve them, you’ll be well on your way to making your relationships strong, baseball tickets or not.

The key to success is to continually add value to other’s lives.  As you do that, many will do the same for you.  That’s the key to success and fulfillment.”

CVBs Bring Strong Value to Meetings

It’s not often that something really valuable is available for free. But when it comes to Convention and Visitor Bureaus (CVBs), it’s usually true!

Just think of the many services that CVBs provide for free to meeting professionals. Even experienced planners don’t always know everything they provide.

“When I worked for a CVB, I was amazed at all the services we provided that were just there for the asking,” says ConventionPlanit.com Co-Founder and Principal Katherine Markham, CHME. “I was always urging my clients to take advantage of them. Some did, but many did not. I think they missed out on some easy ways to make their meetings better.”

They can’t guarantee that it won’t rain during your event, and every CVB offers a different package, but here are just some of the free or low-cost services that CVBs typically provide:

Recommendations of reliable suppliers for everything from bus transportation to local caterers

• Extensive knowledge of unique local offsite locations for special events

• Assistance in identifying and booking hotels in the destination

• Coordination of site visits to hotels and other venues

• Collateral information on local attractions

Onsite assistance with registration and local information booths

• Public relations and local media contacts

Videos of the destination for promoting your meeting

• Welcome packets

Discounts to local restaurants, shops, and other attractions

• Welcome letters and appearances by local leaders

• Ideas and programs to make meetings greener

• Social responsibility programs such as volunteer opportunities at local charities

Many CVBs are listed on ConventionPlanit.com, making it easy to connect to some of these resources.

Maximize Audio Visual Rentals & Limit Cost

Technology has become an event staple – making your audio visual more important than ever.  Here are a few tips to maximize the rentals at the lowest cost:

1.    Negotiating Cost: remember to shop around.  Outside contractors can offer better rates than the in-house AV company, so be sure to obtain several quotes.  In some cases, this can be used as leverage to negotiate a deeper discount with the in-house contractor.

2.    Last Minute Equipment Requests: keep several contractor names handy, in case last minute equipment requests arise.  Your in-house provider may not have a large backstock, whereas outside contractors typically bring extra equipment with them.

3.    Limiting AV Tech Time: Hourly rates for technicians can add up, especially during full conference days.  Consider negotiating an hour of setup assistance at the beginning of each day for any rooms being used.

4.    Battle Static Electricity: In winter months, static can be a persistent problem with electronics.  It can be painful, too!  Bring a static cling remover and dryer sheets to your conference.  Spray the carpeting around the registration area as well as around in conference rooms around wires and electronics with the static cling remover, and use the dryer sheets to wipe down computer screens and projectors.  This will also cut down on dust.

Some of these tips were submitted to the ConventionPlanit.com Stellar Tip Contest.  For a chance to win a monthly prize, submit your own tip, or visit the archive for tips and advice on a variety of topics.

Green Meetings: Getting Started

Incorporating environmentally-friendly components into meetings is no longer trendy or cutting edge, it has become necessary.  Here are a few guidelines to help get started thinking green:

1. Choosing a Green Location

Make a difference from every aspect of your conference by choosing a green city. Conduct research when selecting your location.  Look for cities with high percentages of renewable energy, green building guidelines, and a commitment to city-wide green programs (such as park construction).

Green-friendly destinations are eager to work with you to meet your green requirements and implement your ideas at the convention center. For the 2010 PCMA Annual Conference, Vice President of Meetings & Events Kelly Peacy said she worked closely with the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau to infuse green elements into all areas of the conference, including area, including the destination, accommodations, food and beverage, communications, and operations.

2. Implementation: Make a Difference

Support local organically grown food as much as possible and consider donating leftover food to a local food bank or

composting other unused food.

Providing green hotels for conference housing is important.  Look for LEED Certified properties,

and ask about special green efforts the hotel is involved with, such as donating leftover soap to a recycling effort to provide people in developing nations with soap.

3. Words of Encouragement:

“You don’t just go out and suddenly become a green organization,” Peacy said. “You have to build on it. You need to decide how high green ranks on your list of organizational strategic objectives. We asked that question and determined that it was very important, so we put significant resources toward it. At PCMA it is half of one person’s job. Every year we build new objectives. If PCMA can be recognized as an industry leader to educate our members about green that would be a success.”

Don’t stop with these ideas; strive to innovate for green efforts in all areas of your meeting!

Hotel Salesperson Site Inspection Questions

If you don’t ask the right questions, you don’t get the right answers. For meeting planners that means getting all the information you need to select the optimal meeting site for your group.

Meeting planners are not typically shrinking violets when it comes to asking questions of the sales manager on site selection inspections. However, according to Reggie Sears, CMP, a 25-year veteran independent meeting planner and principal of Sears Enterprises, less experienced planners especially don’t always know or remember what questions to ask.

“That’s why it’s best to use a printed site inspection checklist on every hotel tour so you can compare apples and apples,” says Sears.

Here are some generic questions that Sears says should be included on every list of questions for site sales managers.

• How often does the airport shuttle run?
• Is parking free or can the cost be reduced?
• What is the number of doubles, suites, and rooms with king size beds?
• What’s the square footage of the meeting space, exhibit space, registration and prefunction area and the number of breakouts?
• What other group(s) will be meeting at the property at the same time as your group?
• When was the hotel last renovated and are renovations or construction scheduled for the time your group will meet?
• Is the hotel ownership corporate or franchise, and is any change of ownership or management in the works?
• Is it a union hotel and are there any labor issues?
• Does the property meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act and how many rooms are handicapped accessible?
• What is the hotel’s record on diversity and equal opportunity hiring?
• What is the employee turnover rate?
• What are the rack rates for the last three years?
• What are the names of other groups or meeting planners who have held meetings at the facility (to check references)?

Sears says you can easily use Internet search engines to download templates for site inspection checklists, but it’s important to modify the checklists with questions specific and pertinent to your group.

Sears Enterprises specializes in planning association, fraternal, reunion and religious conferences and training seminars. Sears can be reached at RJSCMP@aol.com or (916) 484-5645.

Fire Safety for Your Inspection Checklist

Meeting planners know that the best way to cover all their bases when in the process of selecting a site is to have checklists of questions or items to cover. The point of these checklists is not to only ensure a well-run meeting but also to minimize your organization’s liability or exposure when making contracts and arrangements.

“Planners who do not research all security aspects of the site of their meetings are asking for trouble, for their attendees and for their organizations,” says Cathy Clifton, who has been involved in the meetings industry for 15 years and is president of C2 & Company Meetings and Events as well as co-founder of The Meeting Planning Academy.

“One of the most essential security checklists is fire safety,” says Mary E. Young, President of M.Y. Events, Inc and the other co-founder of the Meeting Planning Academy.

She recommends that meeting planners speak with the director of security or engineering to get answers to the following questions which should be included on the planner’s Safety Checklist:

• Do all areas of the hotel have sprinklers and fire alarms?
• Are fire alarm systems regularly inspected and tested?
• Does the hotel have a written emergency plan (ask for a copy)?
• What is the hotel’s security department phone number and is it staffed 24 hours a day in addition to pagers and radios?
• Are all exits clearly marked and unobstructed?
• Do all exit doors open in the direction of travel?
• Are guest hall stairwells open to ground and roof?
• Do meeting rooms have at least two exits?
• Are the back hallways open and clear during meetings?
• Does the hotel have emergency lighting?
• How does 911 work from the hotel phones?
• How far away is the closest fire department?
• What is the phone number?
• Are there any outstanding code violations?

For more great meeting ideas, visit www.conventionplanit.com and click on the “For Planners Only” section and go to the “Stellar Tips” link. There is no registration required and you can even enter your own Stellar Tip for a chance to win a valuable prize.

The Meeting Planning Academy™ has trained over 3,000 meeting and event planners and suppliers since its inception in 2002, and offers various types of training and education in meeting and event planning topics throughout the year. More information can be found at www.meetingplanningacademy.com.

North American Meeting Tax Deductions

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has long held that expenses incurred in connection with a convention, seminar, or similar meeting in North America are deductible.

These generally include accommodations, meals, meeting materials, and ground and air transportation associated with the meeting, convention, or seminar.

For meetings held outside North America, expense deductions are limited. The specifics of this law are contained in Section 274(h) of the Internal Revenue Code.  The law was updated in IRS Bulletin 2007-18, published April 30, 2007.

This bulletin identifies the following U.S. areas and other nations that fall under the definition of “North America” for the purpose of claiming meeting-related tax deductions:

  • The 50 states of the United States and the District of Columbia*
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Aruba
  • Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Bermuda
  • Canada
  • Costa Rica
  • Dominica
  • Dominican Republic
  • Grenada
  • Guyana
  • Honduras
  • Jamaica
  • Mexico
  • Netherlands Antilles
  • The Republic of the Marshall Islands
  • The Federated States of Micronesia
  • The Republic of Palau
  • Trinidad and Tobago

Some Caribbean nations, such as Saint Lucia, are not included. In the case of Saint Lucia, expenses are not deductible because this nation has not enacted legislation to enact the tax information exchange agreement it signed with the United States in 1987.

The possessions of the United States, which for this purpose are American Samoa, Baker Island, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Howland Island, Jarvis Island, Johnston Island, Kingman Reef, the Midway Islands, Palmyra Atoll, the United States Virgin Islands, Wake Island, and other United States islands, cays, and reefs not part of the 50 states or the District of Columbia

Ten Tips for Successful Negotiating

by Ed Brodow

Meeting professionals negotiate all the time – it’s an essential element of the job! The ability to negotiate successfully is crucial for survival in todays changing business world. Negotiation is fun if you know what youre doing. So for all you busy planners, here are Ed Brodows Ten Tips for Successful Negotiating:

1. Develop “negotiation consciousness. Successful negotiators are assertive and challenge everything. They know that everything is negotiable.

“Challenge means not taking things at face value. It means thinking for yourself. You must be able to make up your own mind, as opposed to believing everything you are told. On a practical level, this means you have the right to question the asking price of that new car. It also means you have an obligation to question everything you read in the newspaper or hear on CNN. You cannot negotiate unless you are willing to challenge the validity of the opposing position.

Being assertive means asking for what you want and refusing to take “no for an answer. Practice expressing your feelings without anxiety or anger. Let people know what you want in a non-threatening way. Practice “I statements. For example, instead of saying, “You shouldnt do that, try substituting, “I dont feel comfortable when you do that.

Note that there is a difference between being assertive and being aggressive. You are assertive when you take care of your own interests while maintaining respect for the interests of others. When you see to your own interests with a lack of regard for other peoples interests, you are aggressive. Being assertive is part of negotiation consciousness.


2. Become a good listener. Negotiators are detectives. They ask probing questions and then shut up. The other negotiator will tell you everything you need to know – all you have to do is listen.

Many conflicts can be resolved easily if we learn how to listen. The catch is that listening is the forgotten art. We are so busy making sure that people hear what we have to say that we forget to listen.

You can become an effective listener by allowing the other person to do most of the talking. Follow the 70/30 Rule — listen 70 percent of the time, and talk only 30 percent of the time. Encourage the other negotiator to talk by asking lots of open-ended questions — questions that cant be answered with a simple “yes or “no.

3. Be prepared. The Boy (and Girl) Scouts were right. Gather as much pertinent information prior to the negotiation. What are their needs? What pressures do they feel? What options do they have? Doing your homework is vital to successful negotiation.

4. Aim high. People who aim higher do better. If you expect more, youll get more. Successful negotiators are optimists. A proven strategy for achieving higher results is opening with an extreme position. Sellers should ask for more than they expect to receive, and buyers should offer less than they are prepared to pay.

5. Be patient. This is very difficult for Americans. We want to get it over with. Whoever is more flexible about time has the advantage. Your patience can be devastating to the other negotiator if they are in a hurry.

6. Focus on satisfaction. Help the other negotiator feel satisfied. Satisfaction means that their basic interests have been fulfilled. Dont confuse basic interests with positions: Their position is what they say they want; their basic interest is what they really need to get.

7. Dont make the first move. The best way to find out if the other negotiators aspirations are low is to induce them to open first. They may ask for less than you think. If you open first, you may give away more than is necessary.

8. Dont accept the first offer. If you do, the other negotiator will think they could have done better. (It was too easy.) They will be more satisfied if you reject the first offer — because when you eventually say “yes, they will conclude that they have pushed you to your limit.

9. Dont make unilateral concessions. Whenever you give something away, get something in return. Always tie a string: “Ill do this if you do that. Otherwise you are inviting the other negotiator to ask you for more.

10. Brodows Law: Always be willing to walk away! Never negotiate without options.

If you depend too much on the positive outcome of a negotiation, you lose your ability to say “no. Clients often ask me, “Ed, if you could give me one piece of advice about negotiating, what would it be? My answer, without hesitation, is: “Always be willing to walk away.

You can go pretty far with these basic ideas. If you want to dig deeper, visit www.negotiationbootcamp.com.

Ed Brodow is a keynote speaker and negotiation guru who has appeared on PBS, ABC News, Fox News, and Inside Edition. He is the author of Negotiation Boot Camp: How to Resolve Conflict, Satisfy Customers, and Make Better Deals (Doubleday). For more information on his keynotes and seminars, call 831-372-7270, email ed@brodow.com, and visit Brodow.com.