Tag Archives: meeting negotiating

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

Fly High with Airline Savings

While some airlines have dropped out of the meetings business, others haven’t. Those that remain – including American, Delta, and Continental – each have special offers. They include:

American Airlines

Groups of 10 or more traveling to the same destination can take advantage of special discounts. If travel dates are confirmed, the airline can guarantee a fare up to 11 months in advance, block the space, assign seats, and delay ticketing requirements. American also guarantees competitive fares from different geographic originations to one destination.

American Airlines destinations include more than 250 cities in 40 countries where American, American Eagle® and AmericanConnection® fly across the country and around the globe. The airline is also a member of the oneworld® Global Alliance and can arrange group travel discounts to more than 700 destinations in the oneworld network.

Groups can also receive reduced rates for Avis® car rentals.  Click here for more information.

Delta Air Lines

Through its Delta Meeting Network®, this airline offers discounts off published fares and competitive Zone Fares for groups of 10 or more on all Delta, KLM/AirFrance and Alitalia “Delta coded flights”, Delta Connection Carriers and “Delta coded” code-share partners AT/OK/UH. Discount rates can be used three days before/after a meeting for events in the United States and Canada and up to seven days before/after a meeting in all other countries.

Discounts can be based on single events or multi-meeting agreements. Delta also awards one free ticket for every 40 tickets purchased. Zone Fares offer flexible rules and make it simple to manage airline costs.

With its unsurpassed global network, Delta and the Delta Connection carriers offer service to 369 destinations in 67 countries on six continents. Click here for more information.

Continental Airlines

Continental’s GroupWorks program offers special benefits for groups of 10 or more passengers traveling together. GroupWorks provides a flat rate for the group, priority check-in, priority boarding, and priority baggage service.

Continental’s MeetingWorks program offers special discounts to attendees of conferences, meetings, or events with 20 or more passengers traveling from multiple origins to one destination. MeetingWorks provides percentage discounts off airfares and credits redeemable for travel certificates, upgrades, and more.

Continental Airlines is the world’s fifth largest airline. Continental, together with Continental Express and Continental Connection, has more than 2,600 daily departures throughout the Americas, Europe and Asia, serving 132 domestic and 137 international destinations. Continental is a member of Star Alliance, which overall offers more than 21,200 daily flights to 1,172 airports in 181 countries through its 28 member airlines. With more than 40,000 employees, Continental has hubs serving New York, Houston, Cleveland and Guam, and together with its regional partners, carries approximately 63 million passengers per year.

Continental consistently earns awards and critical acclaim for both its operation and its corporate culture. For nine consecutive years, FORTUNE magazine has ranked Continental as the top U.S. airline on its “World’s Most Admired Companies” airline industry list. For more information, click here.


Save Time and Money on Food and Beverage

Meeting planners know better than anyone else how to cut food and beverage costs.

Here are some tips from the inside – advice shared by fellow meeting planners in the  “Stellar Tips” section of ConventionPlanit.com:

1.  Customize Menus

It’s no secret that food and beverage can be expensive.  Customizing menus can allow for greater variety, fresher ingredients, and cut costs.  Provide a total dollar amount to the chef or catering manager and request custom menus (keeping specific requirements in mind).

The chef is given flexibility to use seasonal or local specials, or piggyback other events being held that day, take advantage of specials offered by food suppliers – all while offering smaller and healthier portions and staying within budget.

2.  Alter the Food Presentation

Pass or butler more expensive items at a reception to make them last longer and save money.  Using napkins instead of plates, or asking the caterer to slice bakery items in half (bagels, muffins, croissants) allow for portion control.

3.  Eliminate Individual Beverages

Replace cans of soda with a self-service fountain soda station situated near the break area, and use water pitchers or coolers instead of bottles.   Attendees won’t be tempted to ‘take one for the road’.  These options are more cost effective (one planner saved $1000 by switching to water coolers!) and are good for the environment, too.

4.  Monitor a Beverage Manager

While doing the BEO, mention you would like to be present when the beverage manager tallies the bars and empties before they are finalized. (Liquor is counted by tenths of a bottle and then billed accordingly).

One count discrepancy resulting in a measurement change can equate to as many as 10-12 drinks!  This keeps the beverage manager on his toes and can result in hundreds of dollars in savings.

5.  Use a Voucher Program

Instead of preparing a traditional break time, ask the hotel to provide vouchers for the lobby snack shop.  Attendees are given vouchers, each worth $3, for example.  Each item in the snack shop is worth one voucher.  The vouchers are then counted and charged to the master account – which can be significantly less costly than a large break time.

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

Frugal Meeting Planner’s Guide to Saving Money

What’s ahead for 2009? Nobody knows for sure, but it seems certain that it will be a year to save money wherever possible, anticipating probable declines in meeting attendance, exhibits, and sponsorships.

With that in mind, ConventionPlanit.com presents the following money-saving meeting tips gleaned from the popular Stellar Tip Archives on ConventionPlanit.com:

If you have a number of events to book within a 12 month period and most of the attendees at each event are unique, use the same host city and hotel to leverage buying power. There are other advantages as well, particularly relationships with vendors where they learn your expectations, you learn (after event 1) what should be improved upon and you are not reinventing each event, saving you time and dollars.
Submitted by: Sherry Cummins, Enterprise Events Coordinator, with Con-way Inc. Ann Arbor, Michigan

AV is more and more necessary in today’s meeting environment. AV has come to be in the double digits of my budget. Know that this too is negotiable and event planners can use outside companies to supply the AV, not just the in-house provider! Know the choices and options to negotiate!
Submitted by: Keri-Dawn Selinger, Director Events & Programs, with The Likeable Lawyer, Austin, Texas

When negotiating your contract, make sure you include into your negotiation for the hotel to comp hanging of three or four banners. If you designate your location on the contract you are limited and the cost of rigging can cost you more money. If you write on the contract, “client to chose locations of banners,” you can save yourself thousands of dollars of rigging costs.
Submitted by: Madeline Cancel, Conference and Event Director, with Benchmarc360, Inc., Atlanta, Georgia

If you’re having a reception, pass/butler the more expensive items (you’ll be able to make them last longer and save money), don’t set plates on the display table – use only napkins (this will ensure your attendees get to sample all the offerings but won’t walk away from the display station with a mound of food) and stick with beer and wine at the bar
Submitted by: Debbie DeJacques, Senior Manager, with GMA, Washington, DC

If your budget for breakfast is tight, ask the catering director to cut your pastries (muffins, bagels, etc.) in half. They go a lot farther, as some people will tend to take a smaller piece, especially in this “carb-aware” era!
Submitted by: Laura Johnson, VP, Conferences, with Market*Access, Arlington, Virginia

Save money on the beverage bill – when I do my BEOs I let the manager know at that time that I would like to be with the beverage manager when they tally the bars and empties. Liquor is counted by tenths of a bottle and then billed accordingly, If I disagree with a count and the measurement is changed it could be the equivalent to 10-12 drinks. It also keeps the beverage manager on his toes! I have saved hundreds of dollars just by checking the bars before the totals are finalized.
Submitted by: Stacy Wald, Director of Meeting Events, with Orthopaedic Asoociations, Towson, Maryland

When negotiating best rates with a hotel, try to find other meetings being held in the hotel and see what kind of rates they are getting. I usually simply “Google” hotel name, location and “conference” or “convention.” This gives you good negotiating power.
Submitted by: Victoria Umin, Project Manager, with CSCA, Winnipeg, Manitoba

When working with a limited budget for a full day of meals I provide my total dollar amount to the chef or catering manager and request that they customize menus for me, keeping in mind any specific requirements I have for each event. This allows them to use seasonal or local specials, piggyback onto other events being held that day, take advantage of specials offered by their food suppliers, and offer smaller, healthier portions. I stay within my budget, my attendees are offered healthier options, and the chef is able to use some creativity instead of the same old banquet menus. It’s a win-win for all.
Submitted by: Kathleen Zwart, Management Development Specialist, with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida, Jacksonville, Florida

Rather than pay the exorbitant prices for bottled water at our breaks, I have the hotel bring pitchers of ice water with bowls of lemon slices. The participants love the added lemon and it prevents them from stashing 2-3 bottles of $4 water in their purses when they leave.
Submitted by: Linda Testa, Course Coordinator, with AO North America, Paoli, Pennsylvania

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.