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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Negotiating and Budgeting for Meetings

As a meeting planner you have many responsibilities when working on a meeting, conference or convention. One of the most important aspects and tools needed and used by meeting planners is the budget.

Planners that are involved in the budgeting process at the beginning have a better understanding of the focus and goals of the organization about the gathering that will take place. Many times planners are provided the budget after it has already been approved and must work within those parameters that have been set by management.

Let’s concentrate on the major line items that you as a meeting planner usually have control over. City site selection, meeting space and hotel room rates are items that are on the top of my Meeting/Conference/Convention Checklist. Budgeting for your event will also be dependent on your many factors, including time of year booked, size of your event and your negotiation skills.

It is important at the beginning of the process to understand the level of flexibility that you have as a meeting planner within the organization to obtain your budgeting goals. Selecting the destination is the first and most important variable that must be solved for budgeting, as all other items will have a direct effect once that decision has been made.

Room rate will be most flexible during a “shoulder season” or need period for the hotel.  Day pattern, including a Friday, Saturday or Sunday night stay at most non-casino and resort properties will help you in budgeting and negotiating the hotel rate. Also, booking for more than one year at the same hotel, either in consecutive years or through a rotation period creates loyalty and repeat business, which hotels value and will likely  help with the your room rate.  Number of rooms booked on peak nights is another factor that hotel properties take into account when negotiating the price per room.

Food and beverage spending during your event is almost always a direct correlation between the amounts of free or reduced meeting space costs the hotel or convention is willing to provide. The days of free meeting space without providing a significant amount of food and beverage spending are rapidly going away.

Pricing for your meals, breaks and beverage consumption can be done either through the Request for Proposal process (usually the most successful) or about 60 days before the meeting. Many chefs are used to working, within reason, with your food & beverage budget. Trying to tie in your menu with another event before, during or after your meeting provides the opportunity for the chef to buy in bulk and safe on their food costs to help meet your budgeted needs and meal price points.

Most importantly, the best way to keep your budget in line is to have a clear understanding of your organization’s or client’s goals for the event. By using your experience, skills and contacts within the meeting industry, your chance of a successful event is greatly enhanced.

Joe Cappuzzello is responsible for locating host cities for the annual Small Market Meetings Conference, as well as for Select Traveler, African American Travel, Going on Faith and Boomers in Groups travel conferences. He is the president and CEO for each of these organizations. He can be reached at 330-337-1027 or at