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Event planners and event managers have all been through a steep learning curve to master the art of creating successful event experiences. From managing event timelines to event budgeting, event profs have a lot on their plates. And even though innovative event technology solutions help automate many of the event planning processes, certain tasks remain unchanged.

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Let’s take the skill of hotel contract negotiations; novice planners tend to feel overwhelmed by the nitty-gritty details of hotel contracts and often learn as they go. However, that might be a dangerous endeavor. To prevent them from signing a  bad contract, we’ve put together five tips to help them navigate the surprisingly complex world of hotel contracts.

Housing & Room Blocks

If you’re planning a conference, it’s very likely you’ll need to contract and negotiate a hotel room block for your attendees. A room block is a reservation of a certain number of hotel rooms for your attendees to stay in. Especially if you book further in advance, you’ll be able to get those hotel rooms for a lower rate. 

Now, let’s talk attrition. Attrition is a penalty that the hotel charges you if you fail to fill up your room block. And obviously, this can negatively and unexpectedly affect your budget. However, depending on your hotel contract, you can get away with not filling up all of your rooms. They might offer you 10%, but don’t settle for less than 20% allowable rooms attrition. This means your actual required commitment of sleeping rooms will be 80% of your guarantee without penalty.

hotel contractPre-Event Setup & Site Visit

Every event needs adequate time to be set up. For some, it might be a matter of hours, while others might take days. This depends on your stage design, onsite branding, and your AV needs. If you require time for pre-event setup, include this in your agenda outline and hotel contract. Otherwise, you might not be able to access your meeting space early enough.

Even though you can plan an event without a site visit, seeing your venue is a great opportunity to gauge how much time you need to set your event space up. Check out our Whiteboard Wednesday video about AV-related things on a site visit to look out for if you want to learn more! Additionally, you get to meet the hotel staff, see their parking space and inspect their rooms.

Alternatively, you can use 3D design software to see how the hotel’s layout will impact your event. If your event is an equation, 3D design is your opportunity to creatively test out various hypotheses.

Third-Party Services Policy

Experienced event managers and event planners know that they should never assume anything when putting together an event. Always double-check everything. Share your decor needs and the event theme you envisioned with your hotel. That way, you’ll understand what you can get from them and what you have to rent separately.

And even more importantly, be clear about the hotel’s policy on third-party AV services. Most hotels with in-house AV will require you to use them or pay a fee for bringing in an outside vendor. Download our guide for removing in-house AV restrictions if you want to learn more about this particular hotel contract tip.

hotel contractFood & Beverage

While banquet labor costs can be negotiated in most cases, they cannot be waived. If you’re planning a large event with a bar, dedicate a few bars to only serving beer, wine, and/or specialty pre-made drinks. You could possibly avoid paying a bartender fee for these bars by having a banquet server serve instead. This arrangement also leads to shorter lines – a win-win situation!

Banquet Event Orders

Banquet event orders are a secondary set of contracts that cover your food and beverage as well as other arrangements for your event. These orders will generate the charges that count towards your contracted F&B requirement.

Most hotel service teams treat the event orders as the bible for your event – if it’s not printed on the BEO, it is not confirmed. While last-minute changes and requests are to be expected, all requests should be included in your service orders.

A Bonus Hotel Contract Tip: Ask About COVID-19 Compliance!

Ask your hotel about COVID-19 compliance measures and protocols. Be specific about your expectations and see what the venue is doing to ensure the safety and security of your attendees and stakeholders. And as always, make sure that whatever you discuss is outlined in your hotel contract. Additionally, pay attention to the force majeure clause of your contract and understand what a last-minute cancellation would look like due to an unexpected outbreak.

Einsteins Of Events

As Einsteins of Events, we see each event as a unique equation. Events are comprised of variables, formulated in an infinite number of ways. Hotel contracts are just a little part of that equation, but since many other variables depend on them, it’s crucial you master the art of negotiation. 

Of course, you’re not expected to do it all alone. Successful event planners typically lean on their trusted partners who take care of production, technology, event design, and/or event strategy. At Endless, we do it all! We’ve got years of experience and have worked with thousands of different venues. If there’s anything we can help you with, reach out. As always, the Einsteins of Events are here to help.


Tiffany James

Author Tiffany James

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