Negotiate better value for meetings and incentives.

When was the last time you bought something out of the classified ads without negotiating? How about a car? Truth of the matter is you probably wouldn’t. In those circumstances it doesn’t make much sense to simply pay whatever arbitrary rate was being offered. So when it comes to planning group travel, meetings or incentive programs, why would you simply accept the rate being offered without investigating what kind of value you were getting?

If you aren’t negotiating, you are being taken advantage of. It’s a rough truth, but it happens to planners every day. Everything is negotiable; just ask the right questions and put some thought and effort into getting more from your investment.

Question everything at the beginning of a contract. Make sure to look through all the options in detail and ask about how to get more value in each area. If you are involved in the budgeting from the very beginning, you are far more likely to get the rates and concessions you are looking for.

Identify the objectives of your event and which elements are essential to attain your goals. This will help you pick and choose some aspects where you can make concessions to save a little bit. This isn’t to suggest you should cut corners or simply go with the cheapest service available, but rather that you should identify the areas where more modest choices won’t torpedo your event objectives.

Make sure you shop competitively. Look for comparisons because finding other options is a very effective way to get some leverage. Keep in mind not all services are going to be equal — you will never get a Rolls Royce for the price of a Chevy — but you can generally negotiate comparable rates for comparable services.

Last, but certainly not least, ask for discounts. It’s very likely discounts are available and you just need to ask for them. You’d be surprised how infrequently people actually ask for a preferable rate and merely accept what is offered at face value.

You can derive lot of value simply by asking to negotiate and doing some research about competing services. But there are always going to be hidden fees you won’t find and preferential rates you won’t be able to attain on your own. Fact of the matter is trying to plan events on your own means you aren’t getting help from some of the experts who can extract maximum value without ever diminishing the quality of your event or the service you receive.

Full-service meeting planners are able to leverage preferential rates because of connections they have and the return business they provide for vendors. Lots of people who are charged with planning meetings are viewed as one off customers, and suppliers are going to try and extract every penny they can since they don’t expect return service. Good professional planners have the industry connections and local expertise to ensure you are working with the right people at the right price. So don’t feel like you have to go it alone in the planning world. There are planners who can help you deliver exceptional events with great value, and they’ll make you look good in the process.

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