Negotiating is a key skill to have in any walk of life, but when it comes to planning meetings, it’s absolutely essential. Here are four bedrock concepts you need to build the foundation for any successful negotiation:
1. Remember that terms are just as important as dollars. Many people focus on rates, dates, and space (the big three of meeting planning), but the other fine print—such as liability and attrition — can be just as important. These things will translate into dollars.
2. Negotiate at the proper authority level. Negotiate with the person who can say “yes.” Don't let your negotiation get lost in the translation. You don't want to have to negotiate it more than once. Ask to negotiate with someone who has the authority to go “off the script” or the rate card. Refuse to negotiate with someone who doesn't have that authority.
3. If you want something, ask for it. Good negotiators do not put their best terms on the table first.
4. Focus on the relationship. It's important that the relationship is still there once you're through with the negotiations. You don't want to get to the end of an agreement and never want to see each other again.
Source: Consultant and counselor John Foster, Esq., CHME, senior partner/attorney with Foster, Jensen, and Gulley, LLC, speaking at a past meetings industry event. Foster specializes in the legal aspects of meetings, conventions, trade shows, events, and association management.