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Managing Client Expectations in the Current Market

If you can’t get the hotel concessions your stakeholders are expecting, it’s in your best interest to educate them about the current landscape. Here’s how one meeting professional does it.

Let’s face it, being on either side of the table in hotel-contract negotiations is tough these days. For planners, most clients haven’t changed their expectations from pre-pandemic days. At the same time, hotels’ sales staffs are dealing with limited availability as well as the performance requirements of their revenue managers. 

There are times when planners can get tons of concessions, low room rates, and all the meeting space they need with no rental fees. Right now is not that time. Planners are in a hotel-market mess, with limited availability, high food costs, and short-staffed properties, many of which are still trying to pull their bottom line back from the trash after being closed for months in 2020.

Where does that leave planners? We’re caught between clients whose expectations are stuck in 2019 and hotels that just aren’t going to budge. Even if your negotiation tactics are the best in the industry, you might want to direct your focus on managing client expectations rather than stressing yourself senseless trying to squeeze concessions from a frozen turnip. Here’s my strategy:

Every so often, I have what I call a “State of the Industry” address with my clients and sometimes their board of directors. Often, it’s a simple realignment conversation. Other times, it’s a full-color PowerPoint presentation with charts of industry data to back up key points. Right now, that presentation educates stakeholders on rising room rates and food costs, tight turn-around times, the current labor shortage, and compression in the market due to so many events being pushed to 2023, 2024, and 2025 because of the pandemic. 

I try to keep my presentations to a maximum of 20 minutes. It needs to be short enough to keep their attention, but not so short that they fail to absorb the message. 

The meeting might be via Zoom or in person, but either way the PowerPoint presentation needs to look sharp. Don’t be afraid to purchase templates that allow you to fill in your data. If your template looks rudimentary or amateurish, stakeholders are not likely to trust your information. Professionalism is key. 

Make sure you know your content and what you want to get across about the state of the industry and your meeting destination. Don’t make the mistake of reading word for word off the screen. You’ll want to face your audience when presenting the details. 

Be prepared for poignant questions. Again, know your content. Without fail, at least one person in the room will share a story about someone they know who has gotten what they want in a hotel-contract negotiation. Be prepared with a response, providing specifics on the current market or the properties you’re considering. 

Don’t fudge anything. If you don’t know the answer to something, let them know you’ll follow up with the answer—and that you’re available after meeting for further questions. Every time I’ve given a State of the Industry presentation, I’ve had at least one person come to me afterwards with more questions. 

If you’re meeting in person, leave behind a one-page handout highlighting the main points of your presentation. If you’re meeting remotely, send that summary via email and consider including a PDF version of your presentation as well if you feel it’s beneficial. 

Becky Rowbotham is president and CEO of Paramount Events in Dallas, specializing in luxury events worldwide.    


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