You just took a tour of a hotel and have your heart set on Ballroom X, so that your breakout sessions will be conveniently located just around the corner with breathtaking views of the city. You run back to your boss with the information and convince him to sign the sign the contract set before him, outlining your upcoming convention agreements, but with no mention of Ballroom X or rooms-with-a-view. But you saw them, right? They were promised as yours, right?
Not necessarily, and I'm here today to tell you that you must negotiate to have your preferred room locations listed so there are no surprises in the planning or execution stages.
While hotel contracts are binding, they're also meant to accommodate your group in the best possible space given the information provided, and do not always promise specific space. In other words, often times you won't see the names of ballrooms or meeting space on your contract. Rather, you'll see a timetable, chart or grid outlining the time, date, number of people, set-up, and room rental. This is the challenge that faces me as I explain to my diligent planners that we have promised to provide space that will work, not necessarily which space.
With this in mind, take time during the initial site tour to probe the expert as to what space is available during your preferred dates, if that space is subject to change, and if you can be granted your preferred space in contract documentation. The answer won't always be yes (due to hotel business demands that simply aren't always flexible), but it's worth a try. Perhaps the booking window is short and you are a long-distance planner and a site tour isn't an option; however, the hotel has the right location, rate and accommodations to fit your group needs. In this case, you have to trust that you are in good hands with the contract and may not have a strong case for assigned, contracted space.
For more information about negotiating with hotels, read RFP Sourcing and Best Practices, Tip 11: Leveraging Relationships with eRFP Technology.