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Perfect your partnership with suppliers

Posted on April 13, 2007

By Rob Schron

As important as it is to know who your audience is when formulating a plan for a meeting, it’s equally important for you to know who the people are who you’ll rely on to make everything happen the way you planned it, whether you’re dealing with a conference center, a hotel, or a DMC.

Everyone knows the usual cast of characters: the venue’s sales manager, the conference services or operations manager, the person who heads food and beverage, the AV guy or girl, the heads of housekeeping and security, even the finance person—they all have a stake in your program. And they almost always attend the so-called “pre-con” – that coffee and cookies “extravaganza” that usually takes place a day or so before your meeting where you get to meet them in person, and they show up to assure you everything is going to be just fine.

Assurances aside, however, you need to make sure everyone appreciates that while they’re only coming into contact with your guests for brief periods of time, your relationship with the group is ongoing and your reputation is on the line more than theirs. (It can’t hurt, by the way, to request that the venue’s general manager also be on hand for this get-together). 
When you do meet the people responsible for the logistics of your meeting, it’s always a good idea to exchange business cards so that they don’t forget who you are and, just as importantly, you don’t forget who they are. And it doesn’t hurt to review the plan you’ve put together so that everyone is on the same page and knows your meeting’s time line. In fact, to make sure everyone is on the same page, provide everyone with that “same page” (or pages) and avoid leaving anything to chance or open to question.
For instance, if your venue is a hotel, you might want to remind housekeeping that even though your meetings will start each day with breakfast at 7:30 a.m., they shouldn’t plan on making up rooms earlier than, say, 9:00 a.m. – and even later if the attendee is accompanied by his or her spouse who might have forgotten to put out the “Do Not Disturb” sign!
Other issues you might want to raise or review at the “pre-con” -- aside, obviously, of the banquet event orders -- include the exact time the room or rooms for the program will be set up, the exact location in each room of rheostats, thermostats, tale-phone extensions and emergency exits, and the person to contact at any time during your meeting if you need to change something or in the event of an emergency. 

You might also use the pre-con to take issue with something that has been a pet peeve of ours ever since we started our business event planning business 25 years ago: the so-called “tip cup” – that wine glass with a dollar or two in it that invariably shows up on bars as a reminder to “take care of the bartender.”  When you’re paying to cover gratuities and service charges that on F&B alone these days range in many places from 15-24%, we find this particularly egregious – and have taken to insist that venues we’re working with put it in writing – right there on the BEO -- that this display of greed won’t become an issue at any of our functions.      

Maybe we should drink to that!


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Verify the facts before you get too upset about your pet peeve - I used to be on the hotel side and I don't know ANY hotel that gives all of the service charge to the people actually doing the serving. Anywhere from 2-10% or more of the total service charge goes to the hotel (even in room service). If you want to make sure that the people you depend on to provide excellent service to your guests are being properly remunerated, ASK the hotel how much of the service charge goes to the servers and how much to the hotel; if it's not adequate, negotiate it into your contract or give an envelope for the servers to the banquet captain prior to your event. It's a small price to pay to ensure better service!


While I appreciate Laura's comment from the hotelier's perspective, this is a real headache particularly for planners working with foreign clients in the US - many of whom are not used to ANY form of tipping in their home country and who tend to believe that what hotel staff gets paid is between the employer (hotel) and the employee (staff). In as much as the lodging business is now global in most aspects, it would be helpful to standardize this area so there is no ambiguity. Maybe the real issue is that highly profitable hotel chains don't want to admit that their employees are not adequately compensated.

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