After years in hotel sales, Cheryl joined SHW to lead the hotel sourcing team. She now oversees the teams who deal with vastly detailed complexities around meetings and events: hotel contract negotiations, creative registration solutions, and conference housing management.
1. Location, Location, Location
A real estate agent’s mantra, this is also huge when selecting a meeting space. Think about the guest experience. Is it more important to your attendees to be close to the airport? Or in the thick of downtown? If you’re planning a larger conference, consider walkability and conference radius to drive attendance and provide an overall better experience.
2. Style and Atmosphere
Select a meeting space that matches your organization’s culture. Would you describe your company as sleek and modern, or classic elegance? Your attendees should get a similar feeling from the meeting space as they do their work space.
3. Service Level
Stick to 4-star or 5-star properties, because they consistently provide the most services and attention to detail. Star ratings come from a complex scoring system, where Forbes evaluates more than 750 criteria, including service level, onsite dining options, amenities, and presentation.
4. If you need multiple hotels, look for similar spots
Sometimes you need more rooms than one hotel can accommodate. When sourcing multiple properties, consistency is key. Each guest deserves to have a similar great experience during your program – regardless which hotel they stay in.
5. Natural light in meeting space
This is an easy miss — but something everyone will notice once the meeting starts! One study found that increased exposure to daylight makes the brain release more of the hormone cortisol, which results in increased focus and productivity for a longer portion of the day. That’s what you want.
6. Flow and size of the meeting space
Don’t you hate sitting by that pillar that blocks your view of the keynote speaker? Seemingly little things like that can ruin someone’s overall experience — even if the keynote rocked. Look for ideal meeting spaces with an open floor plan (without pillars!) and tall ceilings.
We always look for the best rates we can get all around. Remember that this goes beyond guest rooms too! When booking a meeting at a hotel, also look at the rates for room rentals, and food & beverage, and pay attention to extra fees (such as resort fees, internet access, or amenity fees) which can get expensive quickly.
8. Concessions add up
Ask your hotel for some freebies like complimentary Wi-Fi, complimentary or discounted food/beverage during the meeting, discounted A/V setup, or late check out for VIPs and staff. Free Wi-Fi might seem like a small thing, but it adds up. If you have 200 attendees, free internet could add up to a daily $4,000 savings. Be prepared to negotiate with the hotel. Know which concessions are most important to your program.
9. Better contract terms
While you’re thinking about what concessions will best benefit your program, you should also start thinking about what you want to see in the contracts. Each program is different, so keep that in mind when you step into negotiations: it’s all about getting the right clauses in your contracts, not about getting everything. Attrition and liability are important considerations, along with room rates and concessions. Check out our helpful guide on negotiating attrition clauses.
10. Union status
A property’s union status isn’t necessarily a good or bad thing, but it’s important to consider. Unionized properties can limit which vendors you’re allowed to use, set up times, and more. For example, a unionized property might ask you to use in-house A/V setup or require you to use a unionized A/V company, which can result in extra labor fees and limit load-in times. Unionized hotels often have great options for you to select from, but if you’re not willing to be flexible with those options it can put a wrench in some of your plans, as well as tack on some extra cost.