by Jonathan Vatner | May 01, 2004

IllustrationNothing can take the place of a good preconvention meeting but a productive precon is largely a matter of who attends. While a competent convention services manager will communicate your wishes to various hotel functionaries, sitting face-to-face with vital staff members will help you determine logistics, solve problems and even give you an extra friend or two in the clutch. 
    “Bottom line, any department of the hotel that is going to be active in your program has a place at the table,” says Renee Goetz, CMP, an independent planner (and Meeting Professionals International’s 2003 Planner of the Year for its Northern California Chapter), who recently relocated from San Francisco to New York City. “It’s the hotel’s way of saying, ‘We’re on board with you. This is our team for you.’”
    Read on for a selection of 10 hotel departments that are any planner’s valuable partners, no matter what type or size of event.

1) Accounting
The worst hassles often unfold after the meeting, when the bill arrives. All the communication in the world won’t ensure that the final bill exactly reflects the meeting that occurred, but a good relationship with the folks in the accounting department can make ironing out the discrepancies a simple, and maybe even pleasant, matter.
    “When we’re sending the client the bill, it doesn’t have to be a negative thing,” says Earl Nightingale, general manager of the Adam’s Mark Denver. Nightingale’s accounting team meets with the planner before the meeting
finishes to discuss any possible errors, and maintains friendly contact until the bill is paid.

2) Bell Captain
Often, the first face an attendee sees upon stepping into the hotel is that of a bellman. These uniformed professionals can be much more than luggage-carters; they should know the ins and outs of the convention, or at least know how to find the answers to questions about it.
    If bellmen are to perform room drops, discuss with the captain the nature of the material to be disseminated, along with when and to whom.
    In addition, if tips are included in the meeting package, it’s important that bellmen know not to accept them, nor to stand by the door with an open hand. “It does wonders with guests to say, ‘Thank you, that’s being taken care of,’” says Renee Goetz.