May 01, 2001
Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio May 2001 Current Issue
May 2001 Back to BasicsPLANNER'S PORTFOLIO:

Back to Basics

By Oren Jaffe, CMP


How to handle hotel staff turnover and keep your meeting on schedule

It happens to every meeting planner, probably many times: Your contact at the hotel changes jobs, leaving your meeting in a stranger’s hands. Whether the sales manager quits during the contract negotiation stage or the convention services manager is fired a week before the meeting, you must brush aside your surprise and/or disappointment and begin the process of learning to work with a replacement.

Handled correctly, the challenges that come up when your hotel contact changes shouldn’t adversely affect your meeting. The following advice, to follow before and after a change occurs, will help you weather the worst of the storm.

Know the players and their roles. At the outset, identify the key hotel personnel you will be dealing with, and obtain full contact information for each. Clearly establish everyone’s respective roles. Agree to communication preferences and response schedules, and outline the expectations each person must meet.

Avoid verbal agreements. From the very beginning of dealings with a hotel, get all agreements and commitments in writing, including signatures from a hotel representative and either you or someone in your organization. Another good idea is to foster and adhere to a perpetual chain of e-mail communication, creating a “paper” trail that will not only allow the new hotel contact to pick up the process rapidly, but also will ensure the integrity of previous discussions.

Designate a backup. Insist from the initial point of contact that a second hotel staff member be appointed your “backup contact.” Meet this person and exchange communication information. He should be apprised of all agreements, commitments and developments. When using any means of written communication, the backup person should be copied on all exchanges. Maintain well-organized, detailed accounts of all exchanges.

Anticipate turnover in the contract. Stipulate that the property is responsible for the prompt transition of backup personnel into the key contact position when the original person has moved on or been let go.

Also spell out that the property agrees to preserve and execute all agreements made by authorized hotel personnel prior to the departure of that employee, and that those agreements will be honored even if they take place after the contact person has left the hotel’s employ.

When any agreement or contract is altered, be sure both a hotel representative and someone from your organization or the meeting sponsor sign their respective initials next to each change so they become legally binding.

Insist on accommodation. Because a new contact may have his own preferred style of communication and service delivery, any of which can significantly disrupt your momentum, you should insist that the processes already in place stay the same or work out a compromise.

Because you are the one experiencing the inconvenience and probable delay as a result of the hotel contact’s departure, the new person should accommodate your preferences. If the new contact’s attitude is preventing progress on the meeting, then immediately address the issue with the person. If you are still dissatisfied, promptly contact the person’s supervisor.

Review all agreements. Be sure to go over all current agreements with the new contact. Review carefully each contract, including banquet event orders, and verify all prices that have been agreed on. The original hotel contract should also make reference to the consequences, or lack there of, if prices should change after mutual execution of the hotel contract.

Jeremy Weir Alderson is a free-lance writer who works out of Hector, N.Y.

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