Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio May
Back to Basics
By Oren Jaffe, CMP
HERE TODAY, GONE TOMORROW
How to handle hotel staff turnover and keep your meeting on
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
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.
AFTER THE CHANGE
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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