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by Cathy Clifton, CMP, CMM | September 01, 2011
More Tips

Tips are voluntary and, unlike service charges, are exempt from additional taxes.

No budget to tip? Consider handing out thank-you cards, or use leftover attendee items (bags, shirts, water bottles) as gifts instead. You will save money on shipping all those items back to the office.

When traveling abroad for meetings, research local tipping customs, which may differ from U.S. tipping norms.

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One of the most confusing aspects of a meeting is who gets tips and how much to give. Yes, you might be paying a mandatory "service charge," but in most cases only a small portion of that money goes directly to the service staff, while the largest portion is used by the venue to offset other expenses.

Ask your contacts for the actual breakdown of the service charge, as that might influence any additional gratuities you might consider doling out.

First steps
Include an estimate of tips when creating your meeting budget. Some planners list tips as a line item, others prefer to include them in the miscellaneous category, as it's hard to know in advance what the exact amount will be if you truly intend to reward good service.
 
Check with your contacts on the venue's tipping policy. Some convention centers and other venues are operated by city employees, and regulations might prevent them from accepting gratuities.

Determine which staff members you want to tip. Also figure out how many hours/days staff from each department worked your event, e.g., A/V for two days, housekeeping for three.

Appropriate amounts Following is a guide for who to tip, and how much they should receive.  

Set-up crew: $5-$7 per person, per day worked, from set-up day to departure;

Banquet servers: $5-$7 per function worked -- breakfast, lunch and breaks, each day; $10-$15 per person for elaborate dinner functions;

Bartender(s): $30-$50 per event for bartenders (if no tip jar was used);

Banquet captain: $10–$20 per meal function;

Banquet chefs: $50-$100 per event (only if there were carving stations); same tip for the head chef for the entire meeting if he/she was helpful;

A/V manager: $75 per meeting (only if you used their equipment, and he/she provided on-site assistance);

Conference service manager: $100-$500 per entire meeting. Often the CSR is your main contact on-site and should get the largest tip. If not, give the  best tip to the person who was most helpful;

Reservations manager: $50-$100 per entire meeting, based on overall involvement in the reservation process (if you have a lot of housing fires to put out the res manager can be key);

Other managers (security, housekeeping, bell desk): $40-$60 depending on their involvement with your event and the duration of the meeting;

Miscellaneous tips: $2-$3 per staffer, per shipped box delivered; tip a staffer $20-$30
for hauling in any boxes from your car.

Of course, tipping is subjective. If service is especially superior and the budget allows, consider giving larger tips than the guidelines recommended here.

Tips typically are put in envelopes addressed with staffer's name and handed out the final day of the event.

When to skip the tip Tips for maid and bell service typically are included in the hotel contract.

In general, I tip only those people who had direct involvement in my meeting. Unless I saw banquet or catering managers, they are left off my list.