Where to Seek Hotel Savings

Hotels can be wonderful places to hold a meeting or event, as many are designed to meet every conceivable guest need and come with a bevy of resources and staff. However, as with any outside venue, thorough planning with an eye on costs is necessary. Knowing what to look for before you sign that contract, and knowing what is reasonable to ask for, can help put many concerns to rest -- and leave you free to focus on running a fantastic meeting or event. Here are my recommended negotiation points to consider when booking a hotel meeting or event.
1. Event Room Rental Fee: Don't always assume that you need to pay a rental fee. Many times this can be waived or adjusted with food-and-beverage minimums, as well the timing of the event.
2. Food: Don't be afraid to ask for discounts. Always ask about available packages, and don't forget to break these down to ensure that they haven't just added each meal period together. If you are supplying your guests with a breakfast, re-plate your non-perishables and fruits for morning breaks, and serve the desserts from lunch at an afternoon break time. 
3. Beverage (non-alcoholic): If you have an all-day meeting, don't pay by beverage consumption, as you will be charged several times throughout the day for gallons of wasted coffee, decaf coffee, and hot water. Ask for an all-day beverage break, which will reduce your costs by one third.
4. Bar: There are generally two rates to choose from: hourly, and by consumption. Hourly is not advisable if 25 percent or more of your attendees do not drink alcoholic beverages. If your event has a large number of children, ensure that you are receiving a reduced rate for their non-alcoholic beverages (make sure the venue gives you an age cutoff). 
5. Sleeping Rooms: If your dates are flexible, ask if there are any "need dates" promotions, as these can often result in lower room rates along with food, beverage, and A/V discounts.
6. Parking: Especially when the hotel is a city property, parking is a top concern. Ask for a reduced rate for all attendees. 
7. Internet: For guest rooms, have the lowest bandwidth put into the rate. For meeting space, ask to have the fee waived; if the hotel is not willing to do that, then pay only a one-time fee rather than per day/per connection.
8. A/V: If the hotel permits the use of outside A/V companies, always make sure that there is no outside A/V company fee, or get it waived. Request that the in-house A/V provider bid on the event, while asking for a discount right up front.
9. Staffing: Many hotels, if you don't request otherwise, will provide just one server per 100 guests at a bar, and one server per four tables for food service. We recommend you request a higher level of service: one server per 50 guests at a bar, and one server per table. No one likes to wait in line.
10. Amenities: No need for your guests to pay full price for hotel amenities. For example, try to negotiate group discounts at the hotel spa, or at the golf shop. 

Dawn Collier is director of business development at TCG Events and has an extensive background in culinary arts for high-end hotels and resorts, catering, and private venues. Prior to TCG Events, Collier worked with the Hilton in Charlotte, NC, and Hershey Entertainment and Resorts.