How to Head Off Those Surprise Meeting & Event Venue Fees


  • Negotiate every possible need while the venue is still competing for your business.

  • Plan your production before negotiations begin, to identify every possible need.


So you’ve been tasked with planning a large meeting, and you consult a meeting planner. Good idea. A professional meeting planner can help you select a hotel or other venue and work through the myriad operational issues related to accommodations and food.

But a meeting planner has nothing to do with production, and can’t help you when costs arise for unanticipated production-related services. Some of these can be so high, you’ll be forced to decide – on the spot – whether to blow your budget or do without them. Some may seem incremental at the time but scale up to many thousands of dollars. Each.

To avoid costly surprises, engage your creative/production company before negotiations begin, as our most savvy clients do.

First, they engage us at the earliest planning stages to help frame out the agenda and explore creative approaches that will impact staging costs. Then they engage us to participate in site surveys and discussions with potential venues. We look at issues like timely access, material storage, freight elevator capacity and all kinds of details that might otherwise not be addressed.

Here are 8 of the most commonly overlooked things you can negotiate in advance to head off surprise venue fees:

1. Overtime

A/V crew overtime can be expensive. Should you need any adaptations or adjustments, you don’t want to make them after hours. Plan ahead for pre- and post-production time. Get early access to plenary and breakout session rooms. Allocate time for load-in and load-out. And allow a “what-if” cushion in your budget.

2. Power

Back in the day, hotels and other venues didn’t charge separately for power. But in those days, airlines didn’t charge you for checking bags, either.

You can mitigate the impact of a power charge by negotiating it upfront as a flat fee and establishing the rate of any upcharge for additional power if needed.

3. Lighting

When you’re looking to have that great start to kick things off, you want to have control over the lights. That seems obvious, but many venues will charge extra for that capability.

When you’re comparing prices, be sure to look at this often-overlooked detail and build that charge into your negotiations.

4. Rigging

Most meeting venues charge access fees for the rigging that supports lighting and projection. Back in the day, you could bring your own trusses, but safety concerns have led venues to require that you use theirs.

It’s hard to argue with that logic, but the cost of access to that rigging is something you can negotiate.

5. Hi-Speed WiFi

Hotel guest rooms usually offer complimentary high-speed Internet. But for meetings, many hotels charge for that access because they know that collaborative programs and apps depend on it.

So be sure to arrange for full-time full-speed WiFi, so you have the bandwidth to work in real time, all the time.

6. Environmentals

The excitement of a big event should start from the moment an attendee arrives. Signs, posters, banners and more can immerse everyone in the event theme and messaging instantly.

These can adorn entrances, lobbies, hallways and other gathering areas, in addition to the meeting rooms. But those placements aren’t free.

7. Reader Boards

One helpful but little-noticed messaging platform is the Reader Board outside each meeting room announcing the current and upcoming program as well as other helpful information.

By nature, Reader Boards are most effective when they are updatable, and the costs associated with that process can be negotiable.

8. Room Drops

One of the most effective ways to make an event feel special is to have packets with gifts and information delivered to each attendee’s hotel room, preferably each morning of the event.

But charges by the room, which may seem nominal, but with hundreds of rooms and multiple drops, those costs can add up quickly.

For a handy checklist of the 8 commonly overlooked things you can negotiate in advance, download this:


But wait, there’s more!

These tips represent just one area where upfront planning, negotiating and coordination can help your meeting come off smoothly and efficiently. But there are also infinite creative and theatrical possibilities in making your next meeting exciting, memorable and supremely productive.


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