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Expert Advice: Negotiating: Meeting Universities at the Table

By Tony McGuirt



Can you negotiate with universities and college campuses to get the price you want for your next event? The simple answer is yes. As more non-traditional venues start operating on a business model and are tasked with creating revenue outside their core mission, planners get the advantage of a more competitive market. However, as with any cost discussion, you’ll first want to do your homework to assess a fair offer. Here are the tips on getting started and sealing the deal.

Getting Started

Know the going rates in the area before making any attempts to negotiate the price. Do your research on both the venue and the market you are looking to secure space in; you want the best deal, but at the same time, you must have an understanding of what you’re paying for and know what a fair price is to offer.

New Business Has the Advantage

If you are securing a new venue, the coordinator is likely to be more flexible because they want your business and are willing to bend on prices to attract you to experience what they have to offer. It’s like a new user discount: The venue wants you to try them so you’ll become a repeat customer.

Always Clarify Your Per Person Budget

Your first conversation with the conference coordinator should be to say, ‘Here’s what I can afford per person, what can you provide?’ It’s a much easier number to manage and often a per-person rate makes both the planner and the venue have the feeling that they are winning. The venue is happy to make the margin they need and the planner will feel they are getting the best rate. It’s a win-win.

Pick Your Season Wisely

The rule of supply and demand applies in this industry, too. If you’re trying to reserve a space in a peak season, your discount may be minimal compared to a slower time of the year such as after the holidays and into January and February. Overnight guests on a campus will also find better rates in May and June than July and August.

Catering is Less Flexible

This is the one area where you will be less likely to see a price break. There are so many hard costs associated with food, especially with offering sustainable and fresh menus.

Have A La Carte Add-Ons?

If you’re paying separate prices for your services, your best bet is to negotiate the meeting room rate—that is where the school will be most likely to budge. Depending on the volume you bring in, you might be able to negotiate your overnight accommodations as well.


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