It may sound like a simple task, but sourcing, negotiating, and managing hotel and venue contracts for your next Association Event can be fraught with danger. 

The level of detail, lead times, nuances, inclusions, and exclusions can make your head spin – providing a range of challenges for any seasoned Association Event Organiser.

If you’ve decided to go it alone, we’re here to help you navigate this often-confusing responsibility with our quick list of dos and don’ts.



  • Do read the fine print of your contract – and ask another colleague to read it too. It’s important to thoroughly understand the terms you’ll be bound by, especially when it comes to your exact financial and room night commitments to the hotel.
  • Do work out your minimum room nights based on the allowable release (attrition percentage).
  • Do ask for concessions when negotiating your hotel contract. Things like complimentary rooms per block booked, upgraded suites for VIPs at group rates, discounted spa or in-house audio-visual services, reduced room rates for speakers, discounted parking and complimentary VIP room amenities go beyond the standards, but you’ll never know if you don’t ask.
  • Do stick to the timelines in the contract for release dates and final numbers. We suggest setting your conference due dates for registrations and bookings in line with these release dates.
  • Do add clauses to protect yourself in your contract – don’t think you need to sign a standard contract. A typical clause to include would relate to the hotel not advertising cheaper rooms than the contracted block, over the same dates, without extending the lower rate to the block. 
  • Do clearly understand the fees for cancelling your event. Whilst the likelihood of this happening is slim, it’s important to plan for the unexpected. Pay attention to the force majeure clause of your contract and understand what a last-minute cancellation would look like due to an unexpected event – say an outbreak of Covid-19.
  • Do work as a team with your venue. Usually, you both want the same thing – as many members as possible turning up, so you need to work together to make this happen.
  • Do consider your timings. Consider finalising your contract at the end of a quarter or year. You’ll find that sales teams can often be motivated to meet their KPIs by these dates and may provide a better package to close the deal. 
  • Do create positive relationships with key hotel staff. Turnover in this industry is high and these contacts may move to rival properties in the future.


  • Don’t overinflate or underestimate your numbers as you could get stuck with trying to source additional spaces elsewhere, or rooms going empty.
  • Don’t neglect your communication channels with the venue/hotel. Update them regularly and increase communication as your event nears – this will help you to mitigate and resolve unforeseen disasters prior to your event.
  • Don’t be vague when it comes to financial liabilities with hotels for rooms. Have this written clearly into the contract. Don’t forget to negotiate penalty clauses as well.
  • Don’t contractually commit to your maximum numbers. While it’s essential to make sure your venue can accommodate your maximum numbers, only contractually commit to minimum numbers. It’s in your best interest to add numbers than pay deposit schedules based on the highest numbers for your event.
  • Don’t forget to check what other events are being held on the same dates to avoid any potential clashes. Ask about any planned renovations and if you have time, arrive early for your site visit so you can quietly observe the venue in operation.
  • Don’t assume that GST is included. We find that a lot of venues exclude the GST component which can be an unexpected hit to your budget.

So, do you think you’re ready to take on your first hotel contract? 

Why not check out our free e-book with burnout-busting solutions every Association Event Manager needs before you get started?

Don’t forget, we’re here to help. If you have specific questions, you can always book a free 30-minute consultation with our team of event strategists to discuss your event and ensure a flawless experience for your members.