Instructor Profile – Meeting and Event Planning – Cindy Shtur

Cindy ShturWhat does your class, Site Selection and Contract Negotiation, teach students?
The focus of the class is on hotel negotiation and site selection. What students walk away with is a better understanding of the perfect fit for a venue. They get a better understanding of why they would choose a particular property versus another property. They learn the tools and resources to negotiate better. That results in very high-end, hard-dollar savings, as well as huge liability savings. Especially in today’s environment, how things are moving, or canceling, or postponing, we found that by negotiating very protective clauses, is huge for a client. So they find that, in turn, it makes their job more secure.

So the class covers a bit of procurement as well?
Procurement, absolutely. It’s getting a better understanding of not only the savings, but knowing that you’re really putting your people in the right place and the right environment. There are many different facets. The biggest takeaway is the right fit and the financial fitting and protection on liability.

Are there any activities or group exercises in your class?
Yes, we have real-world experience. We connect with a property in San Diego and showcase them. We ask them to create a contract that we hand over to the students. Part of their homework assignment is to see how they can make that contract better. They actually bring that mock contract to a hotel for a site inspection, and conduct a mock negotiation in front of the class. So we’ll find a hotel and have them look at the contract, then a week later we’ll go to that hotel and actually walk through as a real site inspection so the students can get an overall property feel, and to see behind the scenes. We take all of the information and go back to a hotel meeting room and then the students see a demonstration. A hotel sales person and I negotiate a contract, so they see it in action – back and forth on negotiations. They get to see the entire dialogue on how a contract is put together. And at the very end I share a sample hotel savings report. The report indicates all of the hard-dollar concessions, and it will pull up that savings value for each concession. We then calculate what the liability savings are. So at the end, students have a really great value report they can share with their investing team and management team, which is pretty powerful.

Tell me a little bit about yourself and why you got into meeting and event planning?
I’ve been in the travel and hospitality industry for almost 30 years and I actually started out as a travel agent and discovered in the mid-1980s that there was a specialty need for meeting and event planners. It was a new, upcoming career path, and what I really enjoyed about the hospitality industry and getting involved in meeting planning was the creativity side. I kind of used my experience from the travel side and fused that into the creative side. It was a perfect marriage.

What surprised you about the industry when you first started?
When you really dive into the nucleus of setting up an event and discover all of the details and strategies that are behind it, you realize “Wow, I had no idea that this much work and detail goes into it.”

As someone who has been in the industry for many years, what advice do you give to students?
Protect your reputation. Just make sure that you do the right thing. It’s a very large industry but it’s a very small one too. People know you. So always do the right thing.

In your opinion, what type of person excels in meeting and event planning?
Somebody with organizational skills, because it’s so detailed. A person who has a passion for the hospitality industry because you will be working with a lot of people and using your creative side.  People feel your passion. Continue to always learn, because it is always changing.

What should students know about the program, or your class, or the industry?
Walking into the industry, there are unlimited opportunities. There are just so many different facets of this industry. I always stress to the students that it looks very glamorous because most of the events you walk into are very glamorous or fun, but there’s a lot of hard work behind the scenes. As an example, I’ll go on these site inspections with my client, sometimes involving four or five cities within four or five days. And you’re maybe reviewing four to five hotels a day; you walk nonstop and you’re on your feet, writing copious notes, and taking photos. It’s a lot of work. Get prepared.