The majority of niche publishers now include live events as part of their brand. But it’s not so easy, right? There are so many ways you can end up merely breaking even instead of generating revenue!

One example: ATTRITION. If you have been putting on events for any length of time, you know exactly what “attrition” refers to— and it can mean trouble. Even if you’re an experienced event pro, the attrition fee can sneak up on you. You will eventually have an event that for whatever reason doesn’t draw the number of attendees you had anticipated and budgeted for and the attrition penalty will rub salt into the wound, trust me.

How to better your odds of NOT paying an attrition fee

Of course, I am referring to the hotel room block for your event. In almost every hotel contract I’ve ever seen, there is an attrition clause in the contract. PAY CLOSE ATTENTION TO THIS PARAGRAPH. If you’re not careful, this can cost you tens of thousands of dollars.

When you signed that contract, the hotel guaranteed that a certain number of rooms would be available to your group. But you also agreed to sell a minimum number of those rooms. Attrition fees come into play when a group cannot fill a certain percentage of the contracted rooms. Fall below your minimum number of rooms booked and you’ll be stuck paying for enough rooms to bring you up to the minimum in the contract, or worse.

5 tips on avoiding the dreaded attrition penalties

1. Be conservative with your room block numbers. Particularly with new events! It’s far easier to ask the hotel for more rooms than to give them back. And you’re a hero in the eyes of the hotel when you generate more revenue for them than budgeted. If they don’t have the rooms needed, you can get an overflow block of rooms from another hotel. You should have a good sense pretty early on how registration is doing.

2.  YOU set the bar. In your contract, always ask for 80% attrition. In other words, if you reach 80% of your hotel room commitment then you’re OK and there are NO penalties.

3. Plan advance dates. In your contract, ask for date(s) at least 4 months out so you can adjust your numbers up or down as the registrations come in.

4. Be consistent in selling the hotel rooms. Promote the hotel in your marketing and on your website. Send frequent reminders to attendees and exhibitors to book their rooms. Work with the hotel to have an easy online hotel registration system. Also, when negotiating the contract, it is important to get a competitive rate. If the awesome hotel next door is $100/night less, then you have a hard road ahead.

5. Have a professional negotiate for you!!! If you don’t have an expert staff person who can review and negotiate for you, then outsource. You can hire one and it doesn’t even have to cost you a penny. For example, we’ve used Laura Little at HelmsBriscoe for 10 years — she does all the hard negotiating and contract review with the hotel, gets a lower room rate than we can get on our own, and then she gets paid by the hotel we ultimately use.

You don’t have to pay attrition penalties if you play it right. Avoid the “A” word and best of luck with your next niche event!!


Editor’s note: This article has been update from 2014.


More about Carl: Carl Landau is Grand Poobah of Niche Media. In his past life, he launched 5 successful niche magazines. He is a media/event guru, SF Giants fan, podcast host and part-time blogger. Carl’s 15 minutes of fame took place in the mid-eighties when he launched his famous, “Buy an Ad, Get a Cat” ad campaign. He has long since patched things up with the SPCA.


Niche Media has the best events, education, and training in media! Our super niched-out events & content give target-audience publishers in the B2C, hobbyist, B2B, city & regional, and association markets the tools they need to build revenue, audience, and more.