Budgeting your meeting.
Meetings come in all sizes and, as we all know, so do budgets. Regardless of how many people will be attending your next meeting there’s always room to save a few bucks. We turned to some experts who have experience cutting costs and offer advice for staying under budget without skimping on the details.
Negotiating even little details during the planning phase can keep you well under budget since many event locations are happy to throw in discounts or extras if it guarantees business. Lynn Jacobs, executive producer at St. Louis-based experiential marketing agency Switch: Liberate Your Brand (www.liberateyourbrand.com) suggests negotiating with hotels for free Wi-Fi in the ballroom, bringing your own audiovisual equipment without penalty and other extras such as power, visqueen, shipping, receiving and clean-up charges.
2. Save on food - Meals are often appreciated by meeting attendees and whether the purpose of serving a meal is to work through lunch or to relax after a heavy-loaded day some thought should be put into the offerings when trying to stay within budget. “Serving buffet-style food instead of having guests order off of a menu can keep costs down,” says Park. “You can further impact the cost of the food by planning your meeting around lunch, rather than dinner,” says Park.
When the question arises whether to serve hors d’oeuvres or a full meal, senior meeting sales manager Cheryl Burggraff of Rockford Area CVB (www.gorockford.com) in Rockford, IL says, “Serving a dinner can often times be more cost effective. Appetizers are normally priced in bulk instead of by-the-piece so to get a variety can add up very quickly. If you choose to do appetizers, have them butlered by the wait staff to help control the amount much easier.”
3. Save on imbibing - Burggraff also reminds meeting planners that liquor can be a big-cost item. “Instead of open bar, give each guest a drink ticket or have a drink special at a negotiated price,” she says.
4. Save on embellishments - Unless your meeting has a necessary theme, it’s okay to go minimal on trimmings. “Decorations can add up very quickly,” says Burggraff. “If you are in the meeting planning business, you are either pretty creative yourself or know someone else who is.” With this in mind, a simple do-it-yourself can keep you under your max spending and you get bragging rights for personally contributing to the meeting room’s conversation pieces.
5. Save on speakers - Some meetings aren’t complete without an outside voice but speakers can come with a heavy price tag. “If you want to have a speaker at your event, look for speakers who already have booked engagements near the time and place of your event, as you may be able to get a discounted rate,” suggests Park. Plus, since the speaker likely already has transportation and lodging you may only have to pay the speaker fee and a meal.
6. Seek sponsors - “If you can find a company or organization relevant to your industry that might be willing to partially or fully sponsor your event, this can really reduce costs,” Park continues. This option will allow you to host a top-notch meeting that may even allow for a few extras such as a post-happy hour or open bar.
Park finishes, “Finally, always consider setting a strict budget for your event before you begin planning. This is one of the best ways to limit the expenses of an event or meeting.”