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Handling Last-Minute Price Hikes

When one association learned that several vendors had raised their prices just weeks ahead of its conference, the planning team quickly reshaped some event elements to stay on budget.

You probably know the adage about a duck looking calm as it glides smoothly across the water, even as it paddles its feet like crazy below the surface. Certainly, this could apply to just about any team that’s coordinating a big association event. But it was especially true this past summer for one planning team at Kenes Group, an international events agency based in Geneva, Switzerland.

That’s because just nine weeks ahead of an August show the agency was coordinating for the International Federation of Parasitologists—the group’s 15th annual International Congress in Copenhagen, Denmark—several event vendors announced price increases that took effect before the show began. These vendors included suppliers of food and beverage, audiovisual, signage, and décor.

According to Limor Cunia, vice president of client accounts at Kenes Group, “we were informed through a contractual notice on the 17th of June that [new higher prices] would be applicable to all events on the [convention center’s] agenda from July 1st on.” Here is an excerpt from the notice Cunia received:

“Like many other businesses within and beyond our industry, we are fighting to balance the severely rising costs on goods and energy supplies stemming directly from the logistic and economic reverberations of the Covid pandemic and the war in Ukraine. Having to maintain a sustainable business and never wanting to compromise on the level of quality rightfully expected from [the host] venue and team, we can no longer avoid a price increase.”

With early-bird registration having closed on June 1, the association felt it could not raise prices on those attendees who had yet to register. So, with his procurement department’s support, Cunia’s team set out to determine exactly what each supplier would still provide for the original budgeted amounts.

AM0123CostIncreases2.png“We renegotiated with providers about services that were not critical for delivering excellence in the educational aspect of the event, which is always our main priority,” says Cunia. “So, some of the services that we either [scaled down] or cancelled were across audiovisual, catering, signage, and decorations.” (see photo)

Next, the association recruited 20 local medical students as volunteers to support the 18-person on-site operations team. In exchange for helping to change over meeting spaces and take on other tasks that maximized use of AV equipment, signage, props, and décor, the students were given the opportunity to participate in a few educational sessions; some could even showcase their research in the posters area of the exhibit hall. Lastly, the local convention and visitors bureau stepped up to host a reception for delegates inside Copenhagen City Hall.

In the end, the 1,500 delegates gave good marks to the six-day show, while the planning team (in photo below) came away with a few hard-earned lessons about how the present economic landscape can affect the execution of business events. They are as follows:
AM0123Cost IncreasesKenes.png
“For other associations, our advice is to be prepared to exercise flexibility and adaptability because we will continue to face volatile economic conditions,” says Cunia. “It is imperative that associations include a percentage in their budget for unknown circumstances from the very start of planning the event. Or, if they would prefer to reduce costs in a changing situation, they could rethink what they have historically invested in during their congresses that might not be adding sufficient value to their mission,” and shift money around to maintain quality and keep attendees satisfied in the most critical areas.

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