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JW Marriott Orlando, Grande Lakes
JW Marriott Orlando, Grande Lakes hosted the 2018 Annual Conference of the Financial and Insurance Conference Professionals.

15 Painless Cost-Saving Ideas for Your Next Conference

Attendees at the Financial and Insurance Conference Professionals Annual Conference brainstormed these smart ideas for making the most of their meeting and incentive budgets.

Meeting professionals aren’t a shy bunch—but if you really want to get them talking, bring up the topic of cost savings. Everyone’s in the same doing-more-with-less situation and eager for new ideas to stretch the budget. At the Financial and Insurance Conference Professionals Annual Conference in Orlando this week, a packed educational session provided attendees a chance to share their cost-saving strategies. Here are 15 of our favorites:

• Talk to the hotel chef about designing a menu that avoids the most common allergens and takes the food preferences of your group into consideration. If your banquet menu has no gluten, nuts, eggs, milk, and shellfish, for example, you’ll save money over having to plan for a variety of different meals to meet attendees' needs. Times have changed: Most people won’t complain about a vegetarian lunch.

• Follow the TED Talks. Fascinating speakers from all walks of life take to the TED stage, most of whom aren’t on the traditional speakers’ circuit and very well might be less expensive than a professional speaker or celebrity.  

• Don’t serve a plated dessert. Many people won’t eat it anyway. Less expensive options include dessert stations, a plate of cookies or chocolates for each table to share, or a candy station where attendees select a few favorites.

• Be strategic about your Wi-Fi. Know your Internet usage from past events and negotiate costs based on your specific needs. If you have to run a dedicated line into a meeting space, be sure to reuse that space as much as possible to get the most for your investment.

• Serve leftovers from breakfast, like fruits and muffins, during break. Some hotels will charge for re-plating the food, but there will be less cost and less waste.

• Ask yourself this about your décor spending: Is it “Instagramable”? By spending on fun elements that will be photographed, you’re also investing in memories and social shares.

• Is there an in-house personality who could serve as the conference emcee? Beyond cost savings, he or she can convey an authenticity and connection with the company that a hired speaker typically cannot.

• Consider Uber and Lyft ridesharing services as a way to save on transportation costs. Organizers can provide attendees with a code that is valid from, for example, the meeting hotel to an off-site event, and only pay for the rides used.

• Provide water stations rather than bottled water. It’s better for the budget and the environment. If you can get a sponsor to provide water bottles, they’re sure to be highly visible.

• Request “pharma menus.” Hotels create bare-bones budget menus for pharmaceutical companies that must adhere to meal-cost caps when healthcare providers attend their meetings. Keep in mind, however, that hotels need to make a profit, too—if they’re not making money on your F&B, they’ll make it up elsewhere.  

• Colorful pillows with the company or conference logo can be an inexpensive and inviting way to brand your conference space.

• Avoid string lighting. It’s labor intensive and therefore expensive. Consider lighting trees instead.

• Ask about the meals other groups on site are planning, and whether you would see a cost savings by piggybacking on their menus

• Ask about the speakers and entertainment coming to the hotel for other groups. If there’s a fit, you can save on travel expenses.

• Two ideas for saving on your beverage costs: Don’t pre-pour and don’t refill unless people ask.

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