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Need to Cut the Meeting Budget? Start with the Big Picture

Don’t sweat the small stuff (yet).

It can be tempting to chip away at the event budget with small changes—and you should. But before you get into the nitty-gritty, look at the big picture.

For example, do you really need to hold that meeting off-site and in person? For board meetings and other smaller business events, is a virtual meeting an option? This would obviously eliminate costs associated with travel, hotel, and F&B. Yes, attendees are a bit tired of online events, but they are effective for short meetings to exchange information.

Also, take a hard look at your entire meeting program. Are there off-site meetings that could be combined? Is there a large event that could be held as a series of small, local events, allowing participants to drive rather than fly? Could your three-day meeting be cut to two, perhaps by providing background information beforehand or by holding related sessions online after the event?

More Big-Picture Ways to Rein in Budgets:
• Start your planning cycle farther out. “Start planning twice as early,” advised Marvin McTaw, CEO of event-management platform provider Sched. “The earlier you start, the more leverage you’ll have down the line. Anticipate spending more time researching vendors and negotiating on price. The more price quotes you consider, the more options you’ll have to lower your costs. “

• Leverage your vendors. If you use the same vendors for multiple programs, that likely creates leverage to get bulk discounts.

• Go conservative with hotel room blocks. With so many people booking the hotel through online discount sites or going outside the hotel altogether to stay in an Airbnb, don’t risk attrition by over-estimating what you’ll need for your block.

Want more? Find cost savings tips for event tech, ground transportation, F&B, and venues, here.

• For incentives, reconsider your agenda. You may be able to cut costs and still make winners happy by cutting a half or full day of activities, said Mike May, President of Brightspot Incentives & Events. He cites the Incentive Research Foundation’s recent study in which 87 percent of respondents said they want more relaxation time during incentive-travel programs. “We tell clients that the research says attendees want more downtime, so let’s reduce the activities on one day and just let them enjoy the resort.”

However, there is one budget category that should be off the table, said JoAnn Mitchell, CMP Emeritus, senior consultant, Mitchell Management & Consulting: safety and security. “There are no substitutes for keeping attendees and staff safe and healthy. This parameter must come first and the meeting logistics need to work around it. Nobody is going to be focused on the business of the meeting if they can’t be safe first.”

The Revenue Side of the Equation
In addition to offsetting cost increases with more sponsorship dollars, you might be able to find ways to charge attendees for value-adds.  Marvin McTaw, CEO of event management platform provider Sched, suggests a few places to consider adding a nominal fee:
Event merchandise
Drink tickets
Upgraded seating
Access to on-demand content after the event
Skipping the queue access
Premium food options
Passes for multiple events
Ticket insurance
Exclusive networking sessions
VIP ticket packages that include a bundle of the above

“Whatever you offer, it must be of value to your attendees,” he emphasized. “Ensure that the sale price is appropriate for the event and higher than the production cost.”

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