Tips to Stretch Your Meeting Budget
One of the biggest challenges meeting planners face is delivering an engaging program within budget. Even for the most detailed planner and skilled negotiator, staying on budget is not easy, especially if your group has a caviar taste and a MacDonald’s budget. No need to compromise your plans though, we’ve outlined a few creative tips to stretch your meeting budget:
Plan – Get the most out of your site visit by connecting with the local DMO or CVB and share your group’s profile, past experiences, which locations and program elements worked and which didn’t and why. While it’s great to have an idea of the property, venue or décor for your program, opening your mind to all possibilities will help with negotiating power making it easier to stretch your budget. Create deadlines for all aspects of your event to be finalized, doing so will give you time to compare options and pricing.
Negotiate – Learn the art of negotiating and read your contracts thoroughly. If you hold multiple meetings a year and can book several with the same property, you’ll have more purchasing power and can often negotiate a lower rate or secure value added concessions. Know your rights and read the fine print. Many hotels have an A/V partner on-site, usually operating as a separate entity from the hotel and giving a commission back to the hotel. While there’s nothing wrong with this practice, it can drive the A/V cost up, and often you will not have a dedicated on-site technician. If you prefer to bring in an outside audio-visual partner, make certain you request this before you sign. Many properties charge clients bringing in their own A/V provider, you can ask that this clause be removed from the contract.
Décor – It can be fun to alter the look of a room with décor elements, but it can quickly add to your bottom line. One of the easiest and least expensive ways to change the look of any room is through lighting. If your budget doesn’t allow for fine linens or unique tables, then use one or two colors (hotel linens will often work) and rely on LED lighting to create the vibe. By keeping your décor palette simple and using color washes, you can transform your space with the flick of a switch.
While hotel linens can easily save your budget, centerpieces can often be pricy and seem to have little impact. But you can stretch your dollars with centerpieces as well. Choose arrangements that can be used on multiple days and need little to no water, think succulents, seashells, candles, even heartier florals all of which can stretch your budget. Make your centerpieces work overtime by using them on multiple days saving on additional arrangements and delivery charges.
CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) – Holding a group activity that can double as a charitable contribution? CSR activities are quite popular and an automatic tax write-off for companies. Build a CSR activity into your program and reap the rewards emotionally and financially.
Transportation – Motorcoaches are typically booked on a four or five hour minimum. Save your meeting budget by noting those vehicles that are nearing the minimum time frame and releasing those first. Paying attention to vehicle hours can save you hundreds, if not thousands in transportation costs. Don’t be afraid to negotiate with your transportation provider just as you would your hotel. Naturally this makes more sense if your already spending plenty of dollars on large group moves or airport transfers. Ask your transportation provider if they will offer complimentary sedans for VIPs or staff. Will they help with your travel manifest? Can you group attendees together rather than offering solo transfers? You’d be surprised at just how many dollars each of these points can save.
While it can be a bit stressful to deliver a fantastic program within budget parameters, implementing just a few of these ideas will help stretch your meeting budget. Doing your due diligence ahead of time can lead to a successful and budget friendly experience. Likewise, turning to the local DMO for destination knowledge and resources can also help stretch your budget. Visit Newport Beach, the DMO for Newport Beach, CA works with meeting planners to help locate the best possible fit for their group and offers incentives and sponsorships which can extend the meeting budget.