You just received your budget number for your annual conference and not surprising, it is a very minor increase from last year’s budget. Upper management’s mantra is “do more with less”. As you reflect on last year’s event and all your meetings in general, it seems like some items could be cut – but how and in what way?
Here are 7 ways to spend your money wisely without impacting the attendee experience.
Meeting Room Fees: If your conference is large enough and you are booking sleeping rooms as well as eating and drinking onsite – room fees can be waived or at least greatly reduced. Before going to the negotiating table, understand the aggregate spend you are bringing to the facility.
Sleeping Room Block: With a large conference, you want to negotiate a block of rooms for your attendees and encourage them to stay in the block. In addition, you want your cut-off date to be as close to the conference as possible.
One new note to add to your contract language: If you release the block and the hotel sells those rooms after the fact, you will ONLY be charged for the unsold rooms for the nights you are there. That is a fair provision for you and the hotel.
Parking: Look at your aggregate spend again and try to negotiate free valet parking – especially if most of your attendees will be driving to the conference and they are unfamiliar with the city. Short of that, try and work toward highly discounted parking or offer alternative methods for attendees to get to the conference: carpooling, train or subways are good choices.
Food: Ask for creative food options. Is buffet cheaper than plated entrees? Will boxed lunches work over a buffet? It is important to poll your attendees to find out what foods they like and the style they wish to be served. Many attendees want to get out in the fresh air and would love a boxed lunch they could take off the premises, but others want to stay right at the venue.
The other thing to keep in mind is the days of the week and times of day the caterer is slowest. Having your meeting on a Monday with breakfast at 9 and lunch at 1:30 might work well because those are not peak times for food service.
Non-alcoholic beverages: If your event is in one central location, work toward an all-day beverage stand where staff only needs to refresh beverages during certain times of the day. There is one setup and one takedown.
On average, there may be upwards of 25% of your attendees who do not drink, or wish to participate in a networking function where alcohol is served. Aim for a sponsor who will take care of the first drink and offer attendees a ticket when they come into the reception area. Have a cut-off time for your reception with 2-hours being the optimal time. Only offer beer and wine, and make certain the bartenders have been trained to spot individuals who have had enough to drink.
Don’t assume you must use the in-house AV Company because that just isn’t true. Many times, the venue receives a commission if you use the house provider, but it doesn’t mean their price is competitive. When drafting your RFP, ask for their bid and compare it objectively with other providers. In addition, if you decide to use an outside company, don’t let the venue add outside audio visual rental fees such as setup, striking and storage to your contract.
Need audio visual rental help for your next conference? Give Hartford Technology Rentals a call today at 888-520-5667 or contact us online. We will put our experience to work for you in selecting the right equipment to make your next event a success while saving you money!