While meeting and event budgets have been slowly on the rise, companies haven’t stopped their fervent chase for cost savings.
So, whatever size event budget you have, your organization will continue to scrutinize every cost and payment and will expect you to be nimble and ruthless when getting the most out of every dollar.
Remarkable events don’t have to come with a remarkably high price tag.
We’ve mapped out the top five strategies to yield meaningful savings in your meeting and event budget.
1. Stick to accurate head counts.
Inaccurate attendance can wreak havoc on your meeting and event budget. After all, your presumed attendance drives most of your costs, including seating charts, the amount of meeting space, and catering menus. However, no corporate event planner wants to be caught without enough seats in the ballroom or enough food on the buffet.
For that reason, as hoteliers, we have noticed a frequent overestimation by meeting planners of their event attendance. A candid assessment of attendance will likely mean a smaller tab in most costs of your meeting. Whittling down to a succinct number is vital to managing and shaving down event costs.
Accurate numbers largely rely on keeping a detailed history of your company’s or client’s past events. Armed with this data, you can determine how many actual registrations each event had and plan for that based on your group’s patterns.
2. Book only the time and space you need.
Booking extra, unused meeting space is a budget killer. If you’re serious about cutting costs, not only do you need succinct attendance numbers, you also need to be accurate with how much space and time your group will actually take up. Meeting space is a precious commodity for a hotel. So, the longer you tie up meeting rooms, the more you’ll have to pay.
Scrutinize your move-in and move-out schedules, too. You will be required to pay overtime if the work dips late into the day, which will quickly tear into your event budget. This is especially important if your event is held in a city with organized labor where costs are generally higher.
3. Consider value destinations upfront.
Many event planners start their venue search by asking, “Where do you want to go?” If you’re watching your budget, the question instead might be, “Where can I afford to go?” Depending on the time of year your group typically travels, some destinations will offer more value than others. And it’s not just because of the weather — even economics can drive a destination’s prices down.
For example, consider Orlando and Houston, both warm-weather destinations located in the coveted Sun Belt. Lowered oil prices have left Houston experiencing less demand, with fewer companies visiting to meet with local oil-related businesses. Add the influx of new hotels being built in the region and you have the perfect recipe for amazing value.
Use GroupSync to discover the most affordable cities during your travel dates, unveil hotel pricing data upfront, and discover the venues that truly fit your meeting budget. This online sourcing platform also helps you narrow down hotels by your most important criteria, like distance to the airport and golf and spa amenities.
4. Restrict open bar hours.
A hosted bar comes with a high price tag. While an open bar fosters networking and higher attendance numbers — networking is often cited as an event’s biggest enticement — you still need to watch your bottom line. Smart, money-savvy event planners limit the amount of time the hosted bar is available. Instead, work with the hotel staff to boost the exposure of the property’s bars, restaurants and lounges so that attendees are drawn to other outlets and encouraged to continue mingling. Trimming down on hosted bar hours can add up to major savings.
5. Be open to other possibilities.
Flexibility is the best way to guarantee significant savings in your event budgets. This means being open to booking your event during off times, off seasons and in off locales. Don’t base your venue decision on room rates you saw in the past or heard from other meeting planners. Room rates change by the day and are driven by supply and demand. A majority of hotels have need dates — holes in their group business calendar they need to fill. Ask hotels about these need dates or how else you can find value. In some cases, even shifting your event pattern by one day can trim down the group rate.
In most cities, spring and fall tend to be the most popular times for meeting and business travel. You can rack up significant savings in these markets by considering summer dates instead. For example, in Orlando, the difference in the average group price paid falls over 20% from February to July.