While event and meeting budgets have slowly been on the rise, companies have not 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.
Here’s a welcome piece of wisdom:
Remarkable events don’t have to come with a remarkably high price tag.
We’ve mapped out the top 5 strategies to yield meaningful savings in your meeting and event budget:
Stick to Accurate Headcounts
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 meeting planner wants to be caught without enough seats in the ballroom or enough food on the buffet. For that reason, in our experience as hoteliers, we noticed a frequent over-estimation by planners of their meeting 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.
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 need. 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.
Consider Value Destinations Upfront
Many group 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?” Whatever 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 a tool like 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 tool also helps you narrow down hotels by your most important criteria, like distance to the airport and golf and spa amenities.
Restrict Open Bar Hours
A hosted bar comes at a high price tag. While it’s important to offer an open bar to foster networking and higher attendance numbers (networking is often cited as an event’s biggest enticement), you still need to watch your bottom line. Smart and money-savvy meeting planners limit the amount of time that the hosted bar is available. Instead, they work with the hotel staff to boost the exposure of the property’s bars, restaurants, and lounges, so attendees are drawn to other outlets and encouraged to continue mingling. Trimming down on hosted bar hours can add up to major savings.
Be Open to Other Possibilities
Being flexible is the best way to guarantee significant savings in your meeting 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 ‘hot dates’ – holes in their group business calendar that they need to fill. Ask hotels about these 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.
And, 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.