Even though the consensus is the recession is over, controlling event expenses still remains the top concern for event planners. At the PCMA Convening Leaders conference, Plan Your Meetings led a "Making Cents" round table with attendees. Here are some tips and suggestions from event planners and conference service professionals.
- Divide one large event into 2 or 4 smaller, regional meetings. This will allow you spread your expenses over the year instead of having all the outflow over 1 or 2 months.
- Look at "total meeting spend" or "per-person inclusive rate". This allows you the flexibility to cut back on some items and spend more on others without getting bogged down in the budget details.
- Look at sponsorship opportunities differently. Are you going to rent iPads, rent Tablet PCs, wireless audience response systems, or computer kiosks? Have the sponsor information on the the top or bottom of the unit. Have it integrated into the software. Ask the sponsor to shoot video and have it running on a loop on the kiosk or iPad. The ways to market this are endless, the exposure is great, and it can add much needed and wanted dollars to your income stream.
- Go green. Rent iPads, rent Tablet PCs, or download information to attendees mobile devices and eliminate paper by sending every handout, agenda, and contact information to their mobile device.
- Use online registration and wireless audience response systems. Online registration will eliminate paper, digital signage can be utilized through computer kiosks, and audience response rental units can take care of surveys. Get rid of the goody bags and printed materials.
- Nurture your relationships. "Our approach is to continue working the strong relationships we have with our clients — corporate groups and associations," says Jill Cecala, Hershey Resorts Director of northeast sales and marketing. "Our clients know us, know the quality of products and experiences we offer, and know that we will work hard to meet their needs."
- Work toward the "Wow" event. "Event planners still insist on having the "Wow" moment," says Marianne Moore, Director of catering and conference services at the Four Seasons Hotel in St. Louis. Jim Douglas, Founder of Prime Time Entertainment says "Planners are expecting more value from their core vendors. We’ve seen more communication going on and a willingness to create stronger partnerships and awareness across the board."
- Think of sponsors as partners rather than donors.
- Partner with the local Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB). These organizations can help with volunteer staffing for your event, marketing assistance, venue selection, and/or local attraction tickets.
- Consider entering a multi-year contract when renting audio visual equipment.
- If holding meetings in multiple cities, let the audio visual provider know. You may find that the AV company can handle the meeting for the entire state or region.
- Negotiate a yearly contract with the audio visual company to handle all your meetings and events. If the event audio visual rental organization knows about all the events, small and large, that will need AV, it will help them put together a competitive price knowing that they will receive a yearly award from the organization.