Often in life, procuring goods and services of quality means paying top dollar. Not so in meetings.
There’s enormous flexibility in terms of what must be spent to have a productive meeting that comes in under budget, perhaps with a healthy dose of return on investment. It’s possible, in fact, to plan and execute a successful meeting without breaking the bank. The key, according to veteran meeting planner and dollar doyenne Bonnie Wallsh, chief strategist at Bonnie Wallsh Associates LLC, a Charlotte, N.C.-based firm, is having savvy, planning ahead, asking questions and requesting concessions where appropriate.
Following are Wallsh’s tips, culled from years in the trenches. Meetings Focus South thanks her for these many tips—broken into various meeting planning categories—as we’re sure you do, too.
ACCOUNTING | AGENDA | EVENT TECHNOLOGY | PRINTING | SHIPPING/POSTAGE | MEETING SPACE | NEGOTIATIONS | SIGNAGE | SLEEPING ROOMS | SPEAKERS | STAFFING | TRANSPORTATION | ENTERTAINMENT | FOOD/BEVERAGE | MARKETING | MISCELLANEOUS
- Review your master account bill daily.
- Limit authorized signatures.
- Discuss the possibility of a discount if the major portion of the bill is paid on-site.
- Offer a discount for early registration at association meetings.
- Use early registrants to entice additional registrations.
- Streamline agenda to minimize meals and additional hotel nights.
- Offer videoconferencing as an option for those who can’t attend physically.
- Supplement education programs with webinars.
Event Technology top
- Work with one AV company as your preferred supplier for volume discounts; if the facility charges 15-20 percent, use it as negotiating leverage.
- Assign meetings to rooms with the same AV requirements and set-up arrangements, wherever possible.
- Share AV with other groups, if the previous meeting’s set-up works.
- Bring your own flip charts and markers, blank overhead transparencies and extension cords.
- Rent equipment such as a fax machine or copier if you anticipate heavy usage.
- Buy AV equipment, if it makes economic sense; it could be donated to a local school or charity following meeting.
- Use a local printing outlet (such as Kinko’s) in the meeting city to reduce shipping charges.
- ALWAYS request a proof before printing documents.
- Do layout and design on your own software.
- More e-mails [with attendees] means less printing. Eliminate handouts (or use designated printers); it benefits the environment and saves money.
- Negotiate for FREE printing at the meeting facility’s business center.
- Prepare a timeline with deadlines to take advantage of the least expensive shipping rates.
- Check post office regulations before creating mailings.
- Barter with shipping companies to send your shipments at no charge.