Mention budget preparation to most meeting planners and their eyes glaze over with boredom or widen with trepidation.
Creating budgets is challenging work but extremely important to the success of your meeting. And if you budget with confidence, it actually can be fun.
Following is a list of 10 budget tips—culled from my many decades planning meetings and educating meeting planners—that you can implement to make sure your meetings spend stays on track.
10 Meeting Spending Budget Tips
1. Begin With Communication
Start your budget planning by preparing a needs assessment and getting necessary information from your client or organizational stakeholders, including meeting objectives, program, preferred day of week/date/time, profile of prospective attendees, preliminary budget, contact/decision maker and “hot” buttons.
2. Demonstrate the Worth of Your Meeting
Know the value of your business, including flexibility and revenue generation for the facility. Why would a facility want your business? Can you schedule your event during the value season? Consider rates, dates and space and pick the two most important to you. Be cognizant of typical hotel booking patterns: Sunday-Wednesday and Wednesday-Saturday.
3. Work Your Comp Room Magic
Negotiate complimentary sleeping rooms allotments and don’t settle for 1/50 (one complimentary room per 50 booked). Get a cumulative(not nightly) count for complimentary rooms. Negotiate for upgrades for suites and concierge-level accommodations. Negotiate that assigned meeting room space is NOT connected to sleeping room slippage.
4. F&B Strategies
Meet the chef during your site visit and work with her or him to develop your menus according to your budget, participant profile and program time framework. Buffets are more expensive than plated meals. Piggyback off other in-house groups’ events for volume discounts as long as the menus match your participants’ dietary needs. Rely on your meetings history for meal guarantees and attrition allowances.
[Related: At Your Service: Free Ways CVBs Can Assist Your Meeting]
5. Put It in Writing
Prepare a detailed resume for the facility limiting authorized signatures for any expenses. Include detailed information for all of your requirements. Communicate your information clearly and precisely in writing to avoid potential problems. Always schedule an onsite pre-conference meeting with the appropriate meeting representatives to review all of the details.
6. Review the Account on a Daily Basis
Review the master account daily to examine the previous day’s charges to ensure they are correct. During the meeting, review the resume and make any corrections before rooms are set up with audiovisual to avoid unnecessary charges. This will reduce errors during the onsite post-conference meeting.
7. Discover—and Question—Additional Charges
Your budget should include frequently overlooked charges such as service charges and taxes. Question whether service charges are taxed or if taxes are subject to service charges. Research whether you are subject to any additional charges, such as resort fees. Include labor costs, particularly overtime and weekend or holiday surcharges, in your budget.
8. Identify and Leverage AV Costs
Work with one audiovisual company as a preferred supplier for volume discounts; if a facility charges 15% to 20% for AV, use it as negotiating leverage to reduce their prices if using a preferred supplier. Wherever possible, assign meetings to rooms with the same audiovisual and set-up arrangements. Share AV with other groups if the previous meeting’s set-up works. Ask for a multiple day-discount. Bring your own computer, flip charts and markers, and extension cords. Rent equipment such as fax machines or copiers 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.
9. Mitigate Possible Unexpected Costs
Allow contingencies for unexpected expenses that might pop up. Communicate clear policies to your speakers and staff to avoid unnecessary expenses. 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, or a reduced, charge.
10. Tap CVB/DMO Services
Take advantage of the free services provided by CVBs/DMOs and tourism offices. You might be able to arrange site inspections, marketing assistance, liaison with local experts and government representatives, guidance with community service projects, coordination with local vendors and programming assistance.
Read next: ABCs of AV: Saving Big on Audiovisual Services