With the slowing U.S. economy and shrinking budgets, you're going to need some savvy negotiating skills and cost-cutting panache to pull off the meetings your attendees have come to expect. These 16 tips will keep your expenses under control without losing the quality you strive for.

CHECKLIST

  1. Keep Your Budget Flexible

    Build a contingency of 10 percent into your total budget to take care of unexpected expenses and emergencies. Unforeseen or overlooked costs such as overtime, overnight mailings, or computer hookups can send your budget skyrocketing.

  2. Check All Invoices

    Question anything on your invoices that doesn't compute against the written quotation. Scrutinize your hotel/facility and food-and-beverage invoices while on site. Ironing out discrepancies in person is much easier than trying to do it over the phone.

  3. Limit Authorization

    Only a select few people should have the authority to charge items to your master account at the hotel. Make sure that the hotel has a list of these people, and refuse to pay charges signed for by unauthorized personnel.

  4. Review Accounts Daily

    To avoid any major surprises when you see the final bill, review your accounts with the facility every day. That way, you can make necessary changes if costs are escalating in certain areas.

  5. Segregate Accounts

    Work with the hotel to create a number of master accounts so it is easier to separate your bills and review the accounts. Arrange to get copies of the invoices, checks, and banquet event orders, along with the master account.

  6. Schedule Your Events During Low-usage Times

    If you have the flexibility, book during low seasons or days of the week when the facility is less busy.

  7. Request A Discount for On-site Payments

    If the facility doesn't have to wait for payment because you've arranged to pay immediately after the event, it might negotiate a discount.

  8. Negotiate Comp Rooms

    Negotiate comp or discounted rooms for speakers and staff, and/or upgrades for VIPs.

  9. Understand Your Cancellation Clause

    Be certain that your cancellation clause is reciprocal so that both parties get the option to back out of the contract before a specified date in case of any changes to the original agreement.

  10. Avoid Renting Unnecessary Equipment

    Double-check your speakers' AV equipment needs.

  11. Keep Signage Simple and Reusable

    Consider investing in a laminating machine to make your own signs.

  12. Negotiate Set Prices

    Arrange to pay a specified amount on food and beverage during your entire event, rather than a rate per person, per function.

  13. Consult A Tax Lawyer

    Investigate the tax laws for your business location and for the event location. You might be eligible for tax breaks that you're not claiming.

  14. Check Into Other Groups

    Find out about groups that are holding their meetings before and after yours and discuss staging needs. You might find that you can save on setup and teardown if you all have the same or very similar requirements.

  15. Investigate Sponsorship Opportunities

    Find sponsors to cover as many of your program expenses as possible, especially speaker fees, audiovisual equipment, and special meal functions.

  16. Use Industry Experts

    To save on speaker expenses, consider using industry experts whose companies often pay expenses. Alternatively, use local speakers, when appropriate, to save on travel expenses.

Source: Susan Friedmann, Certified Speaking Professional, is a “how to” coach working with exhibitors, show organizers, and meeting planners to create more valuable results from their events nationally and internationally. Susan has been a successful speaker, consultant, and author for more than 20 years. www.TheTradeshowCoach.com