These days, with food and beverage minimums rising faster than the price of gas, sellers's-market-rate guest rooms, and sky-high Wi-Fi costs, meeting planners can relate to Yogi Berra's famous saying, “A nickel ain't worth a dime anymore.” While budgets for annual meetings are also on the rise, according to our Annual-Meeting Budget Survey results (see page 12), they aren't rising fast enough to compensate for rising prices — and rising attendee expectations. Most organizations are loathe to raise registration fees to compensate; that could hurt attendance and cause demonto rear its ugly head.
That means that something has to give, and chances are, it'll be the line items in your budget. The trick is to find ways to peel down the costs in ways that will still leave attendees feeling they had a five-star experience, even if all you can afford is a two-star hotel.
That's no easy feat, but it can be done. One way is to look at your history and see what it tells you. As Gloria Steinem said, “We can tell our values by looking at our checkbook stubs.” What does your organization value, based on what you usually spend on various budget areas? Does it match what your attendees value? If you look for the disconnects, you'll likely find serious savings. For example, if they are there for the networking, why hire entertainment that keeps all the attention on the stage? Save your money and find ways that will help them connect with each other instead of the hired talent. This is the sort of thinking Jason Eggleston, with the American Society of Microbiology, and Barbara Dunlavey, with the Biomedical Engineering Society, used to cut costs at their organizations' annual meetings — and they ended up saving hundreds of thousands while still giving attendees the experience they wanted. (See article on page16 for details on how they did it.)
There also are numerous ways to chip away at the costs that remain, be they food and beverage, audiovisual, or guest rooms and meeting space. We gathered as many of those tips as we could fit into this issue, starting on page 21. If you would like to see the full collection of tips (all 125 of them!), or add any we missed, go to MeetingsNet.com, click on “Checklists,” then on “Cost-Savings.”
When people think about being frugal, they tend to think about being cheap. If you put the emphasis on the value gained rather than the price alone, you just might be able to actually make a nickel appear to be worth a dime — at least, to your attendees. And that's all that really matters.
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