Use Your CVB

  1. You can realize huge cost savings by using second- or third-tier cities. Start with the CVB and always ask what kind of assistance the bureau or city can offer. In Wilmington, Del., for example, the Greater Wilmington Convention & Visitors Bureau has teamed up with the city of Wilmington to offer $20,000 in transportation assistance for groups and meetings generating a minimum of 100 room nights. The transportation grant can be used for shuttles to and from Philadelphia International Airport (only 21 miles away) or Amtrak train station and for transport within the city and environs to and from hotels, the university, off-site venues, or the convention center. In addition, the state of Delaware has no sales tax, potentially saving associations hundreds of dollars on meeting room rental and food and beverage.
  2. Use your CVB, hotel, or venue to see which other groups are coming into town at the same time or before or after your group and become a partner with that planner. You can use similar menus for your meals, which can save on food-and-beverage expenses; or share the cost of table centers, particularly if using fresh flowers, even if the groups are at different hotels. At one recent banquet, the planner organized a “build your own centerpiece” ice-breaker with inexpensive elements, creating not only a cost-effective way to decorate the tables, but a great way to teambuild before the meal. (See number 7 under food and beverage, at right, for more tips.)
  3. Collect your name badges after each meeting and reuse them at your next event. You'll save hundreds of dollars and help the environment.
  4. Choose a city that has lots of dining options and let your attendees loose at least one night to save on the association's food-and-beverage budget.

Source: Esther Lovlie, director of sales and marketing, Wilmington DE Convention & Visitors Bureau

Food and Beverage

  1. When negotiating the meeting contract at a resort, have breakfast included as part of the room rate. That way, you are saving on the “plus plus” of F&B functions. Many resorts are receptive to this, but you need to ask! They usually offer only a continental breakfast, which you can try to upgrade.

  2. To save money, stop using continuous beverage breaks and cut out the snacks from the midmorning break. Offer just one 30-minute beverage break at midmorning. To compensate, have the continental breakfast set up in the foyer area of the meeting room, provide as much seating as you can, and take advantage of hotels that allow you to keep the continental breakfast out for 90 minutes. This helps bridge the gap between breakfast and the midmorning beverage break, and it also covers all those late arrivals who otherwise would be looking for food at the midmorning break.

  3. For budget-conscious receptions, offer higher perceived value hors d'oeuvres with nice presentations.

    For example, seasonal soup in a demitasse and mini-grilled-cheese sandwiches. Overall you're offering fewer hors d'oeuvres, but people tend not to notice because the presentations are so nice.

  4. Hotels are quick to penalize groups for not meeting room blocks and F&B minimums, so why shouldn't you be rewarded for exceeding those minimums? Start to ask for a monetary credit based on the F&B minimums set in the contract. If the F&B spend exceeds the expected amount in the contract by 5 percent or another given percentage (or you could incorporate a couple of percentage increments), ask the hotel to issue a credit to the master.

  5. Since you get one comp room per every 40, 45, or 50 booked, try asking for one comp meal for every 40, 45, or 50 guaranteed.
  6. The single biggest F&B cost saver is to track attendance at meal functions and keep an accurate history of the percentage of your group that tends to be no-shows. This way, you can base your guarantees on your average attendance rather than guaranteeing and paying for the whole group, which not only wastes your budget but also wastes food.

  7. To save the cost of a centerpiece, create a dessert display instead — an assortment of fruit tarts, for example. This saves service time since the desserts don't have to be brought out, gives the attendees several options for dessert, and saves the cost of a centerpiece. The diners usually don't even realize that they didn't have a centerpiece.

Sources: Sharon Chapman, CMP, CMM, Guardian Life Insurance; Stephen Clark, CMP, Stephen Clark & Associates; Deborah Costa, John Hancock Financial Services; Donna Costa, CMP, Sun Life Financial; Heather Huebner, Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection & Insurance Co.; Jen Klosner, CMP, Thrivent Financial for Lutherans; Ken Pickle, CMP, Liberty Mutual Agency Markets; and Lynn Schwandt, CMP, Thrivent Financial for Lutherans

On-Site Cost Savings and Being Green

  1. Have attendees bring a conference bag from home and have a contest for the most unique or creative bag.

  2. As a trade-show organizer, consider the following practices:

    • Minimize packaging and recycle packaging when appropriate.

    • Use products that contain a significant amount of recycled content.

    • Recycle cardboard, pallets, paper, cans, plastic, glass, and other recyclable materials.

    • Choose decorations and display materials that can be reused and/or are made out of recycled materials.

  3. Provide materials electronically on memory sticks or on a Web site for future reference, and save bundles on printing and copying.

  4. Bring only what is needed for the event; reuse what is not distributed. Inform facilities and decorators of your environmental preferences and ask about their environmental practices.

  5. Reduce transportation emissions and support local economies by using local speakers and entertainers whenever possible.

  6. Save directional, food and beverage, and other generic signs for reuse.

  7. Use in-room TV or hotel telephone message service for on-site meeting announcements instead of printed changes.

  8. Recycle key cards.

  9. Eliminate water bottles and either give attendees refillable water bottles or paper cups made with a minimum of 30 percent post-consumer recycled content, not glasses and pitchers.

Sources: Meister Meeting Services, Florida Department of Environmental Protection's Office of Sustainable Initiatives, Convention Industry Council's Green Meetings Task Force

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