THESE DAYS, it's all about doing it better, faster, and cheaper — every time. You're always on time and on budget, but could you save even more time and money?

Of course you can. Here are some ideas:

  1. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF YOUR LOCAL CONVENTION AND VISITORS BUREAU — Every city has one, but few companies use their services, many of which are complimentary. Services can range from on-site registration assistance and name-badge creation to bag stuffing and signage in local restaurants and other facilities.

  2. MAKE USE OF INTERNS AND VOLUNTEERS — Vanessa Kane, CMP, manager of meetings and events, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S., Kansas City, Mo., who runs an annual convention on a nonprofit basis with a small staff, saves significant dollars this way. “If we didn't have the volunteers, we would need additional staff to handle certain aspects of our planning process, and that would entail hotel, airfare, and per diems for the staff,” she says.

  3. PUT YOUR BUSINESS OUT TO BID — Bidding can be a great time- and money-saver, explains Kane. “We bid out a number of our service needs, like production and decorating services, and often sign a three-year contract, which helps to reduce costs,” she says. “That way we maintain consistency by not having to turn to a different company each year.”

  4. FIND HIDDEN WAYS TO SAVE WITH F&B — As a professor who teaches food and beverage courses at New York University, I have found dozens of ways to cut money from F&B budgets that are invisible to guests. You can save $500 or more on a meeting involving about 50 people by knowing where to cut on F&B. For example, if your budget is limited, substitute foods and be creative at the same time. Also, avoid serving hors d'oeuvres buffet-style, because people tend to help themselves to larger quantities of food.

Other ways to save on F&B:

  • DON'T ANNOUNCE LAST CALL — In doing so, everyone tends to flock to the bar to have that last glass of wine. Instead, gradually shut down alcohol service.

  • USE DEAD STOCK — Venues often change alcohol suppliers, leaving them with leftover quantities of a brand that they are no longer able to sell. Ask them to sell you their leftover inventory, and they will often do so at discount prices.

  • SKIP FANCY. BE DIFFERENT — If you have popcorn on hand, for example, it can serve as an unexpected element compared to fancy cookies, which are commonly served. This will be not only a pleasant surprise for attendees, but can fill them up without costing you much.

  • SERVE LUNCH DESSERT AT THE AFTERNOON BREAK — After a filling lunch, most attendees won't miss dessert. Instead, save it to serve at the afternoon break.

  • RE-USE TABLE CENTERPIECES — Many hotels can store floral arrangements in their refrigerators, allowing you to reuse them for your dinner function and even your breakfast function the next day. Also, centerpieces need not be of the refrigerated kind: The Association for Convention Operations Management, for example, has asked members to bring teddy bears to decorate luncheon tables at its meetings. The teddy bears are donated to local charities afterward.

  • PUT EXPENSIVE FOOD TOWARD THE BACK OF THE ROOM — People tend to mingle in one common area — the entrance of the room. By putting the more expensive food in the back, you can still offer these culinary delicacies, but you will need to purchase less.

  • USE SMALLER PLATES — People rarely pile food high on small plates and make their way up for second helpings.

Visit the ACOM Web site at