I will be the first to admit that, in economic terms, this has been a tough time in America. How tough was it, you may ask? The economy was so tough that people were taking jury duty for the money (rim shot). It was so tough that the Mafia was laying off judges (rim shot). Motel Six turned the light off to save money (cymbal crash). It was bad but it is getting better, and I think the time has come for the planning of meetings, and as usual, I have some great ideas.

I think we may have gotten over the “public perception problem” or P-3 as it was known in some circles, and now the only thing standing in the way of more meetings is money. Meeting budgets have been slashed and you are stuck trying to provide a Dom Perignon experience on a Schlitz budget. So you have been looking everywhere for places to save some money, but you probably didn't look in the same places I did. I turned over a lot of rocks and came up with my…

Money Management Manifesto

Consider camping.

Lodging is a big expense. Why not kick it down a notch with a good old-fashioned camping trip? Instead of suites and spas, your attendees will be treated to sleeping bags and outdoor toilets. Talk about a bonding experience! You could buy enough tents and sleeping bags for everybody and after the convention, you could sell them on eBay.

Qualifiers at the President's, Chairman's, Crystal-Platinum-Eagle, or whatever level you deem the best of the best, would be treated royally at a camp-o-ree. They would get to stay in RVs with flush toilets. That alone should be an added incentive for everybody to qualify for the top level.

During the day, breakouts would be held on nature hikes or by going down to the fishin' hole. Your speaker choices would include luminaries like Smokey Bear, Yogi Bear, and past winners of “Survivor.” PowerPoint would be replaced by a sharp stick used to draw in the dirt. At night, everybody could sit around the campfire and tell stories about the good old days of limo rides and room service.

Amenities for a camping meeting can be very inexpensive, yet much appreciated. Leave a roll of toilet paper or a can of mosquito repellent on an attendee's sleeping bag at night and you will have a friend for life.

Encourage your campers to really dive in to the camping experience by having one night where the meal function is “You catch it, you eat it.” It's another bonding experience along the lines of Lord of the Flies.

At the big awards banquet, do not give away plaques or trophies. Your campers really don't have the room to pack a trophy. Instead, offer your people something they could never get anyplace else: a brush with greatness. Hire a celebrity for the night to pose for a picture with each winner. Your budget would determine the degree of fame. If you have $10,000 to spend you could get somebody like Regis Philbin to pose for an hour. If you only have $1,000, you get Screech from “Saved by the Bell.”

This is the 40th anniversary of Woodstock, so you can sell the camping trip to your people by telling them that you are going to relive three days of peace and music. They won't find out you lied until they get there, but you can worry about that later.

The biggest benefit of all is that after spending a week in the woods, nobody will ever again complain about the temperature in the office or having to park too far away.

Of course, camping is only one of the ideas I have for saving costs on your next meeting. If you'd like to hear more, drop me a line.

Dale Irvin is The Professional Summarizer™. He will emcee your next event and keep the audience updated on what they have just seen with a running comedy monologue. And, he likes camping … in an RV … or a nearby hotel. Visit www.DaleIrvin.com and sign up for the free Friday Funnies and Funny Business.