The decisions you make in the first stages of site selection andwill be the ones that save you the most.
RELY ON THE LOCAL CONVENTION AND VISITORS BUREAU. Many of their services are free.
BE UPFRONT WITH YOUR CONVENTION SERVICES MANAGER. The more information on your budget that he or she has, the easier it will be to work within your means.
CONSIDER USING UNUSUAL VENUES. Try public spaces, art galleries, and historical sites.
CONSIDER USING MOVIE THEATERS. Serve traditional movie foods and take advantage of the venue's acoustics and tiered seating.
CONSIDER CONFERENCE CENTERS. It's a great option when you expect to have extensive audiovisual requirements, as most equipment is included in the complete meeting package.
RESEARCH BOTH RACK RATES AND CORPORATE RATES. Call the toll-free 800 line or the reservations desk of the property or chain where you're planning to hold the event. This way you will know the worst-case pricing.
NEGOTIATE SLIDING SCALE RATES. You should have a sliding scale in the contract so that the further out you cancel, the less you pay. You're giving the hotel more time to recoup its losses.
NEGOTIATE NO DEPOSIT or, at least, that the deposit will be placed in an interest-bearing account.
IF YOUR MEETING NEEDS A LOT OF AV, negotiate with the hotel to provide a hotel electrician.
ALWAYS GIVE CONSERVATIVE ROOM BLOCKS.
ASK FOR EVERYTHING YOU WANT UPFRONT, INCLUDING THE FOLLOWING:
ADD A CLAUSE IN THE HOTEL CONTRACT that you will not pay the final invoice until you have received a detailed post-convention report from the property.
WORK WITH THE HOTEL TO FILL THEIR “HOT DATES.”
HOTELS ARE MORE WILLING TO NEGOTIATE IF YOU USE A PROPORTIONAL AMOUNT OF ROOMS AND MEETING SPACE. Also, it helps if you can build up your food-and-beverage totals with on-site meals and functions.
NEVER SIGN A CONTRACT UNLESS YOU AGREE WITH IT IN ITS ENTIRETY. Cross out or edit clauses that you do not agree with, initial them, and get the supplier to initial their agreement. Remember: A contract is not binding unless both parties agree.
BE FLEXIBLE WITH YOUR ARRIVAL AND DEPARTURE PATTERNS. Can your meeting be moved from, say, Tuesday through Thursday to Saturday through Monday? Find out what the hotel's typical meeting patterns are and work with them so you are not competing for meeting space. This will give you an edge.
TRY TO SCHEDULE MEETINGS IN THE LOW SEASON, OR AT LEAST IN A LESS BUSY TIME OF YEAR. Winter in Montréal, after-ski-season in Vail … Educate your management about the value of flexibility in meeting dates.
REQUEST COMPLIMENTARY LIMOUSINE SERVICE FOR VIPS TO AND FROM THE HOTEL. Also inquire about reserved and complimentary parking.
BOOK HOTELS THAT PROVIDE A COMPLIMENTARY AIRPORT-SHUTTLE SERVICE.
SPECIFY DATES AND TIMES IN YOUR CONTRACT. For example: “The cutoff date for bedroom reservations is Saturday June 28, 2009, at 5 p.m.” instead of “The cutoff date is 30 days prior to the meeting.”
ALWAYS BUDGET AT LEAST 10 PERCENT OF YOUR EXPENSES AS “CONTINGENCY.” There will always be unforeseen expenses, such as
BUILD IN A “PROTECT YOURSELF” CLAUSE. Make sure that your cancellation clause is reciprocal. What if the hotel does major disruptive renovations? Has a change in management? Or the hotel workers' union goes on strike?
GET ALL THE CHARGES LISTED IN WRITING UPFRONT. Then add a “no additional charges” clause. These charges may include
NEGOTIATE WITH THE HOTEL'S BUSINESS center for a bulk rate or discounts on copies, faxes, and secretarial services.
USE THE LOCAL CVB'S PHOTOS, POSTERS, PROMOTIONAL SHELLS, MEETING FOLDERS, AND TOURIST INFORMATION.
BE VERY TIGHT WITH YOUR F&B GUARANTEES. Use your historical data, place conservative estimates, and track your attendees' preferences and patterns closely.
ASK WHO ELSE IS IN THE HOTEL AT THE SAME TIME. You may be able to gain savings through economies of scale by, for example, having the same menu.
IF A MEETING LASTS MORE THAN TWO DAYS, KEEP THE MEETING ROOM SETUP IDENTICAL.
REDUCE THE NUMBER OF BREAKOUT ROOMS NEEDED. This will save you both AV and setup costs.
ENCOURAGE THE USE OF YOUR OFFICIAL AIR CARRIER. Always track the airline usage.
BRING THE DEMOGRAPHICS OF YOUR GROUP TO THE TABLE WHEN NEGOTIATING AIR CARRIERS.
ANALYZE COST SAVINGS REGARDING AIRFARES. It might make sense to require a Saturday night stay vs. paying for the extra room night.
BARTER GOODS AND SERVICES. This can also apply to air.
ALWAYS THOROUGHLY RESEARCH YOUR SUPPLIERS. Is there competition? How busy is the market? Are you in high, low, or mid-season? What is the reputation of the supplier? How many years has the company been in business? Find out what your supplier is willing to provide as extras. These will add value, but likely cost little money, effort, or time to the supplier.
NEVER LET YOUR SUPPLIERS THINK THEY'RE THE ONLY ONES.
For more tips, visit our Web site. Keyword: cost savings/budgets
Sources: Corbin Ball, Corbin Ball Associates (www.corbinball.com); and Louisa Davis, CMP/CMM, Metallurgical Society of the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy, and Petroleum