1. Keep Your Budget Flexible

    Build a contingency of 10 percent into your total budget to take care of unexpected expenses and emergencies. Unforeseen or overlooked costs such as overtime, overnight mailings, phone and computer hookups, or speaker substitutions can send your budget skyrocketing.

  2. Check All Invoices

    Question anything on your invoices that doesn't compute against the written quotation. Scrutinize your hotel/facility and food and beverage invoices while on-site. Ironing out discrepancies in person is much easier than trying to do it over the phone.

  3. Limit Authorization

    Only a select few people should have the authority to charge items to your master account at the hotel. Make sure that the hotel has a list of these people, and refuse to pay charges signed for by unauthorized personnel.

  4. Review Accounts Daily

    To avoid any major surprises when you see the final bill, review your accounts with the facility every day. That way, you can make necessary changes if costs are escalating in certain areas.

  5. Segregate Accounts

    Work with the hotel to create a number of master accounts so it is easier to separate your bills and review the accounts. Arrange to get copies of the invoices, checks, and banquet event orders, along with the master account.

  6. Schedule Your Events During Low-usage Times

    If you have the flexibility, book during low seasons or days of the week when the facility is less busy. Booking near holidays such as Easter, Memorial Day, and Labor Day might be to your advantage.

  7. Confirm and Reconfirm Your Dates and Event Details

    Overlooking a detail could cost you big bucks.

  8. Consider On-Site Meeting Space

    For smaller meetings, it could be cheaper than going off-site.

  9. Request a Discount for On-site Payments

    If the facility doesn't have to wait for payment because you've arranged to pay immediately after the event, it might be open to negotiating a discount.

  10. Negotiate Comp Rooms

    As part of your discussions with hotel management, negotiate comp or discounted rooms for speakers and staff, and/or upgrades for VIPs.

  11. Understand Your Cancellation Clause

    Be certain that your cancellation clause is reciprocal, so that both parties get the option to back out of the contract before a specified date, in case of any changes to the original agreement.

  12. Negotiate Set Prices

    To help with your budgeting, arrange to pay a specified amount on food and beverages during your entire event, rather than a rate per person, per function.

  13. Consult a Tax Lawyer

    Investigate the tax laws for your business location and for the event location. You might be eligible for tax breaks that you're not claiming.

  14. Keep Room Setups Simple

    Wherever possible, use theater-style seating (where only chairs are used), which is less labor-intensive than classroom-style (which includes both table and chairs), thus lowering setup costs. Also, plan to keep setups the same from day to day.

  15. Check Into Other Groups

    Find out about groups that are holding their meetings before and after yours and discuss staging needs. You might find that you can save on setup and teardown if you all have the same or very similar requirements.

  16. Investigate Sponsorship Opportunities

    Find sponsors to cover as many of your program expenses as possible, especially speaker fees, audiovisual equipment, and special meal functions.

  17. Use Industry Experts

    To save on speaker expenses, consider using industry experts whose companies often pay expenses. Alternatively, use local speakers where appropriate to save on travel expenses.

  18. Avoid Renting Unnecessary Equipment

    Double-check your speakers' AV equipment needs to avoid renting items that go unused.

  19. Keep Signage Simple and Reusable

    Consider investing in a laminating machine to make your own signs.

  20. Discuss Economical Av Setups

    Limit the number of microphones needed. Check to see if the hotel supplies a complimentary microphone in each meeting room. Skirt a cocktail table instead of renting special carts for AV equipment.

  21. Use Outside Suppliers

    Look outside the hotel for possible AV suppliers whose prices may be more competitive than those in-house. However, the hotel may match the other supplier's prices if asked.

  22. Save on Transportation

    Use airport shuttles instead of taxis. If you have a sizeable group attending your event, negotiate special discounts with the shuttle bus company. Alternatively, find out if the local taxicab company can provide discount coupons.

  23. Arrange for One Room

    For smaller committee meetings that may be held during a larger conference, arrange for a buffet luncheon to be held in the same room as the meeting to save on renting a separate room.

  24. Consolidate

    One of the best gifts that you can give yourself is a post-event consolidation report. Take all the budgetary data, notes, and pertinent information and summarize them in a computer spreadsheet. It will be invaluable when planning future events.

Source: Susan Friedmann, Certified Speaking Professional, is a “how to” coach working with exhibitors, show organizers, and meeting planners to create more valuable results from their events nationally and internationally. Susan has been a successful speaker, consultant, and author for more than 20 years.