Audiovisual and technology can be a budgetary black hole for your religious meetings. Here are ways you can avoid overspending.

AV Strategies

  • Talk with your AV company to find the least expensive way to set up.

  • Overestimate your AV costs by 10 percent, add a 10 percent contingency factor, and then try to come in at 80 percent of your estimate.

  • Avoid hiring riggers to climb above the stage to hang lights by using ground-support lifts to set up the lights.

  • Request a small table draped with a cloth for the DVD player, rather than rent an equipment cart.

  • Consider bringing your own AV equipment, especially items that are light, portable, and expensive to rent (laser pointers, portable data projectors).

  • Protect your equipment. Keep accurate records, engrave the equipment casing, carry proper insurance, and make sure easily pilfered equipment such as laptops, laser pointers, pagers, cell phones, and portable data projectors are locked up securely at night.

  • Use table rounds instead of renting overhead carts.

  • Buy a TV and use it as a door prize instead of renting one for several days.

  • Use as few microphones as possible. This will eliminate labor and the need for sound-mixing equipment.

  • Ask for one complimentary microphone per room.

  • If the group has fewer than 50 people, you might not need a mike.

  • Assign your rooms according to the AV in the rooms. Work with a program and an AV chart to hold sessions with similar AV needs.

  • Ask for complimentary walkie-talkie radios and charges when negotiating your AV.

  • Host a TV show on your closed-circuit TV in the hotel property. This can also be used for showing video highlights from the previous day or to promote certain sponsors.

  • Negotiate with the property to provide hotel equipment and hotel electricians.

  • Rent the size of screen that you need. Work with your AV professional to determine the minimum size for the room size and setup.

  • Use LCD panels instead of video projectors.

  • Tripod screens are usually less expensive than fast-fold screens.

  • Don't put AV in every room. Ask speakers and moderators what they will need first. Assign all meetings that will need that specific AV to the same room.

  • If another group is using the ballroom before or after your group, see if you can't use the same vendors and save setup and tear-down labor costs.

  • If you are able to, bid AV services to local contractors outside the property. Their services may be less expensive, and the competition may drive the in-house operator to lower its prices. Watch out if there is a large difference between bids.

  • If you need a DVD player, consider renting it from a local store.

  • Deal directly with the AV company. It minimizes miscommunication, and the hotel won't charge you extra.

  • If you need AV equipment for more than one day, negotiate a reduced rental for extra days.

  • Just prior to the meeting, reconfirm the speakers' AV needs. They may have originally requested equipment that is no longer needed.

  • Travel with your own extension cords and power strips. Label them with your name, address, and phone number.

  • Have your audio recording company record your meeting at no charge as part of the agreement.

  • Order one table mike to be shared by two panelists.

  • Limit wireless microphones, opting for handheld microphones with long cords wherever possible.

  • When you expect to have extensive AV requirements, book a conference center where most equipment is included in the cost.

  • Use your hotel's closed-circuit television to announce the program, exhibit hours, announcements, and activities.

  • Don't order draping for screens — it's an expense that no one will notice.

Take Advantage of What You Have

  • Learn to use what you have. Fax machines have memory and speed-dial functions. Many phone systems have teleconferencing capability. Most photocopiers can copy two pages at a time for book copies. E-mail programs have auto-forwarding functions. At the least, skim through the user manuals so that you have an idea of what your equipment can do.

  • Market your meeting on the Web. Use it to generate leads, ask visitors if they would like to receive a free e-mail event newsletter, and offer other services, such as chat rooms, online workshops, and surveys.

  • Program macros into your word processor. Use boilerplates for standard phrases or words that you use repeatedly. Use standard forms and templates. Create style sheets for all your documents. Set up the word-processing formatting preferences for the most often used fonts, margins, spacing, etc.

  • Use a spreadsheet to calculate your budgeting expenses. Weigh the options of F&B pricing. Prepare a budgeting template and plug in the numbers. Don't calculate manually — design the spreadsheet so it will calculate for you.