Budgeting for labor costs at convention centers can be a nightmare, what with the array of rate schedules, minimums, and jurisdictions, along with issues of facility labor versus contract labor or union versus right to work.

The site inspection is the planner's best tool. “Question the event coordinator about how you will be charged for all services,” suggests Richard Lewis, national sales manager, The Freeman Cos. “Every building has different revenue sources; you don't pay for chairs in some, but you will pay for labor to set up the chairs. Set the room to maximum capacity, rather than change it constantly and be charged accordingly. More importantly, use all the included contractual obligations first, then come to your vendors for supplemental needs.”

Caterers, AV companies, decorators, and general service contractors know the minimums for each of the trades in a convention center. For example, it may not make financial sense, if a session breaks at 6 p.m., to transition the room overnight. To minimize hitting customers with a four-hour minimum, Freeman might suggest setup at 5 a.m. Conversely, changes may need to be done at night, tying in with a shift change.

“Ask the building the cost of transition, and if there's a cheaper way to do it,” Lewis advises.