Gasoline is at an all time high

Foreclosures take place every day. Food prices make me lose my appetite. But I prefer to look on the sunny side. A rotten economy encourages us to discover ways to save money and, as meeting managers, you are always looking for ways to trim the budget. Well, I have come up with several ideas that will guarantee savings.

Slash your housing budget

We all know that room rates at the top hotels and resorts are budget busters. The primary reason for this is that you are giving everybody their own room. Let me ask you this: What could be more fun than a corporate retreat combined with a good old-fashioned sleep over?

If a pajama party is good enough for kids, it's good enough for salespeople. Assign four or six people to a room equipped with bunk beds and they will think they are back at camp. Imagine your top performers staying up late telling scary customer stories. This type of environment will increase camaraderie among your people and create a bonding atmosphere that will last all year.

Cut your food budget

Nothing beats a good old-fashioned potluck dinner for setting the mood for bonding. Ask your attendees to bring a dish with them — from three-bean salad to dessert — when they attend the conference. All of the containers would be stored on site in big refrigerators and for every meal, four or five Tupperware containers of homemade goodness would be pulled out at random — and voilà, you have a home-style experience that is bound to provoke memories of the past and ideas for the future.

Trim transportation

Green is the buzzword and everybody wants to be in on it. This is just the excuse you need to save big bucks on transporting people to a meeting. Carpooling is the perfect solution. All you have to do is organize the attendees by region, designate the one with the SUV as the driver, and pack in six people. You will reimburse the driver for his mileage but bucks will be saved and bonding will be reinforced.

Off-site events on a dime

Divide the attendees into teams and send them all out on a scavenger hunt. Imagine the fun they'll have as they go in search of items like a peanut butter and jellyfish sandwich or Tony Orlando's cuff links. If the event gets canceled due to weather, hold the scavenger hunt inside and have them look for martinis.

Amenity surprise

A substantial part of your budget is devoted to the little amenities, or “tchotchkes,” left in the attendees' rooms each night. Well, once again the spirit of the Great Depression meets fiscal responsibility and ecologically wise recycling. Ask every attendee to bring a white elephant they have lying around the house. Then each night, somebody else's junk is left in each room. The attendees have the choice of keeping their gift or giving it up and taking their chances on the next night's offering. Perhaps you would want to combine this with an end-of-meeting garage sale.

Miscellaneous money saver

Instead of printing up costly name badges, hire a local tattoo artist to emblazon everybody's name right on their bodies. At future meetings only the first-timers will need to be tagged and released.

With these tips you should be able to cut your budget by at least 50 percent. No thanks are necessary, but now that there's room in the budget for a professional summarizer — give me a call.

Dale Irvin is The Professional Summarizer™. To receive his free weekly e-mail and video, visit www.daleirvin.com and click the links for The Friday Funnies.