Bonnie Wallsh,
CMP, CMM, Chief
Bonnie Wallsh Associates LLC,
Charlotte, N.C.

Here are some actions that I took for an association meeting that I worked on in August:

  1. Rather than hard copies, attendees were given zip drives containing conference handouts.

  2. We met with the chef to discuss our budget, profile of attendees, budget, and theme. We asked him to recommend a menu using our information and take advantage of local produce and what was in season. Also, we checked out piggybacking on other groups' menus that would be compatible with ours.

  3. Timelines were used to ensure that materials were shipped in sufficient time to take advantage of the least expensive shipping rates.

  4. Authorized signatures were limited to the two meeting management consultants and the president of the association to avoid impulse decisions on site.

  5. The contract was negotiated for commissionable rates, with the commissions applied to the master account; and 50 percent attrition on F&B.

  6. Office supplies were purchased at an office supply store rather than the hotel.

Maryanne Bobrow,
Bobrow Associates, Association
and Meetings Management
Citrus Heights, Calif.

For the 2009 International Textile and Apparel Association conference, we tried to stay away from the doom and gloom of what was happening in the economy and instead focused on the positive things we were doing. The emphasis was on going green, so we stressed the new things we did to advance our green efforts (while cutting costs).

  1. We did not print and mail a preliminary program, but instead posted everything online and promoted every change, addition, and anything else to drive attendees to the Web site.

  2. Using recycled materials reduced costs but was presented as being socially responsible.

  3. Using local service providers helped to shave other costs, and we showed how it reduced our carbon footprint; we used a social responsibility keynote speaker from the local area.

  4. We used a sophisticated online registration system that helped us to better track who would attend the conference and which F&B functions they would attend. This enabled us to better forecast our F&B guarantees (and be green).

Martin Bay,
CMP, Director Of Meetings and
kellen Meetings, Atlanta

We have focused on three budget areas:

  1. Looking at short-term, on-site savings, such as: reducing F&B (switch from full buffet breakfast to continental); audiovisual (one screen instead of two); staff travel; and paper requirements (change from hard copy to e-communications).

  2. Increasing revenue. We had several trade associations raise their registration fees by $10 to $25, which didn't receive much negative response. While a few of our client associations did not offer a sponsorship program in the past (mainly to avoid negative feelings among competing supplier members, some of whom don't have the budget to participate), we convinced them that sponsorships don't all have to be big dollar. If you avoid “in-your-face” sponsorships, such as program cover, lanyards, and key cards, you don't get as much pushback from the membership. We offered $200 golf hole sponsorships, prize sponsorships, and tabletop exhibits.

  3. In big-picture terms, we convinced some clients to move their meetings away from top-tier cities. The minimum F&B spend decreases, transportation costs go down, hotel room rates are lower, you get more concessions in the hotel contract, and local support staff costs less. This was effective for short-term business that wasn't booking two or more years out.