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Issue: May/June 2010
Top 10 Tips For Reducing Meeting Costs In 2010

With what appears to be the worst of the recession behind us, many corporate meeting planners are still challenged with delivering quality meetings on reduced budgets. While companies recognize the importance of face-to-face interaction, everyone is looking to do meetings in a more cost effective way. One company in Chicago may have some answers. Cadence, Inc., a meeting planning and event production company based in Wheeling, Illinois has assembled the following top ten tips for cost reduction in 2010:

Outsource. Take stock of the things you personally need to stay involved with and outsource everything else. Look for areas where your time can make the most impact on the program or the budget. Focus energy on those activities only, and leverage suppliers and outside resources to accomplish everything else.

Get accurate. Employ a more detailed registration system and get more detail on meals. Reducing headcount on breakfasts for people who only want coffee, and skipping meals for walk-in attendees translates to big savings.

Eliminate a meal. Eliminating a meal certainly affects the budget, but it's not a popular choice. If corporate policy dictates three meals on company business, consider asking for a suspension of policy or a review. If you're in a metro area, a per diem will go much farther than a banquet budget. The fact that attendees need to coordinate dinner plans will foster networking and social time. All good things.

Shop locally. Local sales representatives for a hotel or venue will work harder and can provide significant savings over a national rep or broker. They have a pulse on the local market and can offer incentives unique to their property. Don't have time to call 50 hotels? Consider outsourcing the process to an outside meeting planner on an hourly or fee basis. You'll also have someone to help with rooming lists and contracts.

Consolidate. If budgets are tight, place as much as you can with one or two vendors. Your project will look bigger, garner more attention, and you'll save time and money in the process. Every vendor you add creates a profit center for that vendor and adds at least 10-20 hours of management time for you. When the program changes, or you need to revise your budget, you're fighting each vendor for their profit and spending significant amounts of time to accomplish small reductions.

Be creative. Find something that doesn't really cost the hotel or vendor and leverage it. For example, airport transfers can sometimes be provided at no charge if a hotel has buses. It's a relatively low cost item to the hotel, but can save tens of thousands in transfers or cabs. Also think about asking for free printing from the hotel's business center. Free prints means saving on print and even more savings on shipping.

Lean on your suppliers. Everyone is reinventing themselves in today's economy and suppliers are open to new ideas and hungry for additional work. They want to be a resource and are willing to take on additional responsibility to get there. Think of a supplier as an assistant and ask them for small tasks and expertise. An extra body for a registration desk may only be a phone call away.

Buy in bulk
. It's amazing how simple this concept is, but how little it's applied. Hotels and vendors want repeat business and they're willing to discount to get it. Use that to your advantage. Can't sign a three-year contract? Don't worry. Negotiate rebates that kick in retroactively once you reach a certain level. There's no need for a commitment because if you don't deliver the business, they don't have to deliver the discount.

Go dutch. Sharing meeting and production expenses with another company is novel, but effective. For a savvy buyer, splitting costs with another group is an easy way to get your numbers down. Brokering the deal can be challenging and you have to be somewhat flexible. Need a match? Often times your planner, the hotel, or even a supplier can find the right company.

Don't cram. The only "don't" on our list addresses the temptation to pack 12 hours of meetings into an 8-hour day. Packing in content will drain your attendees. Sure, if you get a 3-day meeting done in one day, you'll save plenty, but no one will remember. The effectiveness of the meeting is a primary goal. If attendees are engaged, the meeting generates business results. Don't lose sight of the purpose. Maintaining that learning environment is the key to a successful meeting.

About the author: Steve Auer, CEO of Cadence, Inc., is a 20-year veteran of the live event and meeting production industry. Since 1997, Cadence has been helping companies like Mercedes-Benz, Ford, PepsiCo, Frito-Lay, and Novartis deliver cost-effective meetings and events worldwide. Cadence provides creative services, venue sourcing, meeting planning, and logistical support for meetings and tradeshows. For more information about Cadence, please visit
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