Keeping the Bottom Line in Line

Meeting planning budget

Plan ahead,
    take advantage of your resources
          apply a few simple ideas.....

                    and you'll have the perfect meeting. 


Using the Orange County Speakers Bureau
          saves you TIME and MONEY.

Your staff isn't tied up in speaker research and follow-up details.

See Below for hints on the following topics

     • Speaker Cost
    • When you Choose your Site
    • Budgeting/Expenses
    • Negotiations
    • Working with your Staff
    • Food and Beverage (F&B) Ideas
    • Meeting Room Tips
    • Saving on Transportation
    • Solving the Audio Visual Headaches

                    <<<<<     >>>>

• Speaker Cost

  • In addition to viewing the demo DVD, preview the talent in action.
  • Contract your speaker early.  Rates are often raised and this locks you in.
  • Find versatile performers who can speak twice in one day.  This will cut your expenses dramatically.
  • Negotiate a flat inclusive rate instead of fee plus expenses.
  • Find speakers who are also booked for other events in the same hotel or city.
  • For some entertainment, research union rules: minimum hours, number of musicians, pay rate, etc.
  • Look for speakers who are also booked for other events in the same hotel or city.

• Choosing your Site

  • Use local convention and visitors bureaus, they offer lots of free help.
  • Save money with local venues or smaller cities.
  • Use the national sales offices to set up your site visits.
  • Take your video camera along for a visual report to your colleagues
  • How competitive are the Hotels? 
    Check on their seasonal rates, rack rates, group rates.
  • Find out if they have any "scheduling holes" to fill.  Can you be flexible to save some money?
  • Research using their toll free numbers. They're a wealth of information.
  • Do they have a complementary airport shuttle?
  • Book a conservative number of rooms, don't pay for what you don't use.

• Working with your Staff

  • In addition to viewing the demo DVD, preview the talent in action.
  • Contract your speaker early.  Rates are often raised and this locks you in.
  • Find versatile performers who can speak twice in one day.  This will cut your expenses dramatically.
  • Negotiate a flat inclusive rate instead of fee plus expenses.
  • Know local overtime laws, use "straight time" and avoid overtime
  • Hire site personnel for registration and secretarial work.  They won't have to travel.
  • Use per diem for staff who do travel. 
  • Detail meals and transportation costs ahead of time.

• Budget/Expense Control

  • Sat.- Mon. times are often cheaper than Tues. - Thurs.
  • Show your budget to the Convention Services Manager.  Ask for ways to cut costs.  They want to make you happy and become a repeat client.
  • Consider Cancellation insurance
  • Ask for a Cash Discount
  • Meet daily with Hotelier and review master account.  Catch errors on site.
  • Make sure you have a 10% Contigency line item (Bad Weather, Overtime, Extra publicity/marketing costs, tech snafus, labor strikes, etc.)
  • Keep "Authorized Signers" to a minimum.  Refuse any charges signed by any others.
  • Research Tax laws for both your business site and the site of the meeting.  You may find possible tax breaks worth claiming.
  • Keep a running log of all your actions, decisions, situations for the whole event.
  • Cash in your comp suites first... you'll get more back for them.

• Meeting Room Tips

  •   Set-up, Tear-Down: Which groups are using the site right before and right after you? Perhaps you can share staging set-ups, reducing labor costs.  
  • Don't change your staging or room set ups if at all possible.  
  • Skirt regular tables instead of renting desks for on-site offices.  
  • Keep break-out rooms to a minimum, saving on AV & setup costs as well.  
  • Have one room with two setups: banquet rooms can be used for classrooms. (Watch your time, they can't be back to back.)  
  • Use cocktail "rounds" instead of renting A/V carts.

• Saving on Transportation

  • Travel on "off-peak" hours (early morning / late evening)  
  • Replace "meet and greet" services with vouchers for airport shuttles, fare tokens for public buses or subways.  
  • Use Hotel complimentary airport shuttle  
  • Schedule any special transport to a four- to eight-hour window to cut back on bus rental costs.  
  • Request coupons for:  local shows, restaurants, local attractions (from Taxi companies or Chamber of Commerce), Drinks & VIP lounge on Airlines, Frequent flyer points from your "official" airline, use of VIP lounge for "meet and greet."

• Negotiations and Agreements


  • Be clear about the importance of your meeting to you and your hotel/site.  
  • Have a couple of options going, let them know they are competing for your business.  
  • Have a detailed request for proposal (RFP) ready.  
  • Request Sliding scale Hotel rates.  
  • Request “No Deposit”  (or at least placed in an interest bearing "escrow" account.)  
  • Develop long term relationships with favorite hotels.  Ask for "volume" discount.  
  • Have a list of what you want/expect: late cut off dates, reduced rates for speakers, amenities for speakers,  reduced rates for staff, upgrades for VIPS and staff, early check in/late check out times, airport/train transfers,  complementary coffee/tea in rooms, welcome notes / gifts in each room,  What is the "Free Room" Comp Rate   1:30 or 1:40 or ?, no package-receiving charges, continental breakfast in meeting room, extended stay rates,  free office space/access to business center, free local calls, complimentary limousine service for VIPs to and from the hotel, reserved and complimentary parking, close parking for VIPs & Staff,  health club access, free foot massages for staff (hey, why not!), defined amount of electricity included in base price.  
  • State in contract final invoice not paid until receipt of a detailed post-evaluation from site.  
  • Make Cancellation clause reciprocal.  
  • Ask "worse case" questions:  Any upcoming management change?  Any plans for major renovations? Any major city events happening nearby to congest traffic? What happens if such a situation "pops up?"  
  • Strengthen Food and Beverage costs by on-site meals and activities.  This gives you greater leverage.  (See also F&B below)  
  • Work directly with the chef challenging him/her with your concepts and goals.  Trust them on seasonal ideas, local products.  This can add another dimension to your event!  
  • State menu prices, or at least a range of prices.   
  • Always, Always read every clause in the contract.  Edit or delete clauses you do not want.  Initial the edit and get your contact to initial their agreement to change.  
  • Watch your due dates and keep in touch with your contact.

• Food & Beverage (F&B) Ideas


  • Sit-down meals can cut food preparation / labor costs by as much as 20%. Is "a la cart" or "per person" cheaper?  (Put it on a spreadsheet to find out.)  
  • Skip either the dessert, salad, or soup. Dessert can be served at breaks.  
  • Use box lunches instead of sit-down, served lunch  
  • Serve an "extended" continental breakfast (add fresh fruit, yogurt, cereal) Skip the hot Breakfast.  
  • Buy foodstuffs in bulk: coffee, tea, decaf in bulk.  
  • If you can, order"by consumption." Uneaten food and drink can often be returned and not charged.   
  • (Especially soda, packaged foods like potato chips and some perishables - i.e. apples)   
  • Re-use food (if possible). Have your staff protect doughnuts, etc. from coffee breaks for use at lunch.  
  • Pre-slice portions.  Cut danishes muffins, bagels, etc. in half. Are mini-muffins, mini-doughnuts, mini-danishes available ?  
  • Inquire about other groups who will be there at the same time you are.  Can you share food service with other groups using the same hotel?  Perhaps in ajoining rooms but with the same menu giving each great cost savings through an economy of scale?  
  • Staffed food stations are often cheaper.  (Pasta Tables, Stir-fry tables, etc.)  
  • Put the more expensive items in harder to reach places on the banquet table. Avoid the expense of shrimp, oysters, etc.  
  • Perhaps a local microbrewery or winery will sponsor your bar?    
  • Keep Cocktail hours in check, (perhaps shorten them by 15 minutes.)  
  • Institute "controlled pour" ... have bartenders measure out each drink.  
  • Institute a liberal "ice" policy.  
  • Serve only soft drinks, bottled water, juices....  If  you must have alcohol limit it to wine & Beer.  
  • Ask your site for "house" brands.

• Solving the A/V & Media Headaches


  • Check / Double Check / Reconfirm right before the event.  Sometimes presentors change their minds.  
  • Limit powerpoint or video presentations if possible.  This equipment is expensive to provide.  
  • If you need extensive A/V requirements, choose a "conference center." They are usually equipped for it and offer it in the cost.  
  • Negotiate with an outside AV company as well as in house services.  Find the cheapest way.  
  • Deal directly with the AV supplier.  mis-communication mistakes in this area are often unfixable.  
  • Rent the room size you need based on your AV needs. Put in AV only if presenter needs it.  
  • Get a complimentary set of two way radios plus one complimentary microphone per room.  
  • Use cocktail "rounds" instead of renting A/V carts.  
  • Consider using flatscreen TVs instead of Video Projectors  
  • Buy instead of rent LCD or video projectors as well as DVD players, then give them away as door prizes.  
  • If you rent for multiple days, ask for a discount.  
  • Using color gels on a slide projector makes a cheap spotlight. (You may have an old slide projector in the back room.)  
  • Plan your sound needs carefully.  Use only what you need to eliminate labor and expensive equipment for sound mixing.  
  • Bring extra extension cords / surge protectors for last minute needs.  
  • Use handheld mics with long cords over wireless setups  
  • One mic can be shared by two panelists, but sometimes it looks tacky if there's too much back and forth.  
  • Screens don't need to be draped.  Use only if you have a picky audience.