Budgets are tight and costs add up quickly when planning an event, whether it's a small meeting or bigger conference or trade show. We are often asked to save our clients money and over the years have come up with some pretty savvy ways to shave off a few dollars. I wanted to share some of those ideas with you so I asked our team to contribute their top budget-saving tips. In minutes we had an extensive list of ways to save all along the way from food and beverage to labor to paper, printing and more.
Here’s our list broken down into categories. What would you add?
Food and Beverage
- Negotiate early to reduce or eliminate a hotel or convention center caterer’s small-group surcharge for food and beverage events.
- Ask the caterer to remove the daily rental charge for water coolers and just charge a one-time rental plus water replacement.
- Ask the caterer to remove the dessert from the lunch menu and serve it with the afternoon coffee/beverage break instead.
- Order beverage a la carte instead of per person.
- Consider gallons of fruit- or herb-infused water which is often cheaper than bottled seltzer or gallons of lemonade/iced tea.
- Replace bottled water with water stations.
- If beverage costs are more than $5/person inclusive per cup of coffee, distribute $5 Starbucks or other outlet coffee cards to participants. This is most effective for early-morning coffee provisions, and at smaller meetings (1,000 people lined up at Starbucks isn’t a great outcome!).
- Ask the caterer if they have Staff or Crew menus for staff meals.
- If it’s practical, provide a “deconstructed” box lunch which saves money on staffing allowing the caterer to shave off some costs.
- Opt for meatless menus, which is also sustainable.
- Offer drink tickets at receptions versus having an open bar, or limit it to beer and wine.
- Methodically track all food and beverage consumption so you don’t over order for future years (down to the kind of sandwich left or how many shrimp cocktails are left. This also helps tell you what kind of menu to plan.)
- See if the convention center can do concession lunches that count towards your food and beverage minimum. Some centers will only charge you for vouchers redeemed.
- Ask the hotel/AV company/whoever supplies easels to provide a set number for a one-time price and put them out/move them yourself, instead of charging per easel per day.
- Talk to your AV provider before finalizing your general session schedule. Partner with them to create the most cost effective labor schedule.
- Negotiate a max two-day rate for rigging fees in your hotel contract upfront so you’re not paying daily rigging fees.
- Eliminate the production of mailed marketing pieces in exchange for electronic options. Cutting the mail pieces saves staff and designer time, postage and shipping.
- Choose a mobile app over printing the full or partial conference program to save on the cost of staff time and the designers time to draft and edit the print piece(s), printing and shipping.
- Combine your traffic building activity and your social media marketing – at no cost! Ask attendees to tweet photos of themselves with as many vendor booths as possible and use the show hashtag. Choose one pic a day and give a prize!
- Talk to your counterparts at the hotel and other conference vendors—ask them for money-saving recommendations as well as what they’ve seen other groups do. If you keep doing things the same way, you’ll spend the same amount.
- Negotiate early, chances are there’s a compromise and even if the price can’t be lowered, this allows time for the vendor to offer alternate solutions that may work within a smaller budget.
- Check if your organization is tax-exempt in your venue’s state. Sometimes tax-exempt status is available depending on your organization’s tax classification.
This list is just the tip of the iceberg. Want more budget-friendly event options? Contact us to learn how we can support your event and implement these and may other cost-effective tactics.