Big Sales Meetings on Small Budgets

By Lain Ehmann

Even with the economy improving, meeting expenditures are still under intense scrutiny. Frank Goldstin, CEO of the Experential Agency in Chicago, shares tips on how to create a big splash without breaking the bank.

1. Focus on your goals. Once you know what’s important to you, direct dollars toward top priorities and shave expenses on less important items.

2. Shorten the length of the event. Room rates are one of the largest expenditures for any meeting. By coming together for three days instead of four, for example, you can trim the overall cost of your event significantly, says Goldstin.

3. Make every moment count. While you want to give attendees time to relax and enjoy themselves, make R&R work for you. Ask golf foursomes to come up with their customers’ top objections while on the green, or have salespeople test-run their elevator speech to each other during cocktail hour.

4. Pick a central location. Find a locale that works for everyone and is easily accessible, recommends Goldstin. While lodging costs may be less in a smaller town, you might end up paying more for travel. “You don’t want to go to Indianapolis unless you’re based in Indianapolis,” he says.

5. Take all expenditures into consideration. For example, while room rates might be cheaper in Las Vegas, setup charges aren’t – and those charges can end up costing you big, says Goldstin. Look at the whole package cost instead of just one element.

6. Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate. Ask for lower room rates or for a complimentary cocktail reception, for example. Goldstin also suggests working with the city’s convention and visitors’ bureau to issue an RFP and have multiple properties bid for your business.

7. Choose your hotel carefully. Look for a non-union hotel to save on A/V and room setup charges. Consider avoiding the downtown area. Airport hotels, for example, often are perfectly suited for business meetings and cost less than their city-based counterparts. If you want to be in the thick of things, look at a three-star instead of a five-star property, says Goldstin.

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