Meetings for the Budget-Conscious Planner

By Christine Neuberger

Because of the softening of the economy, some high-tech and Internet-based companies are canceling off-site meetings. While other organizations are delaying events, more and more companies are making cost-cutting an everyday part of meeting planning. Whether economic times are bad, good or in-between, smart managers always try to stretch a meeting budget. Here are a few ways to get the biggest bang for your meeting buck, as suggested by Meeting Professionals International, a leading industry organization:

Be flexible with a meeting date if possible. If you’ve got at least two date options, find out which date fetches a better rate at the property of your choice. Schedule the meeting during a resort’s shoulder season – the period between the peak and off-seasons.

Negotiate the contract with the hotel to include discounted rates for multiple-day use of audiovisual equipment and rooms for speakers and corporate staff.

Meals can quickly gobble up your budget. Buffet or plated meal? Use the most cost-conscious method. For a continental breakfast, check whether it’s cheaper to buy coffee, juice and Danish in bulk instead of paying the per-person price. Got a small group? It may be cheaper to send fewer than 15 to the hotel’s restaurant rather than dish out a catered meal.

Alcohol, anyone? Closely examine the expense of paying for liquor by the bottle, by the drink or per person for a defined period of time.

Get mileage out of the trimmings. Make your centerpieces pull double duty: it’s cheaper to store and freshen up flowers than pay for new centerpieces. And don’t rent plants, special linens or props from an off-site supplier until you’ve asked the hotel if it can provide them at reduced or no cost. Unusual venues – historic buildings, museums and galleries – often need little decoration.

Who else can pay the tab? Line up business partners, vendors and suppliers to sponsor coffee breaks, receptions, transportation, giveaways and more.

Visit MPI on the Web at or phone MPI’s International Headquarters in Dallas at 972-702-3000.