Big Meeting – Small Budget

By Kimberly L. McCall

Costs for large meetings, those with more than 100 attendees, can pile up quickly. Frank Goldstin is CEO for The Experiential Agency (www.expagency.com), an event marketing, design and production firm with offices in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles. Having planned meetings for clients including GE, Motorola and McDonald’s, Goldstin offers ideas on how to keep a meeting budget lean.

  • Consider the destination and timing. Hotel corporations and properties that are seasonal are willing to work with you to assure more favorable rates off-season. If you’re thinking of hosting your program in January in a warm climate such as Florida (in season), to get a better deal you’d be better off hosting the meeting in early summer (off season).
  • Since it’s a company sales meeting, the host normally pays for air travel, accommodations, events, food and beverage. To reduce costs, arrange for attendees to travel to and from the hotel property on their own dime, cutting from $5,000 to $8,000 from the budget.
  • Host your event with a Saturday-night stay over, as airfare for your attendees will be significantly more cost effective. Also, negotiate to work with one airline to receive the largest group travel discount.
  • Maximize your meeting time. Pack as much as you can into as few days as possible. The bottom line is that companies need to communicate. With the proper agenda, a lot can be done in a couple days time.
  • Cut back on off-hour events. Skipping a welcome reception or dinner function and allowing attendees to be on their own will help flush the fat from the budget. An evening event for 100 participants is, at minimum, $5,000—and that’s for a minimal cocktail party.
  • If you skip lavish events during the evening and take a pass on a fancy reception, do things attendees will remember. For example, have great walk-in and walkout music as attendees enter sessions and use breaks and lunches to create an upbeat environment. Just because it’s not a dinner or cocktail party doesn’t mean it can’t be fun and memorable.