The Strauss Blog

Planning A Conference With A Limited Budget – How and Where to Cut Costs

Most associations or small organizations are given a limited budget to work with when planning their conferences but you should never let this financial constraint limit your conference’s WOW factor. Instead, be creative and find ways to cut costs in your budget while still delivering a high quality experience to your delegates. Concentrate on what’s important to them by focusing on the experiential elements of your event. These include networking opportunities, educational content, ease of navigating the event and the general atmosphere.

Start your planning by making a list of all expenses and income (expenses means ALL expenses – it’s better to budget for extras than to forget a few). Consult the board of directors or the president of your association to ensure that the budget is approved before you start the planning process.

An event budget typically includes the following:

EXPENSES:

  • Venue
  • Food and Beverage
  • Advertising and Promotion
  • Speakers / Entertainment / Tours
  • Equipment (AV, exhibitor booths, poster boards)
  • On-site Staff Expenses (travel, accommodation)
  • Administrative (postage, printing, shipping)

INCOME:

  • Registration Fees / Event Tickets
  • Sponsors
  • Exhibitors
  • Other funding

With the above list in place you can look at where and how you can save money (without your attendees noticing).

5 Tips to Cutting Event Costs or Getting More for Your Dollar

1. Plan early and be flexible with the dates and location of your meeting. If you can afford to be flexible, you may be pleasantly surprised by additional savings during the off-season. The earlier you can book your venue the more options you will have. This may include affordable guest room rates and a complimentary meeting space. When choosing a location, keep your delegates needs in mind. If your group likes to use this conference as a family vacation, stick to destination type cities even though the cost may be higher. The most important aspect when selecting a venue is to NEGOTIATE. If the hotel can’t offer you discounted rates, they may be willing to offer extras that could in turn reduce your overall costs and improve your guest’s experience. Find out how to negotiate a hotel contract for your signature event or conference in our article on that topic. http://strauss.ca/negotiating-a-hotel-contract-for-your-signature-event-or-conference/.

2. Cut back on printing. With effective websites (see our article – http://strauss.ca/are-you-looking-to-improve-your-event-website/), a simple online registration system, and the use of Social Media, you will drastically reduce the printing costs. Instead of printing a complete conference program you can look at making it available online, or reducing the number of pages. The conference program at a glance could include an outline of the schedule, a list of exhibitors, and a hotel floor plan, but ask your delegates to refer to the website for speaker bios, session descriptions, special event details, etc.

3. Select budget savvy menu options. If the food is good and plentiful, attendees won’t question if you have chosen the cheapest menu option. Always work with the hotel to customize your meal options to fit within your budget. Can you look at shortening a day of conference sessions to remove an afternoon break? If your hotel is located by a food court, or several restaurants, you may want to reconsider supplying the breakfast. Find out more about how you can create your conference menu on a limited budget in our article – http://strauss.ca/satisfying-your-delegates-appetite-creating-your-conference-menu-on-a-limited-budget/. If you decide to forgo food, make sure your attendees know this in advance.

4. Get quotes from multiple suppliers (AV, printing, show services, etc.). You won’t know if someone can offer you a better price, unless you ask. And don’t be reluctant to let the suppliers know that you are contacting a few companies for quotes. This might entice them to offer you their best possible price.

5. Be clear about speaker expenses (see previous article – http://strauss.ca/compensating-industry-speakers/). Contact and confirm local speakers to decrease travel and accommodation costs. For speakers who are requiring travel and accommodation, be specific about which expenses will be covered and what their limits will be: Flights to be booked at economy fare two months before the event, specific dates on which meal costs would be covered and to what limit, maximum cost for taxi to and from the airport, etc. Another tactic is to ask for an “all-in” price that includes their fees, travel expenses, meals etc.

Saving money requires creative thinking, research and negotiation. Don’t let your limited budget limit your options.