November 21, 2017
    5 Tips to Maximize Your Meetings Budget

     The Association TRENDS Finance Report found that meetings accounted for the top nonstaff expenditure overall for associations, with 16% of an association’s budget, on average, being allocated to meetings. Most associations expect flat revenue - 46.5%, according to the TRENDS Spring PULSE Report - while meetings participants expect more from sessions, leaving planners with the often arduous task of doing more with less.

    At the recent HSMAI MEET National conference, Vicky A. Betzig, CMP, president of Meetings Industry Consulting, suggested that the best way to maximize the meetings budget is to leverage the negotiation process, rather than trying to get added perks after the contract has been signed.
    “You can get really far by negotiating well and fairly,” Betzig said, but advised that in the small meetings industry, unreasonable negotiators can quickly find themselves black-listed. “Word will get around and [hotels and conference centers] won’t book you,” she  warned.

    What exactly constitutes “well and fairly”? Betzig offered the following advice to meeting planners:

    • Negotiate at the end of the month/quarter/fiscal year. It’s when sales representatives are up for bonuses, and they will be more accommodating. 
    • Consider signing multiyear, multicity contracts if you are using a major hotel group.
    • Agree to sign sooner with a 50% deposit on expected food and beverage spending in exchange for more favorable rates or additional perks. “Hotels are cash poor,” Betzig said, noting that they will be more willing to make concessions for what appears to be guaranteed business.
    • Ask for comp nights to be credited on a conglomerate basis, rather than based on individual registrations. Then ask for any unused comp nights to be credited back to the master account.
    • Find out if there’s another larger group holding a conference at about the same time. If so, try to coordinate menus to get a discount on food and beverage costs, as hotel chefs will have to order the same food and do the same food prep.
    • For A/V services, the breakdown charge should never be more than half of the set-up charge, but in most contracts, it is listed at the same cost. Negotiate this line item lower.

    Betzing also recommends planners “babysit the budget,” and have the earliest possible notification that something may not be going as planned.  She also said planners should avoid the first impulse to make cuts to meeting plans to compensate for budget shortfalls, and should instead look to increasing revenue through sponsorships, exhibitors, registration, and advertising sales.  If the budget must be cut, avoiding the urge to cut food and beverage and audio/visual services and offerings is the best idea. The attendees’ experience should remain optimal, and shortcomings in these services are among the first noticed.





    Association TRENDS