As the economy still stands in a recession and members and sponsors are watching their money more closely; Associations today need to come up with more creative and smart ways of planning their meetings.  How can your organization save money and still make it attractive to your members and sponsors without losing attendance?

Here are some tips that we at Morgan Hollingworth have found helpful for planning a successful meeting in today’s economy.

1. Smart Planners Know Where to Negotiate

-Leverage multiple meetings at same location (hotels are likely to show more flexibility or negotiate on price due to achieving a certain revenue number).

-Ask for the meeting room fees to be waived if you GTD a certain amount of people/headcount.

-Ask for a discount; let them know you are working with other sites and they have quoted a price and you want to see if they can beat it or come down on pricing.

-Negotiate Food and Beverage requirements by adjusting the category or menu and asking for a discount.  Be creative you don’t have to stick to the set menu they have; it’s usually what they have printed but you can tailor it to your needs and budget.

-Negotiate the audio/visual expense- A/V is a hidden expense that can quickly add up, and sometimes be negotiated, but not always.  Renting LCD, microphones, projectors, podiums varies from venue to venue, and can be price quite outrageously.  If your venue doesn’t demand unionized labor, be bold and suggest discounting.  If they cannot discount ask to bring in your own AV Company, most times you can find a local company for a lot less.

2. Make it count

It’s a proven fact that while people tend to cut back or be cautious on what they spend their money on in a recession; they will be more likely to attend your event, meeting, luncheon, or fundraiser if the topic or speaker is worthwhile or beneficial.   Thus, the main items that go into a meeting (e.g. speaker, location, technology) are areas you should ensure are taken care of first, and the areas that surround the meeting content (e.g.  Day or evening event, parking, off-site activities, and weather contingency plan) should come second.  Although helpful, the latter sets of logistics do not impact the return on the meeting experience as much as if you cut back on your technology or speaker.

3. Here nor There

When choosing a venue; there are two things that top the list: budget and location.  If the site is too pricey or too far for people to get to, this will cause your attendance to drop by 30%.  So when picking a site be sure to:

-Know your audience (what firms are they coming from & set the mood for the meeting with the location)

-Know your budget (don’t be afraid to ask for discount)

-Make sure the location is easy to get to by public or personal transportation and parking is available.

4. Cut Cost Cautiously

As soon as the economy starts slowing down, many organizations think they need to cut their ticket/registration cost in order to get attendance.  But this is a short term solution.  Only cut cost or decrease your prices if it won’t harm your business in the future.  You can always lower your price- but you can’t always raise your price, so determine that wisely before making the cut.

5. Reassess Your Budget

Don’t be afraid to review your budget mid year and see if you are on track, or if you are headed for the red.  If you have negotiated your meetings to be at a specific hotel or location for the duration of your fiscal year and the numbers worked out in the beginning; do yourself a favor and add up what you spent to date.  You might be surprised that you are over budget or under budget and can change the venue location mid year to fit your needs and make the numbers work out in the end without being surprised when its too late.  If you are under budget you can show some appreciation for the members by changing the venue to someplace fancy or nicer; your members will thank you for it.

Planning a meeting or event in this economy can be challenging; hopefully by incorporating some of these tips if you aren’t already you can save your organization some time and money!