With the new year upon us many of you are busy getting back into your business routine. If you are planning a conference for 2012 than you probably have a good idea of what the challenge will be this year. The one thing that I keep hearing from many meeting planners that I talk to is that the “B” word will be front and center. While there are many indications that conferences will increase in 2012, budgets will play a vital part in many meeting planners decisions.
Planning a Conference on a Budget Requires Creativity
It seems every time we have an economic downturn or an all-out depression, as the last few years are proving, we get used to trimming budgets while still executing full programs. Of course our knee-jerk reaction is to just cut components of our meeting”s program out altogether and thus lower the budget. However, the downturn is that there”s a real chance that you may not draw the number of attendees that you anticipate.
Meeting and event suppliers know all too well that overall meeting budgets are front and center. Fortunately this can translate into rate negotiations that usually will end well for the meeting planner. Other reports have shown us that luxury hotels may not be utilized as much as they have in the past. At least that”s the indication for the North American meetings market. In Asia the luxury hotel market doesn”t seem to be affected at the moment.
What this means for many meeting planners is that they have to take a creative approach to their meetings. Many will still hire local suppliers, such as Destination Management Companies (DMC), to assist with putting their program together. But you can bet that one of the first things the meeting planner will discuss with their local suppliers is budgets. This is where the age old question of whether or not to disclose your budget comes into play again. I”m of the school that there”s nothing wrong with telling a potential supplier what your budget is. After all how can you expect a supplier to provide you with ideas for your meeting if they”re not equipped with all of the tools that they require to put a proper proposal together for you.
Ideas for Planning a Conference on a Budget
Along with hotel service levels that a meeting planner will choose for their meeting there are also a few other areas that can help keep your meeting on budget while providing unique components at the same time. For example, if taking your group off-site for an evening during your conference has always been part of your program there are ways that you may still be able to do this without blowing your budget. For venues, look for places that have an in-house caterer or a full-service kitchen. This can cut your per person budget by about the same amount as your food menu alone. For transportation, if you”re meeting is large enough, consider talking to your local suppliers regarding sponsor programs. Depending on your industry there can be a magnitude of potential suppliers available that will sponsor some components of your transportation. The time of year can also have a great impact on your budget. That”s not to say that you have to hold your annual meeting in Chicago in January when you normally hold it in July. Rather it just means that you could evaluate the benefit of moving your meeting by several weeks. That alone can trim attractions and venues cost by about 15 to 25%.
If you are planning a conference for 2012 rest assured that you have an abundance of suppliers ready and willing to provide top notch service without blowing your budget. The message for 2012 seems to be that conferences will increase but budgets will stay front and center on many clients agendas. To win those pieces of business you have to stay one step ahead of your competition. And one of the best ways to do that is to offer your potential clients unique and interesting ideas yet keeping the budget in line. If you can do that you should see your company win a lot of those proposals.