Stretching the budget

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Two event professionals share their advice on making every penny count

Jacqui Kavanagh, CEO of Trinity Event Solutions:

Many organisers will look to save money by negotiating with their venues, but it’s not a straightforward process because hotels and venues are now in the driving seat. They have a more scientific approach to their pricing policies and more resilience too. Space will be managed more tightly with minimum numbers per room stricter than they may have been in the past. Contracts are becoming more rigid with less room for negotiation.

There are ways in which an organiser or venue finder can obtain a better deal. Start by being aware of the market the hotel or venue is in and how important your type of business is to them. To a venue not all business is good business and so they need to match the right business at the right price at the right time. Find out what business is good business to them. When we conduct a site visit, we always ask a venue what their ideal size and type of event is and if they prefer day delegates or residential events. This ensures we can better match a venue to our clients’ events and create the ideal partnership that works for all parties.

Demonstrate that you are a professional in your field rather than an amateur – amateurs cost hotels money and can be risky business. Show that your business is good for the venue and make it desirable for them. Build relationships with your venues, look at a long term relationship with both the venue and the venue group and review your overall buying position; is your buying spread over lots of venues or is it streamlined to a few suppliers, making you a big fish in their pond and therefore more attractive to them? Would a three-year contract bring the price down?

Travel time and money can be a costly part of an event’s budget. Consider your options and whether a series of events across the country would be more time and cost effective than one huge national conference.

Larger event spaces tend to be booked ahead, so longer lead times will mean that you will have more venue options available to you, and therefore be able to better negotiate. Smaller events, say a boardroom for five, are easier to book because most venues have several small spaces that can accommodate this number. Leaving smaller events to the last minute may attract a better ‘last minute’ rate.

Be as flexible as possible in your choice of location and always consider the world outside of the MICE industry and events that may impact on the availability of bedrooms and space available in given months. We are all aware that holding a residential conference in South London during Wimbledon will be pricy, but there are many other one-off events that could impact on room availability too. Do your research and find out before you become set on your dates. Consider your chosen location, and how important it is to the success of the event: the West End of London may be an exciting and vibrant setting but it’s far more expensive than Watford so consider if location is a key factor for you or if economies could be made. 

Emma Cartmell, CEO CHS Group:

The economic climate of recent years has meant that event organisers have a much keener eye on budgets and always looking at ways to save money. The consequence of this is that event quality can suffer if savings are made in the wrong places. So how do you cut costs without cutting corners or having a negative impact on your event and your delegate experience?

If you are running an annual event, don’t be complacent; review your suppliers and go out to tender. Don’t take a heavy-handed approach and screw them down on price, talk to them and take a partnership approach. If you ask each of your incumbent suppliers to shave 10% off their costs then it soon mounts up, but it is really important to ask what they would like from you in return. Negotiate and get an understanding of what is important to them. They could be interested in the security of a two or three-year contract, or if their cash flow is tight, then they may benefit from shorter payment terms or even payment in advance by a set date.

If you represent a prestigious brand then your supplier may be interested in the kudos they receive by working with you – but this has to translate to something tangible. Perhaps you could agree that your event can be written up as a case study or that you give them a detailed testimonial. It’s all down to the individual supplier, so try to get to know them and what is important to them and their business.

Another key consideration is the venue. Be flexible with your dates and you may find that you can get a better deal. If you have a considerable investment in additional infrastructure – such as carpet, a stage or other structural addition to the venue – then it’s worth finding out who else is using your venue that month and then seeing if you can team up over dates and share the installation fees. The cost of the installation is usually the most expensive element, so sharing this can bring huge cost savings to both events.

Look at the economic impact of your event and the benefits it brings to the destination. The local convention bureau may not be able to help financially, but they may have local contacts and suppliers that you can use which will save you time – and therefore money.

Be open, be flexible and work with your suppliers and you will all benefit.

Martin Fullard

Author

Martin Fullard

Martin Fullard: journalist, presenter, producer. Martin is the Deputy Editor at Conference News and Conference & Meetings World magazines. He leads the digital channels on Mash Media’s Conference Division as well as heading up Mash TV. He is formerly a web editor at a national newspaper in the Middle East and motoring journalist.

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