per point, per day charges to use the fixed installation points in
the ceiling to hang truss and other equipment. Another gotcha is
requiring you to use the in-house AV. You should always be able to
bring in an outside production or AV company if you want to, and
many times this requirement, too, can be negotiated away.”
Krueger also refers to today’s bandwidth pricing at venues as a
“bloody mess,” as he opines there is no consistency in pricing or
service provided. He urges planners to be sure to ask for a detailed
report on usage following a function, helping them determine just
how much bandwidth they’ll need next time around.
Patti Shock, CPCE, CHT, Academic Consultant
Patti Shock is an academic consultant for The International School of
Hospitality and a Professor Emeritus with UNLV.
Shock says that the way events present their F&B can save a substantial amount of money.
“At receptions, have appetizers passed on
trays rather than having tables heaped with
food,” she says. “Guests usually consume
less food when it is passed on trays or plat-
ters. Plates can add as much as one-third
[extra] to food costs.”
Another trick is dividing fare between
table and tray servings, with tables offering
more frugal fare like cheese and crackers,
with upscale cuisine like shrimp limited to
“timed waves” of tray servings.
As for the beverage side of things, Shock
says the budget should not exceed 20 percent of the F&B cost, and
suggests having bartenders control alcohol dispensation with “pour
spouts” such as Posi-Pour by Magnuson Industries.
Christy Lamagna, CMP, CMM, CTSM, President,
Strategic Meetings And Events
Christy Lamagna has organized gatherings from intimate retreats to
events of 150,000.
Lamagna has a wealth of budgeting gems gained from 25 years in
the industry. For receptions, she advises popping some bubbly, as
attendees “don’t drink champagne in abundance but feel very glamorous when served it, so the presentation and the cache goes a long
way.” Another easy trick is hosting only a dessert reception, giving
attendees free time for dinner on their own away from the venue.
In other event areas, she advises arranging a cumulative attrition rate
with your venue that includes a provision to only be charged for rooms
in your category—not a full house; and also offering event speakers the
chance to sell their book in return for a lower appearance fee.
The Hotel Perspective
he following insights are courtesy of Katie Allen, complex director of
sales at Sheraton and Westin Kansas City at Crown Center. The combined
venues offer 1,454 guest rooms and 150,000 square feet of event space.
During the RFP process, clients often fail to build in coffee
breaks or share detailed F&B history, so many proposals
are sent without a “placeholder” for coffee breaks
(typically twice a day) or without the knowledge
of the group being heavy drinkers on the opening
night reception. Too many times the planner will
take the estimated food and beverage presented at
the proposal stage and build their registration fees
from it; not giving an allowance for additional food and
Another spending/budgeting error is in the way F&B may
be marketed to a group and an attendee’s impression of how much
or often they might be fed. Placing “breakfast” on an agenda but ordering a finite
number of coffee by the gallon and Danish by the dozen will almost always lead
to unhappy attendees who came hungry expecting something more substantial.
What is most important to achieving your conference objectives? Is having a live
feed to two screens in a meeting room for 300 people truly worth the additional
expense? Could you take a similar amount of money and invest in faster Internet
for your attendees? It is important to understand that there are a number of
tiers within the technology realm and you need to really know when you need the
Cadillac vs. the Camry; in most cases you can accomplish the same objectives but
you may not need H if standard is available. Obtain as much history of your data
use as possible so you can take that to the table when working with HSIA (
high-speed Internet access) needs; how many users, how many devices, streaming
video or checking email, etc.
Know your group’s willingness to be on time and not dawdle. Your transportation
company will quote your needs based off the number of passengers and the
route; you need to be candid about their speed and timeliness so they may quote
a buffer hour should you need it. I have seen many social groups that end up
overspending on their transportation because they didn’t provide enough coaches, allowing the coaches to leave half-full to make the roundtrip from the hotel to
their destination and back, but their attendees were in no hurry to load the bus
on either end of their program, causing many additional runs after contracted
hours. That can add up quickly.
Entertainment and Education/Speakers
You have to do an ROI on what this expense brings to the conference. Are you
able to grow your programs and is your attendance relatively fixed? If your
attendance cannot grow to offset any additional expense in getting a top-dollar
entertainer or speaker, can you get a sponsor to assist with that portion of the
program? Is the entertainment or speaker in full alignment with your conference goals? Is the attendance at the entertainment portion mandatory, or do
you allow attendees to either purchase or not purchase a ticket to the event? In
either case, always get a rider in advance of confirming a speaker or entertainment as they often contain additional needs that are a cost back to the hiring
organization: airport transfers, hospitality, travel companion expenses, etc. For
educational content, ask yourself, is there anyone within the organization who
can present the same material in a similar light-hearted manner that may also be
able to connect better with the attendees as he or she is one of them? This often
has as much impact and can save you precious dollars.