Tag Archives: meeting savings

CVBs Bring Strong Value to Meetings

It’s not often that something really valuable is available for free. But when it comes to Convention and Visitor Bureaus (CVBs), it’s usually true!

Just think of the many services that CVBs provide for free to meeting professionals. Even experienced planners don’t always know everything they provide.

“When I worked for a CVB, I was amazed at all the services we provided that were just there for the asking,” says ConventionPlanit.com Co-Founder and Principal Katherine Markham, CHME. “I was always urging my clients to take advantage of them. Some did, but many did not. I think they missed out on some easy ways to make their meetings better.”

They can’t guarantee that it won’t rain during your event, and every CVB offers a different package, but here are just some of the free or low-cost services that CVBs typically provide:

Recommendations of reliable suppliers for everything from bus transportation to local caterers

• Extensive knowledge of unique local offsite locations for special events

• Assistance in identifying and booking hotels in the destination

• Coordination of site visits to hotels and other venues

• Collateral information on local attractions

Onsite assistance with registration and local information booths

• Public relations and local media contacts

Videos of the destination for promoting your meeting

• Welcome packets

Discounts to local restaurants, shops, and other attractions

• Welcome letters and appearances by local leaders

• Ideas and programs to make meetings greener

• Social responsibility programs such as volunteer opportunities at local charities

Many CVBs are listed on ConventionPlanit.com, making it easy to connect to some of these resources.

Save Time and Money on Food and Beverage

Meeting planners know better than anyone else how to cut food and beverage costs.

Here are some tips from the inside – advice shared by fellow meeting planners in the  “Stellar Tips” section of ConventionPlanit.com:

1.  Customize Menus

It’s no secret that food and beverage can be expensive.  Customizing menus can allow for greater variety, fresher ingredients, and cut costs.  Provide a total dollar amount to the chef or catering manager and request custom menus (keeping specific requirements in mind).

The chef is given flexibility to use seasonal or local specials, or piggyback other events being held that day, take advantage of specials offered by food suppliers – all while offering smaller and healthier portions and staying within budget.

2.  Alter the Food Presentation

Pass or butler more expensive items at a reception to make them last longer and save money.  Using napkins instead of plates, or asking the caterer to slice bakery items in half (bagels, muffins, croissants) allow for portion control.

3.  Eliminate Individual Beverages

Replace cans of soda with a self-service fountain soda station situated near the break area, and use water pitchers or coolers instead of bottles.   Attendees won’t be tempted to ‘take one for the road’.  These options are more cost effective (one planner saved $1000 by switching to water coolers!) and are good for the environment, too.

4.  Monitor a Beverage Manager

While doing the BEO, mention you would like to be present when the beverage manager tallies the bars and empties before they are finalized. (Liquor is counted by tenths of a bottle and then billed accordingly).

One count discrepancy resulting in a measurement change can equate to as many as 10-12 drinks!  This keeps the beverage manager on his toes and can result in hundreds of dollars in savings.

5.  Use a Voucher Program

Instead of preparing a traditional break time, ask the hotel to provide vouchers for the lobby snack shop.  Attendees are given vouchers, each worth $3, for example.  Each item in the snack shop is worth one voucher.  The vouchers are then counted and charged to the master account – which can be significantly less costly than a large break time.

Creative Food & Beverage on a Budget

It’s the nature of meeting planning that if the budget is reduced, the first area to be scrutinized for cuts is food and beverage.
Bonnie Wallsh, CMP, CMM, a chief strategist with 30 years of experience as a consultant, trainer and educator specializing in the meetings and hospitality industry and Sean Curry, executive chef at the Renaissance Harborplace Hotel in Baltimore, have collaborated to develop a list of cost-savings tips.
“From hotel negotiations to food presentation, there are endless ways you can reduce your food and beverage costs without sacrificing quality,” says Wallsh.
Here’s a sampling of tips:
• Dutch treat networking dinners – attendees join together for dinner according to topics of interest
• Evaluate costs savings of small groups eating in the hotel restaurant rather than a catered function with minimum charges
• Negotiate complimentary reception or refreshments at registration
• Give attendees hotel vouchers instead of a closing luncheon – many attendees may not use them
• Order any individually packaged items such as soda, bottled waters, juices, individual yogurts, by consumption, not by person
• Shorten time of reception or provide inexpensive entertainment – guests will eat less if their attention is diverted – and avoid salted snacks which make people thirstier
• Have wait staff ask if refills are wanted before refilling wine glasses
• Consider a cash bar
• Use history to determine guarantees and order by consumption, not per person
• Investigate sponsorship of meal functions – serve dessert near sponsor’s booth if trade shows follows lunch
• Cut down on portions, reduce number of courses, serve continental breakfast instead of full American breakfast, use boxed lunches if appropriate and serve light lunches, such as salads, rather than heavy entrees
• Take advantage of “dead wine” – wine in inventory — and use opened bottles of liquor and wine for hospitality or VIP suite
• Piggy back off other groups’ events
• Use meal tickets
• Use butler service instead of buffet tables
“There are no limits to how creative you can get while cutting corners,” says Wallsh. “Just with centerpieces — you can use an innovative way to put the buffet lunch on a Lazy Susan as the centerpiece, you can use fresh fruit or vegetables which can be consumed or donated to the homeless or consider a ‘do your own party’ theme where attendees work in groups to make their own centerpieces.”
For more great meeting ideas, visit www.conventionplanit.com and mouse over the “For Planners Only” section and go to the “Stellar Tips” link. There is no registration required and you can even enter your own Stellar Tip for a chance to win a valuable prize.
Bonnie Wallsh Associates, LLC works in tandem with clients to develop outstanding programs and meetings. The company can be reached by email at bwacmp@carolina.rr.com and by telephone at 704-491-0921.

It’s the nature of meeting planning that if the budget is reduced, the first area to be scrutinized for cuts is food and beverage.

Bonnie Wallsh, CMP, CMM, a chief strategist with 30 years of experience as a consultant, trainer and educator specializing in the meetings and hospitality industry and Sean Curry, executive chef at the Renaissance Harborplace Hotel in Baltimore, have collaborated to develop a list of cost-savings tips.

“From hotel negotiations to food presentation, there are endless ways you can reduce your food and beverage costs without sacrificing quality,” says Wallsh.

Here’s a sampling of tips:

Dutch treat networking dinners – attendees join together for dinner according to topics of interest

Evaluate costs savings of small groups eating in the hotel restaurant rather than a catered function with minimum charges

Negotiate complimentary reception or refreshments at registration

Give attendees hotel vouchers instead of a closing luncheon – many attendees may not use them

Order any individually packaged items such as soda, bottled waters, juices, individual yogurts, by consumption, not by person

Shorten time of reception or provide inexpensive entertainment – guests will eat less if their attention is diverted – and avoid salted snacks which make people thirstier

Have wait staff ask if refills are wanted before refilling wine glasses

Consider a cash bar

Use history to determine guarantees and order by consumption, not per person

Investigate sponsorship of meal functions – serve dessert near sponsor’s booth if trade shows follows lunch

Cut down on portions, reduce number of courses, serve continental breakfast instead of full American breakfast, use boxed lunches if appropriate and serve light lunches, such as salads, rather than heavy entrees

Take advantage of “dead wine” – wine in inventory — and use opened bottles of liquor and wine for hospitality or VIP suite

Piggy back off other groups’ events

Use meal tickets

Use butler service instead of buffet tables

“There are no limits to how creative you can get while cutting corners,” says Wallsh. “Just with centerpieces — you can use an innovative way to put the buffet lunch on a Lazy Susan as the centerpiece, you can use fresh fruit or vegetables which can be consumed or donated to the homeless or consider a ‘do your own party’ theme where attendees work in groups to make their own centerpieces.”

Bonnie Wallsh Associates, LLC works in tandem with clients to develop outstanding programs and meetings. The company can be reached by email at bwacmp@carolina.rr.com and by telephone at 704-491-0921.

North American Meeting Tax Deductions

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has long held that expenses incurred in connection with a convention, seminar, or similar meeting in North America are deductible.

These generally include accommodations, meals, meeting materials, and ground and air transportation associated with the meeting, convention, or seminar.

For meetings held outside North America, expense deductions are limited. The specifics of this law are contained in Section 274(h) of the Internal Revenue Code.  The law was updated in IRS Bulletin 2007-18, published April 30, 2007.

This bulletin identifies the following U.S. areas and other nations that fall under the definition of “North America” for the purpose of claiming meeting-related tax deductions:

  • The 50 states of the United States and the District of Columbia*
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Aruba
  • Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Bermuda
  • Canada
  • Costa Rica
  • Dominica
  • Dominican Republic
  • Grenada
  • Guyana
  • Honduras
  • Jamaica
  • Mexico
  • Netherlands Antilles
  • The Republic of the Marshall Islands
  • The Federated States of Micronesia
  • The Republic of Palau
  • Trinidad and Tobago

Some Caribbean nations, such as Saint Lucia, are not included. In the case of Saint Lucia, expenses are not deductible because this nation has not enacted legislation to enact the tax information exchange agreement it signed with the United States in 1987.

The possessions of the United States, which for this purpose are American Samoa, Baker Island, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Howland Island, Jarvis Island, Johnston Island, Kingman Reef, the Midway Islands, Palmyra Atoll, the United States Virgin Islands, Wake Island, and other United States islands, cays, and reefs not part of the 50 states or the District of Columbia

Memphis: A Cool City with a Warm Welcome

What’s the most surprising thing about Memphis?

Most meeting planners recognize Memphis, Tennessee as a cool city with a great vibe, but many say they don’t realize how much the city offers. The city has more than 50 attractions that are unique to Memphis, including Graceland, Beale Street and the National Civil Rights Museum. Plus it has a sizzling nightlife and live blues music can be heard in most every bar/club throughout the city. The central location of Memphis makes it easy to reach from anywhere in the United States.

A High-Value Destination

Memphis offers strong value in this tough economy – it’s a Southern city offering costs and rates that average half of nearly all first-tier and many second-tier cities. With a the state-of-the-art 300,000 square-foot Cook Convention Center located in the heart of downtown partnered with first-class guest accommodations, unrivaled attractions, world-class performing arts, multi-cultural festivals/events and excellent restaurants, Memphis is an impressive overall convention package.

Hotels and More

Celebrating its 140th anniversary in 2009, the Peabody Hotel, hailed as the South’s Grand Hotel, is adding 163 upscale suites – 2 office suites, 152 standard suites, 7 upgraded suites and 7 presidential-type suites – on the second and third levels of the entertainment complex at 150 Peabody Place. This will give the Peabody Hotel over 600 hotel rooms.

The 600-room Memphis Marriott Downtown, the largest hotel in the city, recently underwent a $5 million guest room update. The hotel has an indoor connection to the convention center, offering excellent convenience for large meetings.

Another major property, The Crowne Plaza Memphis is within walking distance of the shopping, dining, and legendary blues entertainment of Beale Street and is also close to the convention center, the Pyramid, Mud Island, the Orpheum Theater, and Graceland.
The Grade Hotel is a new 30-room boutique hotel conveniently located on South Front Street.

Elvis says thank you very much to Memphis

Starting this month, Delta Air Lines is adding three daily nonstop, round-trip flights between Memphis International Airport and Dallas’ Love Field. Customers flying between Love Field and Memphis will have connecting opportunities to 237 peak-day flights with 90 worldwide destinations.

Memphis is also a place that welcomes visitors with genuine warmth and charm. If you want to capture the true essence of Memphis, if you want to define its true character, you’ll find it in the welcoming smiles of its people. In fact, if the city’s most famous resident – Elvis Presley – could revisit Memphis, he would have just six words: “Thank you! Thank you very much!”

Frugal Meeting Planner’s Guide to Saving Money

What’s ahead for 2009? Nobody knows for sure, but it seems certain that it will be a year to save money wherever possible, anticipating probable declines in meeting attendance, exhibits, and sponsorships.

With that in mind, ConventionPlanit.com presents the following money-saving meeting tips gleaned from the popular Stellar Tip Archives on ConventionPlanit.com:

If you have a number of events to book within a 12 month period and most of the attendees at each event are unique, use the same host city and hotel to leverage buying power. There are other advantages as well, particularly relationships with vendors where they learn your expectations, you learn (after event 1) what should be improved upon and you are not reinventing each event, saving you time and dollars.
Submitted by: Sherry Cummins, Enterprise Events Coordinator, with Con-way Inc. Ann Arbor, Michigan

AV is more and more necessary in today’s meeting environment. AV has come to be in the double digits of my budget. Know that this too is negotiable and event planners can use outside companies to supply the AV, not just the in-house provider! Know the choices and options to negotiate!
Submitted by: Keri-Dawn Selinger, Director Events & Programs, with The Likeable Lawyer, Austin, Texas

When negotiating your contract, make sure you include into your negotiation for the hotel to comp hanging of three or four banners. If you designate your location on the contract you are limited and the cost of rigging can cost you more money. If you write on the contract, “client to chose locations of banners,” you can save yourself thousands of dollars of rigging costs.
Submitted by: Madeline Cancel, Conference and Event Director, with Benchmarc360, Inc., Atlanta, Georgia

If you’re having a reception, pass/butler the more expensive items (you’ll be able to make them last longer and save money), don’t set plates on the display table – use only napkins (this will ensure your attendees get to sample all the offerings but won’t walk away from the display station with a mound of food) and stick with beer and wine at the bar
Submitted by: Debbie DeJacques, Senior Manager, with GMA, Washington, DC

If your budget for breakfast is tight, ask the catering director to cut your pastries (muffins, bagels, etc.) in half. They go a lot farther, as some people will tend to take a smaller piece, especially in this “carb-aware” era!
Submitted by: Laura Johnson, VP, Conferences, with Market*Access, Arlington, Virginia

Save money on the beverage bill – when I do my BEOs I let the manager know at that time that I would like to be with the beverage manager when they tally the bars and empties. Liquor is counted by tenths of a bottle and then billed accordingly, If I disagree with a count and the measurement is changed it could be the equivalent to 10-12 drinks. It also keeps the beverage manager on his toes! I have saved hundreds of dollars just by checking the bars before the totals are finalized.
Submitted by: Stacy Wald, Director of Meeting Events, with Orthopaedic Asoociations, Towson, Maryland

When negotiating best rates with a hotel, try to find other meetings being held in the hotel and see what kind of rates they are getting. I usually simply “Google” hotel name, location and “conference” or “convention.” This gives you good negotiating power.
Submitted by: Victoria Umin, Project Manager, with CSCA, Winnipeg, Manitoba

When working with a limited budget for a full day of meals I provide my total dollar amount to the chef or catering manager and request that they customize menus for me, keeping in mind any specific requirements I have for each event. This allows them to use seasonal or local specials, piggyback onto other events being held that day, take advantage of specials offered by their food suppliers, and offer smaller, healthier portions. I stay within my budget, my attendees are offered healthier options, and the chef is able to use some creativity instead of the same old banquet menus. It’s a win-win for all.
Submitted by: Kathleen Zwart, Management Development Specialist, with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida, Jacksonville, Florida

Rather than pay the exorbitant prices for bottled water at our breaks, I have the hotel bring pitchers of ice water with bowls of lemon slices. The participants love the added lemon and it prevents them from stashing 2-3 bottles of $4 water in their purses when they leave.
Submitted by: Linda Testa, Course Coordinator, with AO North America, Paoli, Pennsylvania