Best Bang for the Buck

Seven simple tips to get the most out of your meeting budget.
Mar 02, 2006

MEETING PLANNERS ARE UNDER CONSTANT pressure to deliver the biggest bang for the buck. And despite millions of dollars being pumped into sales incentive meetings, training programs, product launches, and conferences every year, the days of lavish affairs and pharma galas are gone. Meeting professionals must be great event planners, but equally good at running their business as a business.

They are required to meet the corporate financial plan and produce valuable results—all while staying within a budget. The following seven tips will create a roadmap that guides the meeting professional through the budgeting and planning process with an eye on financial results.

1 Create better procedures Meeting planners who carry out a meeting plan without double-checking budget line items along the way are missing opportunities to add value without adding expenses or knowing when to reduce superfluous costs. Creating effective procedures for planning individual program budgets is the best way to ensure the meeting will stay within the parameters and schedule set forth in the initial phase.

Start by asking: Does the program have to make a profit, or can it just produce a goodwill return on investment? How can we service more employees with reduced funding? Did we motivate the staff? Did we save money on this event by bringing in sponsors? The answers to these questions help planners design and execute budgets that guarantee a successful outcome—one that meets the objective of the program both strategically and financially.

2 Know the objectives Knowing what the company and the attendees expect from a meeting will help determine the destination, the program, and above all, the cost. A successful budget process does not end with the creation of a budget, but rather the successful management of the budget. Budgets are simply tools; they are worthless except in the hands of someone who knows how to use them.

The right person will follow the rules and regulations set forth by the company, but know that budgets must be adjusted and monitored on a regular basis. They will recognize indications that a plan is off course. For instance, if revenue to date is less than what was predicted, the planner adjusts financially and logistically. Planners need to know if revenue is below expectation, since spending must be reduced to stay within ratios. More importantly, they need to be sure the available funds are being spent on items of high priority.

3 Identify all expenses A good place to start when identifying this year's expenses is to consult last year's budget. What needs to be adjusted in order to reflect changing costs and prices? Creating a budget spreadsheet to project expenditures and revenues will help identify a breakdown of costs associated with the event.

Budgets should contain a list of accounts for revenue or income from sponsors, and a list of accounts for expenses. Additionally, expenses should be broken into two categories: Fixed expenses remain the same regardless of how many people attend, such as the cost of renting a ballroom or contracting a speaker; variable expenses change based on attendance or quantities, such as the number of dinner guests, hotel rooms, or material packets produced. Knowing what falls into fixed and variable expenses will make it easier to determine what category is a genuine high priority. This brings us to the next point.

4 Identify high priority Let's say a budget's revenue is below expectation and a decision must be made about where to cut spending. It would make more sense to keep the fantastic speaker and cut back on food and beverage served if the program content supersedes the social networking part of the event. But if networking is more important to the company, meeting planners may opt for a less expensive speaker since the cocktail hour is the higher priority.

Keeping a close eye on budget revenue also helps planners recognize trends. If registration for a program is down from the previous year, is it due to a change in the industry, general economy, or because of the speaker or location chosen? This reduction in revenue must have a reason, and once planners can narrow it down, they can work on solutions such as additional marketing, broadening the invite list or finding a more engaging speaker. All of these steps will assist in enhancing revenue, and thus generate funding to produce the most successful program.

lorem ipsum