You are in the process of planning a series of meetings over the next 3 years and have just received an email from your boss indicating that there will be no more budget overruns. She also stated that in evaluating your last 10 meetings, it looked like there were many unexpected expenses and you went over budget by 5-15% on each event.
Below are the 5 things that can inflate your budget and what you can do to prevent them:
Budget Blower #1: You plan your meeting too late.
The closer you are to the product launching event, sales meeting, or executive retreat, the less available and more pricey things will become — from hotel rooms to renting audio visual equipment.
Solution: Get as much lead time as possible.
It is not uncommon to have a 3 year lead time for a large convention; but even small to medium sized meetings should be planned out at least a 6 to 12 months. The longer the lead time, the more opportunity you have to negotiate good contracts, lock in availability, and make sure nothing falls through the cracks.
Budget Blower #2: You have no budget.
Having no budget is like planning an event without objectives, agenda, or targeted attendees. You are setting yourself up for failure because there is no monetary checks and balances to determine your level of success.
Solution: Get a budget, review it often, and make adjustments as needed.
Putting together a budget with a general idea on how much you want to spend on accommodations, meeting space, food and beverage, and event audio visual rentals will help keep budget overruns from happening. Reviewing it weekly can help move monies from one line item to another. Obtain last year’s expenses to get you started on the process.
Budget Blower #3: You are inflexible on the dates and time of year for your event.
Scheduling a meeting during a hotel’s prime season is going to keep your costs high due to demand and availability. Hotels tend to be busiest mid-week, which can also raise rates.
Solution: Be flexible about everything.
When talking to the conference services and hotel staff, try and identify their slow season and slow days of the week. Do the same with your vendors. Determining their slow periods can provide a “win-win” for both of you and help you obtain discount pricing that isn’t possible during the high season.
Budget Blower #4: Don’t ask anyone for anything.
By all means, don’t let any of your professional colleagues know you are planning a conference in a strange city where you have no connections.
Solution: Ask for recommendations and use your connections.
Calling, emailing or asking for recommendations via online communities like LinkedIn Groups, provides planners a way to receive recommendations for speakers, hotels, and caterers. Let them know your budget parameters, right up front. Look to other online communities for reviews of hotel properties, such as TripAdvisor, Yelp or Google Review.
Budget Blower #5: Never send out a Request For Proposal (RFP).
You work with the same vendors and facility year after year — why change now?
Solution: Send out RFPs, when they make sense.
RFPs are meant to “level the playing field” among vendors and even though it isn’t a perfect process, comparing proposals can help you understand if you are getting a fair price for the service you are engaging. However, ethically it is wrong to send out RFPs to leverage existing vendors. If you are sending them out, you need to be 100% okay with leaving your current supplier.