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How to Cut Event Costs Without Skimping on Quality


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Meeting planners are urged to partner, negotiate, and get creative with food options.

From logistics and venues to food and entertainment, there are many components to every event — all of which can push costs beyond the allocated budget. So how can business event organizers make their events more cost effective?

Isabelle Deniaud Lassara

The biggest challenge is reducing prices without compromising on quality, said Isabelle Deniaud Lassara, director PCO at MCI Benelux. A suggested place to start is to question and rethink what you’ve always done in the same way, to identify new and more productive or economical options. In Asia, for example, there is often a huge emphasis on food, so this is one area where savings could be made.

Joycelyn Hoh

“By looking at F&B from different angles and not just providing buffets — which more often than not lead to a lot of waste — consider options such as bento lunches, healthy breaks, and making use of local produce, which can deliver lower costs,” said Joycelyn Hoh, director, Singapore, at BCD Meetings & Events.

Deniaud Lassara also challenged the need to provide catering to all event participants. Some events prefer to offer food as a paying option, offering lower cost registration fees to participants who do not opt for food.

“This allows you to purchase catering only for a limited number of guests who have really paid for it,” she said. “For some destinations, you can serve tap water and you could also consider looking for destinations where you will be exempt from accommodation taxes.”

Esther Tsang

Negotiation skills also can pay off. Esther Tsang, senior events manager, Asia Pacific, for The Economist Events at The Economist Group, said it’s worth putting barter deals in place with select suppliers.

“These include venues, event-app providers, on-site registration service providers, internet-service providers, gift vendors and wine/spirit suppliers,” she said. “In return, these vendors could be provided with logo exposure and exhibition booth space at the event.”

Deniaud Lassara also urged careful examination of package options. They could be more expensive than buying per item.

She added: “Negotiate the last payment after the event. If something did not go well or did not meet the level of quality expected, do not hesitate to negotiate a rebate in cash or on your future event.”

Many organisations run events and meetings in silos and may miss collaboration opportunities to drive savings.

“Partnering with the same family of venues, hotels, and destinations for more than one event will lead to huge opportunities for negotiating on volume, not just with venues but on all other components, from audiovisual to production and from entertainers to part-time staff,” said BCD’s Hoh. “The cost can be shared across the multiple events that are taking place versus one event at a time.”

Another factor to consider is crowdsourcing. Hoh believes it’s a great way to gather resources, especially in areas of design, but this option can only be effective if there is clarity on objectives and enough lead time.

Collaborating with universities is another thing to consider. Hoh noted that schools often look for opportunities for their students to gain exposure in core areas that can aid event planners and help keep staffing costs down.

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