When everything is more expensive, what is a planner to do?

Staying in budget has always been one of the top challenges listed by meeting professionals. Rising inflation for everything from venues and staffing to chicken and eggs is a recipe for overages. In fact, the reported 25% increase in average airline ticket prices has given many attendees pause. A recent study by American Hotel & Lodging Association discovered that, although an encouraging 69% of Americans are likely to travel this summer, 90% say inflation is a major factor in their decision to do so within the next three months.

But there are ways to stay in the black for those well versed in the art of cutting costs. Smart Meetings talked to our in-house meeting planner, Michele Gardner-Kelley, about ways to save money on everything from room rates to decor.

The First Cut

Cutting down on essentials for an event is no easy task, but there are ways to shave costs without attendees feeling any change in quality. One way this can be done is by eliminating the least necessary item first.

One trick is to go to standard room from deluxe room for attendees, Gardner-Kelley suggested. This way you can keep the upscale property, but the incremental savings for the entire room block will add up at the end of the stay.

Read MoreHow to Budget Realistically for Hybrid Meetings

Another cut that feels like an addition is eliminating canned beverages in favor of refillable water bottles—it is better for the environment and the budget. Smart Meetings collaborates with Heart Water to give out reusable water bottles to keep people hydrated and make a social difference as the company donates to provide clean water in areas where it is lacking.

You can also ask to have coffee and tea stations refreshed half as often to save on staffing costs since we all know how expensive coffee service can be.

The Last Cut

There’s one thing Gardner-Kelley believes, unless absolutely necessary, one should not skimp out on: experiences. The experience your attendees have during your event “is the most memorable,” she said.

Same goes for meals. Cutting on food is also a big no-no in Gardner-Kelley’s eyes. “People remember that,” she added.

Also last on the list to be cut: Audio-visual. “That is the show,” she explained. You can have the most elaborate stage set and highest paid speaker, but if no one can see or hear, it is not going to have an impact.

Smart Tips

small woman standing next to large percentage symbolCities of all sizes rely on meetings business. Smaller cities, in particular, may be more lenient in catering to your needs, especially if you’re flexible in your dates and times, Gardner-Kelley said. “Smaller cities may work more with you on rate and budget, especially if you can be flexible on your dates and times to fill a hole between individual travelers,” she added.

And if you have any difficulty finding transportation or entertainment, Kelly recommends working with the city’s local CVB. “Work with local CVB partners because they know what is available and might be able to help. Their job is to help bring people there,” she said.

Final tip: “A local DMC can also be priceless when it comes to creating impact.”

Apps for Saving

Yep, there are apps for saving money at events.

Read MoreTop 10 Apps for Meeting Professionals

If you aren’t already, Kelly recommends using event apps, as they save on printing costs in addition to their environmental benefits. “Any paper you can remove from the show is a win,” she said.

Uber for Business is a logistical and financial tool. The company offers corporate travelers access to rides and meals in more than 70 countries and 10,000 cities. Uber for Business can help event professionals streamline the entire planning process, saving you time and money.

This article appears in the July 2022 issue. You can subscribe to the magazine here.