On the heels of multiple studies showing that event professionals are increasingly being asked to do more with less, Smart Meetings asked a veteran planner for tips on how to create “wow” on a budget. Doug McPhee, Experient senior global account manager, recently spoke at CMP Conclave in Birmingham, Alabama, on this very topic and shared the 10 things that can trim the bottom line without sacrificing the end-product.


1. Consider multi-year contracts: Finding new venues every year can be time consuming for all parties involved. Most properties will negotiate for a lower price if they can lock in the business for two or three years. In addition to reducing costs for additional site visits, it allows the team to fine tune the relationship and find efficiencies only experience reveals.

2. Include a GDPR clause: Protecting your attendees’ right to data privacy is crucial. Drafting a General Data Protection Regulation clause to disclose how international attendee data is being stored and used could save you massive fines in the future.

3. Be flexible: Accommodating availability at venues could result in more money at the bottom line and access to properties you might not otherwise be able to afford. It could also mean more attendees at your event, if you are able to work around the calendars of other things that might demand their time.

Related: GDPR Redefines Industry Privacy Practices on a Global Scale


4. Pre-plan during your FAM: Familiarization trips are a great way to get an overview of a possible space while being treated like royalty, but make the most of the time by taking measurements, asking pointed questions, meeting staff and using it as a chance to pre-plan.

Food and Beverage

5. Modify your menus: It’s sad but true that food is often wasted at meetings. Meeting professionals and hotels err on the side of more to ensure no one goes hungry. McPhee suggests working with the chef to cut portion sizes and limit buffets so you are serving exactly what attendees need.

6. Never announce “last call.” There’s nothing that’ll get people rushing to the bar like the announcement that the bar will be closing. For planners who prefer their attendees to have a slow exit, McPhee recommends going for a soft close.


7. Always pre-con: Before the official event date arrives, smooth out any potential hiccups with the heads of the venue. This can save costly last-minute scrambles and hurt feelings.

8. Review accounts daily. Planning a daily review of your accounts is critical. “After coming back from an event, spending two weeks going through 250 documents can waste a lot of time,” says McPhee. Daily analysis will help to spot discrepancies in the moment.

9. Tap your speakers’ bureau. Rather than contacting speakers individually, save time by negotiating with multiple speakers using an expert familiar with their style to determine a good fit for your event’s purpose.

10. Partner with the local CVB. Convention and Visitors Bureaus are a great resource for gathering information about a destination. After all, their purpose is to market their respective destination to its visitors. CVBs can also offer access to planners within their destination, arrange site inspections and check for meeting and hotel space availability—all for free.