by Lisa Grimaldi | February 01, 2009

This web-exclusive article accompanied Penny Savers by Lisa Grimaldi (M&C, February 2009), about how to save money on meetings.

Trim ground costs. Consider negotiating discounted rates with a shuttle service, such as SuperShuttle. Another idea is to ask arriving attendees (two or three) to share taxis; just have a staff member on-site to coordinate matchups. If you have a lot of local attendees who will be driving, provide transportation to the venue via shuttle or van to avoid high parking charges at the facility.

Offer water. When guests enter a reception, have servers stationed at the room entrance with trays of champagne, sparkling water and plain water. Many people prefer tap water, and it will cut your alcohol bill.

Close quietly. Never give a "last call" for the bar. This will bump up your bar fees and might increase your liability by encouraging attendees to have "one more for the road."

Decorate with dough.
Instead of centerpieces, have the hotel/facility provide bread baskets with a variety of rolls and lavash (Armenian flatbread) for each table. Have the hotel order a contrasting napkin to place underneath the basket.

Buy by the serving.
For breaks, purchase individually packaged items on consumption, so you only get charged for items eaten. Examples: granola bars, cans of soda, bags of chips.

Decorate with light. Use lighting to fill space and provide inexpensive graphics; gobos (metal plate inserted in spotlight) can project the company logo or event theme onto the walls.

Get personal.
Have your registration staff or hotel registration desk hand out special notes or invitations at registration instead of incurring delivery charges by having them dropped off by hotel staff to individual rooms.

Pay promptly. Ask if the hotel will give you a discount if you settle a portion of the meeting bill before you leave the property.