June 01, 2002
Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio June 2002 Current Issue
June 2002 Back to BasicsPLANNER'S PORTFOLIO:

Back to Basics

By Louise M. Felsher, CMM, CMP


Prepare now to reallocate dollars wisely when departmental funds return

Positive signs are evident, but it is perhaps still too early to claim the economy has recovered. Many pundits insist we talked ourselves into this recession and need to spend our way out of it. Easier said than done, when your budget and staff have been cut to ether.

In the meantime, planning for the day when the budgets are resuscitated will give you an edge, not to mention the vision for finding additional savings going forward.

No doubt you have had a wish list for more than a year now for what you are going to do as soon as the meetings department has the funds.

Take a good look at all your expense categories and line items. Where did you spend in the past? Is one category still dominant? Have some categories been cut? Most events departments have been spending from a jar of coins, simply covering operational costs while education/training and other categories are left with nothing.

For the departments hit with the most drastic cutbacks, a 10 percent increase is going to feel like a big lotto win. However, before you begin splitting funds among all your parched budget categories, this is one scenario where it is often advantageous to spend it all in one place for greater impact. For example, consider holding off on travel to industry conferences to spend more on quality equipment (such as a color printer) or desperately needed software with long-term return-on-investment potential.

When still more money comes in, just spreading it evenly among all areas of the department is an easy way to handle the influx, but perhaps the dollars can be used more wisely.

Answer these questions:
• What will make your team more successful?
• Do you need additional staff or more training for the staff you have?
• Will new equipment and/or software make your department more efficient?
• Do you need more help off-site?
• Are there other areas where you feel the money will be better spent?
• What change will make the most positive impact for the organization?
• What change will allow the team to be a stronger cross-functional partner within the organization?

While waiting for the dollars to flow again, here are some strategic moves you can make immediately.
• Keep in close personal contact with your network; your relationships with all of the vendors and agencies you have had to shut out financially need to be nurtured.
• Realize that, while the economy remains tepid, sponsorships and endorsements are to be had at an extraordinary savings. Those dreams of having a mega-celebrity endorse your firm or sponsoring a rock concert finally might be within reach.
• Renegotiate deposit amounts with suppliers.
• Develop new scenario-based contingency plans.
• Consider that you might have to endure reorganizations or shifts in power in the coming months. With whom should you align yourself?
• Get friendly with all your accounting people. They are a tremendous source of state-of-the-organization information. For example, they can often give you a heads-up on format changes, overall spending concerns and future budget cuts or increases. The more you know, the more you can prepare.

When the budget expands, ceremonial events and parties will start finding their way back onto the schedule. Go slowly and plan something that screams ROI. Creativity and integrity are more critical now than ever before.

Louise M. Felsher, CMM, CMP, is a free-lance strategic marketing consultant in Northern California’s Silicon Valley.

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