As an adjunct to "25 Cost-Savers," here are some additional tips for getting the most out of your budget when it comes to finding presenters and providing transportation to attendees.
Tap an author. Speakers who have recently released a book or have a new product to promote might be willing to reduce their price in exchange for exposure. Sweetening the pot by giving them free space/time to sell their products following their presentation will not only give them face time with customers, but also additional revenue.
Make it a double. Booking speakers or entertainment for more than one client or event at a time often will mean a reduced price overall, says Diane Hutchinson-Fontana of Grafton, Mass.-based Destination Partners.
Piggyback. Look for entertainers or speakers who live near the meeting site or who will be in town for another event, thus cutting down travel costs. "I do research to see what other groups are in town right before or during my event, and I look for speakers listed in their program who can speak on topics that might relate to my group," says Derrick Mincey of Atlanta-based World Class Meetings. "Speakers usually are accommodating when they can get back-to-back bookings with limited travel."
Go back to school. When meeting in a college town, consider hiring professors who are conducting interesting research or who are especially strong speakers, suggests Faith Moore of Faith Moore & Associates, a destination management company based in college-rich Boston.
Donate to charity. For clients with little to no speaker or entertainment budget, Moore has found success by donating to a local nonprofit. For one meeting, she donated her client's stringent $500 dinner-speaker budget to a nonprofit that helped underprivileged children learn how to build robots. In exchange, members of the charity briefly spoke at the dinner and a few of the kids demonstrated how their robots worked. "The attendees were so thrilled not only to have a chance to talk with the kids and see what this organization was doing, but also that part of their budget was going toward a good cause," says Moore.
Try job-sharing. Working with multitalented performers can help get more bang for your buck, especially if the performers are booked for more time than they will be on stage, which often happens when working with entertainment companies. The contortionist on stage could also serve as the costumed door greeter an hour before the show, says Lizz Torgovnick, who recommends entertainment companies Shirdance (shirdance.com) and Bongarbiz (bongarbiz.com) for booking this type of versatile performer.
Leverage local connections. An easy way to add value to an event is to have local suppliers add a little extra flavor while they're already on the job. For example, in Boston, Faith Moore & Associates will often ask lobstermen delivering their catch to the group's restaurant to talk to attendees about their experience for five minutes. Or, if the group is out for a tour, she might try to include a brief stop to visit the lobstermen at work. Locals often are happy to share their stories and pose for a few pictures free of charge, says Moore.
Negotiate the rider. Celebrity speakers or top entertainers usually have standard riders to their contracts that spell out their food and beverage needs, travel and transportation requirements, and more. "A lot of planners might not think they can negotiate this, but there's always a few things you can do to cut down on costs," says Aubrie Jones of Host Las Vegas. "We know these celebrities have their needs, and we don't want to offend anybody, but we still do what we can to save money for the client."
When a rider requires an upgraded suite at a five-star hotel, but the performer is going on stage at a more cost-conscious property, Jones will negotiate in "one upgraded suite at the property of performance" instead of paying to transport the entertainer to another hotel at the pricier room rate.
High-profile speakers often change flights several times up until the very last minute, incurring change fees from airlines. To prevent a hefty travel bill, Jones suggests giving the speakers a travel allowance. "A lot of times we'll let them book their own arrangements up to a certain amount," says Jones. "They can make as many flight changes as they want, as long as the cost stays under that amount, which usually ends up being less than if we just let them change flights as many times as they wanted."
Encourage public transportation. Incentivizing attendees to take public transit to and from the airport not only saves money on shuttles, but also helps the environment. Lizz Torgovnick of New York City-based Sequence Events suggests inviting participants to show proof of ride (a receipt or a ticket) in exchange for entrance into a drawing for an environmentally friendly prize like a solar-powered phone charger or a reusable tote. Enlisting the help of a sponsor to provide the gifts can help the bottom line even further, says Torgovnick.
Reuse vehicles. With large groups that require multiple pickups and drop-offs, rent vehicles by the day or time period instead of by the transfer, says Dennis Hamilton of Michigan-based Hamilton Meetings & Incentives. Hamilton saved his client approximately $5,000 running the same four vehicles on multiple trips to transport 800 attendees from Indianapolis International Airport to Bloomington, Ind., about 45 miles away.
Limit transfers. Flying into smaller airports can be pricey for attendees, but offering transfers from larger airports can rack up the costs for your client. Hamilton's solution is to provide transfers from the larger airport to the meeting destination, but to limit the number of runs. For an upcoming meeting in Colorado Springs, Colo., for instance, Hamilton is providing just one transfer from Denver International Airport departing at 3 p.m.; his attendees know to plan their travel accordingly if they want to make the bus.
Use transportation startups. Startup transportation services like Uber (an app that allows smartphone users to find and book town cars on the spot) or Lyft (an app that connects passengers to qualified drivers looking to make a buck) can help with transit to far-flung, off-site venues at a discount. "This works well when there are a number of events happening at the same time and people are bouncing from reception to reception," says Boston's Faith Moore. "Instead of providing shuttles to every stop, attendees can get exactly where they need to be on their own." Because these young companies are looking to build their markets, they're often willing to give large groups a discount code to lower the costs for passengers, adds Moore.
Share the road. Rebekah Federowitz, events and communications manager for the National Association of Nutrition Professionals, offers attendees access to an online forum where they can arrange shared rides from the airport or even shared rooms to cut costs for cash-strapped delegates.