Top 20 Cost-Cutting Tips

The best of M&C's savvy planner advice

Monday mornings begin on a bright note when subscribers to M&C's weekly (and free) Savvy Planner tips find the latest installment in their in-boxes. Items run the gamut from creative inspiration to technology to career advice and much more. Often, our most popular suggestions involve ways to trim budgets or add value to a meeting or event.

The following 20 cost-cutting tips have received the most hits to date. Find more at

1. Career maker. To make higher-ups truly understand the value of your position, use the "rule of three," says Beth A. Cooper-Zobott, director, conference services, at Chicago's Equity Residential. Calculate your cost to the company (salary and benefits), and make it your goal to provide annual negotiated savings of three times that amount.

"Every time you negotiate a contract, tally and record the savings you achieve, including complimentary rooms, complimentary wireless access, discounted F&B, etc.," suggests Cooper-Zobott. "When your review is scheduled, bring in your tally sheet, and you will be able to present the demonstrated ROI for your position and the value and savings you bring to the organization."

2. Better feedback. Collect attendee feedback more effectively with All Our Ideas, a research project run by a group of Princeton University students in New Jersey. Start with a question and some seed ideas, then create a wiki survey and invite participants to contribute, as well as to vote. Survey Anyplace also makes it easier to poll a group with a format that launches via a URL or QR code -- no app-downloading required. The site works on any mobile device, tablet or desktop computer and includes features like off-line functionality, custom branding and instant scoring. A basic version is available for free; premium versions start at $29 per month.

3. Inspiring sites. If you enjoy the topics and presentations at and are looking for someone new to speak at your event, evaluate the possibilities by checking out the free videos posted at creative and Both sites feature creative people sharing short, informal, thought-provoking presentations on their passions and work projects.

4. Soup's on. For lunch functions that won't break the bank, Stamford, Conn.-based Marcia Selden Catering and Event Planning sets up a station with different types of soups and a DIY toppings bar, featuring everything from crispy pancetta to cumin-roasted corn kernels. Shot glasses of each type of soup are set out so guests can sample before they choose. Cost: from $10 per person.

5. Video aid. Vyclone stitches together videos from multiple sources, like those taken on your guests' smartphones, to create a multidimensional movie. The app is free and available for iOS and Android devices.

6. Tea-rrific savings. To save on beverage costs, ask your F&B vendor to charge you for tea by the bag, rather than per gallon of water. Ellen Rosof of Chicago-based Rosof Events Inc. says that billing should be handled the same way other items are charged on consumption -- by counting how many are put out and how many are left.

7. Recycled décor. For a recent Texas 4000 Tribute gala, event production company Clink used the charity's major event -- a 4,000-mile bike ride from Austin, Texas, to Anchorage, Alaska -- as inspiration for the gala's décor. The team incorporated a number of recycled items, such as spray-painted bicycle wheels, to create the entrance sculpture, and bicycle chains were used in the centerpieces.

8. Aggregating app. What sets's free mobile app service for events apart from similar platforms is that it automatically aggregates all event-related information available into a microsite, giving attendees easy access to addresses, event times and more.

9. Neutral and natural centerpieces. Use grass and wood, as the folks at A Fox Event like to do, to create some fresh, cost-effective centerpieces that go with any color scheme. Cost: about $15 per centerpiece.

10. Double-sided walls. For the BB&T Charleston Wine + Food Festival held in South Carolina this past March, A Fox Event created two-sided walls for the on-site tents. Over the course of the event, the team simply turned the walls around to change from casual backdrops for culinary demonstrations to formal coverings for evening galas and receptions.11. Debt-free dialing. allows up to 1,000 users (including those calling from abroad) to participate in a complimentary conference call. The service provides one call-in number and access code, as well as a recording of the completed call that can be accessed for up to six months.

12. Page turner. Turn any collection of PDFs into a digital magazine, brochure or presentation with FlipSnack. The service offers a basic version for free and a premium version with more options, like click-through links, for $12 to $30 a month.

13. Record keeper. Jot notes, sketch drawings, make edits, sign contracts and more through Notability's flexible app, available for iPhone and iPad for $4.99. The app works on PowerPoint, Word and many other types of documents, worksheets and forms. You can even record an audio file while taking notes -- perfect for creating meeting recaps.

14.Speedy graphics. connects planners who need a small graphic design task done quickly (e.g., tweaking a logo or retouching a photo) with professionals who typically will turn around the project within 30 minutes. Cost: $19.

15. Greener flowers. According to the U.S. Labor Education in the Americas Project, almost 80 percent of cut flowers sold in the U.S. are flown in from foreign suppliers. For a greener and more cost-effective alternative in the guise of local, sustainably minded floral vendors, check with a city's destination management organization or sites such as and (website of the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers).

16. Movie trailers for meetings. Upload event photos or videos, include some pithy descriptions, and Animoto will pull them together into a Hollywood-style trailer that can be downloaded or shared over email and social media. Cost: The basic version is free; upgraded versions run from $5 to $39 per month.

17. Night-light. Rust-Oleum offers impressive glow-in-the-dark spray paint ($9.98) that works on most surfaces, including wood, metal drywall and plastic.

18. Web vendor. Does your organization sell collateral related to a meeting or convention (speaker books, education modules, etc.) during the event? Add an e-commerce component to your website through Shopify, and sell these wares year-round. The platform is simple to set up and lets users design, accept credit card payments and much more. Cost: from $14 to $179 per month.

19. Tickets please. During registration, Kristin Howard, CMP, hands attendees a single printed sheet that includes their name badge and all of their session/meal/event tickets, which helps keep otherwise individual tickets from getting lost.

20. Tax check. Before signing a banquet event order or paying an invoice, find out if city or county sales taxes apply to the service charge. "In some cases the tax is applied when it should not be," says Suzette Eaddy, CMP, director of conferences for the New York City-based National Minority Supplier Development Council. "Ask [the supplier] if labor or service charges are taxed, and then review the bill to ensure that the taxes were applied only to the appropriate items."