Magazine article Training & Development

Beating the High Cost of Meetings

Magazine article Training & Development

Beating the High Cost of Meetings

Article excerpt

According to the June 1992 issue of Successful Meetings, only 7 percent of all U.S. airline passengers paid full fare last year. Why should your meeting participants?

Seeking the lowest possible airfares is just one way that meeting planners fight the rising costs of meetings and business travel. Here are some other money-saving tips from the experts.

"Flexibility is the key to saving money," says Mary Pat Cornett, senior meeting planner for the American Society for Training and Development.

"One way to save is to choose dates, times, and room sizes that are convenient for the facility where you want to hold your meeting. If you can help the conference center fill an empty room, you may get a price break.

"A facility will be more flexible about the cost of meeting room rentals if it's making money on the sleeping rooms the facility may give you a function space for free, or may discount it.

"Weekends are usually less expensive in convention hotels, but if you're going to a resort, the middle of the week can be better. Try to fit between meetings that are already scheduled."

Research pays off too, according to Nancy Elder, ASTD's conference director. "The well-informed traveler or meeting planner has the most success in keeping expenses at a reasonable level. Look at each component of the trip for opportunities to cut costs. For instance, many hotels have complimentary van service from the airport. Others have complimentary parking.

"Suite hotels offer some of the best deals on meetings. Their large rooms include a lot of work space; many offer complimentary breakfasts, coffee, and evening hors d'oeuvres.

"Conference centers located on college campuses and at large corporations are seeking meeting business and offer competitive rates. They charge one fee per person per day. This covers a room, three meals, audiovisual equipment, and coffee breaks."

It pays to plan. Shrewd planning can save your company a lot of money, says Anne Urban, director of sales for Embassy Suites in Jacksonville, Florida. Take this example.

"If an American Airlines' flight from Dallas to Washington in the middle of the week costs $800 and the same flight on a Saturday costs $279, it's easy to calculate how much a company can save by having its 50 trainees travel on Saturday.

"Most hotels will negotiate on room rates. In an example I know of, IBM saved on hotel expenses by having trainees arrive on a Sunday night. The hotel knocked $10 per room per night off the regular price. IBM saved $42,000 over the course of a year."

Here's what else the experts recommend:

* Go with the trend to shorter and more intense meetings. Edwin L. Griffin, Jr., chief executive of Meeting Planners, says "meetings are down from about four days to two and three."

* Avoid meeting at peak times. High occupancy for hotels occurs in September, October, and April through June. Hold your training in the slower months of July, August, and November through March. Hotels can be as much as 30 percent cheaper then.

* Meet in small cities and small hotels. They may offer less glitz, but prices will be lower.

* Universities, churches, and community centers are usually the least expensive sites for meetings. A meeting room at a community center can cost as little as $4 an hour, and its staff may set up the chairs for free. The range of prices at most conference centers is $150 to $350 a day. …

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