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Collaboration

As we enter into the month of October, the color pink is everywhere. Television, radio, newspapers, billboards, magazines, walks, fundraisers, retail merchandise… the list goes on in efforts to promote National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Talk about collaboration! This health care campaign was formed to increase awareness of the disease and to raise funds for research into its cause, prevention, diagnosis and treatment and has become a global sensation with a phenomenal collaborative effort.

Collaboration inspires a sense of community and the opportunity for people to learn from each other. While the collaborative activity of promoting National Breast Cancer Awareness is huge on a global scale, collaborative activity at the workplace, on a much smaller scale, mobilizes teams in various capacities to come together and reach common goals.

The AMPED team recently put collaborative efforts to the test when Hurricane Irma was slated for a direct hit in the Ft. Lauderdale area. One of our newest clients was having a large annual conference in this area, just two weeks after the hurricane was to hit. Decisions had to be made about keeping the conference in Ft. Lauderdale as planned, not knowing what damage may ensue, or moving the entire event to a new location in a different area of the country. Through this process, we learned the value of collaboration, both internally and externally with various teams. Below are a few thoughts on effective collaboration that resonated with me as we worked together to produce a successful outcome for our client:

1. Collaboration will expand your community and your opportunities to connect with people for new ideas. When we were considering moving to a new location, our CEO happened to be at a conference with hospitality industry leaders including CEO’s from convention and visitor bureaus across the United States. After discussing our situation with industry peers, many CEO’s offered their advice, assistance and resources to help us through the process of potentially moving the conference to a new location. Ideas were presented that we never knew existed.

2. Collaboration allows you to expand your experiences and knowledge. Our team had not been through a situation like this before. Through many forms of collaboration, each one of us was able to establish new areas of “expertise” that can now be applied to future circumstances.

3. Collaborations provide a built-in sounding board and a system of checks and balances. This experience provided many opportunities for our team to bounce ideas off of one another, blend complementary strengths and recognize areas where we could improve. It made us a stronger team.

In the end, our collaborative partners made the decision to stay at the Florida destination, as originally planned. And the conference experienced a record number of attendees! Collaborative efforts made this possible.

 

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Spring is a busy season for meetings and events in the AMPED office with one association’s annual meeting ending and another just a few weeks or even days later. For some meeting planners, the much-anticipated summer months allow a minute (only a minute) to breathe before the planning process starts all over again for the next year’s meeting.

During this time, what can we do as planners to start off on the right foot and plan an even better meeting the following year? Here are a few tips to get you started:

Take a look at your post-event survey to find out what your attendees loved and didn’t love so much. What do your attendees really want? Are there areas that should stay the same? Are there changes that should be made right away? Many of these factors could impact your meeting budget or may need a vote from leadership, so it’s a good idea to run through the survey responses as soon as you get a chance.

Update your planning timeline right after the meeting ends to keep details fresh and plan more time than you think you need on big items. Things often come up but accounting for these incidentals can help relieve tight turnarounds and stressful deadlines. If you have a team working on the meeting, make sure to assign roles and walk through the timeline together. Also, check other meeting timelines in your office to make sure major deadlines aren’t hitting at the same time.

Plan your marketing strategy while you are planning meeting details. Note important dates in your timeline and plan communications around these. If you want to notify your attendees about important launches (registration, abstract management system, mobile app, etc.) or upcoming deadlines, work this into your timeline.

Go back to your meeting contracts and review. Look at your hotel room block compared to your most recent pick up report. If it's written in the contract, you may have room to renegotiate your block. Go through your concessions and make sure to incorporate into your planning timeline so you don’t miss out on the added benefits.

Reach out to vendors early. If you haven’t seen your meeting venue for a while, schedule a pre-planning meeting to refresh your memory on the space as well as to meet the staff that you will be working with over the next several months. If your budget doesn’t allow for a site visit, ask your venue to give you a virtual tour to see the space and meet the team along the way.

If you work with a committee to plan aspects of your meeting, schedule a committee call as soon as possible to begin tackling items that need their input and feedback. This also may help alleviate email trails that fill up your inbox.

How about you? Do you have any tips for starting off on the right foot?

 

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For some organizations, name badge ribbons are a necessary tool for networking at meetings – an immediate way to recognize new members, sponsors or those with particular professional interests. They have their place, for sure. But they can get out of hand . . .

badge ribbons

And what about the logistics of distributing the ribbons?

  • Do you go through the tedious process of cross-referencing multiple spreadsheets?
  • Do association staff peel and stick them on each badge?
  • Are they stuffed in the back of the badge so that attendees can stick them on themselves?
  • Or are they laid out in piles at registration for self-selection?

One solution to never-ending ribbons is to print designations right on the badge. One of AMPED’s clients does this, identifying member type, board member, speaker, or sponsor in different-colored banners at the top of the badge. This works most of the time. Although there are always special circumstances, like when a board member is also a speaker or a speaker is also a sponsor. We deal.

This same client has never used ribbons. But a few years ago, they started requesting that staff stick gold stars to badges to identify first-time attendees – yep, the same ones your kindergarten teacher gave out for good behavior. Problem was, very few attendees knew exactly what that gold star represented. Additional requests came in to identify certified members, or those who used the insurance plan, or still others who were part of peer groups.

In search of a creative way to satisfy all the requests without resorting to ribbons and without the time-suck of having to apply stickers before-hand, AMPED staff devised a make-your-own badge solution.

badge stickers III  

We designed the badge so that the bottom 1” of the card was left open. Then we produced a half-dozen separate 1” square logos and had them printed on roles of stickers. Next, we set up badge stations on tables near the meeting registration area and directed registrants to step over and complete their badges. We built traffic by putting big bowls of M&Ms and Swedish Fish on the same tables.

The badge stations were a hit! Attendees enjoyed self-designating themselves and the whole process saved time and money. No ribbons. No labor.

Do you have a creative badge idea? We’re always looking for suggestions that save time and money at the meeting registration area. Let’s hear from you!

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206 app collage

Meeting season is winding down here at AMPED and aside from our usual awesomeness, I am pretty proud of our success in transitioning most of our clients to paperless meetings. Gone are the program and abstract books, restaurant lists and printed maps. We moved all of that information (and more) to mobile or web apps. Andoverall, the feedback from attendees was positive. Here is what I learned along the way:

Native vs. web apps: Three clients utilized a native mobile app that was downloadable via app stores. The upside to this is that, generally, once these apps are downloaded to mobile devices, attendees are able to access the schedule, speakers, maps, etc. without Wi-Fi or eating up their data plans. That said, providing strong Wi-Fi is crucial for a paperless meeting, especially for those attendees who download onsite or if the app houses external links.

One of our clients used a web app that was built for mobile devices and was provided free of charge through their abstract management system. This app was not downloadable and required Wi-Fi to access. It offered many of the same features of a native app, but was a little more complicated to access regularly. As this client had not originally planned on going paperless, this was the most cost-effective alternative to a native app.

Scheduling: All of our apps offered a personal scheduling tool, which is (in my personal opinion) one of the biggest benefits of moving away from a printed program. Allowing attendees to schedule their participation at the meeting and view it all in one place is more convenient than taking a pen and circling sessions in a program book. Whether this feature is solely housed in the app or connects to the calendar on the user’s phone, attendees are able to receive reminders and enter in personal meetings or events that are not listed in the formal program.

More information, less space: There is a limit to the amount of information we can print in a program book before it becomes excessive; with a mobile app, we can include it all and it remains compact and robust without taking up a lot of storage space on our attendees’ phones. The app we used for our client Americas Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ACTRIMS), housed session titles, presentation titles, authors, bios, photos, abstract texts, presentation slides and/or electronic posters. Imagine trying to carry a print version of that!

The social network: Event mobile apps provide a method to easily engage attendees and allow for networking — directly linking to social platforms, offering a photo gallery or incorporating an in-app newsfeed. Our client Control System Integrators Association (CSIA) used a mobile app with a newsfeed that promoted discussion and photo sharing, and a way to measure the most “influential attendees” based on their activity.

Doing it live: In event planning, there are ALWAYS last-minute cancellations and requests. The beauty of a mobile app is that it can be updated in real time and eliminates the cost of printing a program book that might be outdated the moment it gets off the press.

Easing the transition: Some attendees still prefer something tangible. In lieu of a full program, we designed a “pocket program” with a very high-level schedule of the session titles, names, and rooms that fit in the back of the registrant’s badge sleeve. Attendees really appreciated this as an alternative and loved that it wasn’t bulky.

After working with four clients, three platforms and two mobile app vendors for this transition, I learned so much from going green in 2016, and am excited to grow and improve the process for 2017!

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But behind-the-scenes roles are equally important to pulling off a great event!

Wicked at the Omaha Orpheum theater


I was in Drama Club in school and one thing I remember our advisor telling us over and over is that every role is important. Whether on stage or behind the scenes, everyone has a part to play to create a successful production. Over the course of my career I have helped manage numerous client meetings and conferences. It is exciting and challenging work and an aspect of association management that I truly enjoy. There have also been many times when I have not been directly involved in the planning or on-site management of an event. Instead, I’ve found myself in more of a “behind the scenes” role back at the office. No matter what, I always want to be as helpful as possible so even if I am not directly involved in planning or traveling to the conference, I have found ways to contribute and help make an event great.


Stay informed: An upcoming client event usually means an increase in inquiries from potential attendees. Knowing as much as possible about the event is important in order to effectively and efficiently answer questions. In particular, make sure you are familiar with aspects of the event that are most likely to generate inquiries. Examples include registration policies, schedule highlights and sponsorship and exhibit opportunities. If there is an event website make sure it is bookmarked on your browser for easy access and that you are familiar with the information and where it is posted. If you are going to be processing registrations over the phone, familiarize yourself with the process and be aware of different registration options, fees and deadlines.


Offer assistance: Leading up to a conference there are numerous tasks to be accomplished, and the simple act of offering assistance or support can be incredibly helpful. Maybe you can help print name badges or pack up supplies. Even running out to grab lunch or a cup of coffee for a stressed colleague might make their day a little easier. During the event, make it a priority to stay in contact with colleagues who are on-site in case something comes up. Also, remember that the time immediately following a conference can be hectic, too. Catching up after having been away and dealing with the event wrap-up is a lot of work. If you have the time and opportunity to assist with post-meeting tasks such as unpacking or organizing and archiving conference files, definitely do so.


Take notes: Throughout the meeting planning and management process you may find yourself making mental notes about things that have worked exceptionally well or things that could be improved next time. Perhaps it’s a suggestion or comment you heard from multiple callers. It might be your own observation while navigating the website or processing registrations. Write these down! If you do end up with a list, make it a point to share it with your colleagues after the event is over. This is a useful exercise for everyone on the team and your notes may provide valuable insight when planning the next event.


Conference planning and management is a group effort and the advice my drama coach gave me definitely applies - every role is important. Whether on site or “behind the scenes” at the office, the ultimate goal is a successful event and everyone’s contribution matters!

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We’re celebrating a job very well done. Several members of the AMPED team just returned from a hugely successful, first-ever stand-alone meeting for our client partner, ACTRIMS (Americas Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis). To illustrate just how successful this three-day scientific event was, the original attendance forecast was 435. You can imagine the challenges and excitement that ensued when the numbers peaked at 629!

Yes, there was much applause and commendation when the meeting closed. But AMPED’s job isn’t done when the registrants go home. There are boxes to unpack, evaluations to review, sponsors to follow up with, and sites to visit for future meetings.

Watch what's next for the ACTRIMS meetings and support team:

  meeting video image"Our work here is done." NOT!

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hey girl

Next week marks three months since I began working at AMPED, but it feels like I should be celebrating six months. That is NOT a bad thing. Fortunately, with guidance from seasoned AMPED staff, I was able to jump right in!

On my first day at AMPED, Owner Lynda Patterson handed me two postcards: one for a local Madison event and another for IMEX America (a worldwide exhibition for meetings and events) in Las Vegas. I was excited to learn that I would represent AMPED at both events, but then swiftly panicked realizing I had so much to learn! Both provided opportunities to network with meeting industry professionals — local and national — and I had my work cut out for me to become knowledgeable of our company and diverse clients.

I made a point to learn the history of our client’s annual meetings as well as future goals to prepare for one-on-one appointments with exhibitors at IMEX. After 22 appointments and presentations in just two (long) days, I returned home more confident in my job and excited for potential meeting destinations and partnerships for our clients. Additionally, after repeating the “About AMPED” speech 22 times, I can say that I successfully have it down!

Just two weeks after I started, one of our clients held their annual summit. A few weeks later, we brought a client board to Madison for a retreat. And this week we host a leadership training program for yet another client. I quickly learned that there is always something going on at AMPED. It can be overwhelming, but these face-to-face opportunities allow us to get to know our clients better. I may not be fully involved in the details of these meetings but being present allows me to soak up information and help me understand how to work with each client to be successful.

One of the reasons I was drawn to AMPED was the importance of company culture — a professional environment that is fun, flexible and rewarding. Within days, I felt that to be true. Each Monday morning, AMPED staff comes together for a meeting to discuss the week’s top priorities allowing us to get a glimpse into each other’s busy schedules as well as offer up help and suggestions. It is a great way to start the week and prepare for big projects and deadlines and know that your colleagues have your back if needed. On Wednesday mornings, you will see the AMPED team walking together to a local coffee shop for “$2 Latte Wednesdays,” giving us the chance to get out from behind our desks and get to know each other on a personal level. And being new to Madison, I’ve started a new tradition called “Food Truck Fridays” so I can experience all the delicious options found on the Capitol Square. These touch points throughout the week help me get to know my colleagues, both professionally and personally, while also getting a sense of the overall work we are doing as a company.

Sure, there are days when I am reminded that I have lots to learn and wishing that I could be in the shoes of seasoned AMPED staff, but I am grateful for the experiences, both good and not perfect, that help me become a better meeting planner and colleague. Don’t be afraid to jump right in, professionally and socially. It makes those pesky Monday mornings much easier to deal with when you enjoy your work and those who work beside you.

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Dilbert cartoon

As a meetings assistant I have been to a fair number of meetings and have seen a lot of things happen that were not planned for. This happens because its life and nothing is perfect. Simple as that. Meetings have many moving parts and it is not uncommon for something to go wrong. I have been to meetings where the sponsored registration bags had mistakenly been printed with the previous year’s date. Or the registrant badges were shipped to the wrong state! So what do you do when something like this happens? 

I find it best to come up with a solution, or ideas to reconcile the problem before anyone has a chance to over react to the situation at hand. How do you do this when you’re short on time and in a different city? You have to put your thinking cap on. It’s easy as 1, 2, 3!

1. Use your contacts! Depending on your situation, stop and think who can help with this issue. I have found that the convention and visitors bureaus are amazing resources. When you are having a meeting in another city, CVB’s are crucial. They can help with providing so much information for you and your attendees. Other contacts could be your hotel, AV Company, and show decorator. They are all there to help!

2. What’s around you? When you’re having a meeting in another city and something goes wrong, be aware of nearby resources. Do your research before your meeting. Know where you can get last-minute copies and signs made, look for office supply stores and supercenters.

3. Ask for help! If you find that something has gone wrong at your meeting and can’t come up with a solution on your own, ask for help from your co-workers or superiors. I sometimes find it’s better to ask for help then struggle with finding a solution for something that I am not knowledgeable about or have little time to solve.

When a problem arises it is all about keeping your cool and working through the situation to ensure an amazing meeting. There are a bunch of ways to overcome obstacles that come our way, it’s all about finding what works best for you.

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Boston, Massachusetts – Nearly 9,000 participants from leading organizations in Europe, North America and other regions of the world convened to share, discuss and advance research in multiple sclerosis (MS) at a meeting managed by Association Management Partners & Executive Directors (AMPED) in September.

AMPED is the association management company for America’s Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ACTRIMS). ACTRIMS hosted the triennial joint meeting with Europe’s Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ECTRIMS) in Boston, Massachusetts. The joint meeting, MSBoston2014, was the largest gathering of its kind for multiple sclerosis researchers and clinicians.

“Our team, led by Marechiel Santos-Lang, did a tremendous job of choreographing the many facets of a meeting of this size,” said Lynda J. Patterson, FASAE, CAE, owner and president of AMPED. “Every step – from choosing the venue to the final accounting – takes careful planning and attention to detail. The ACTRIMS board of directors was very pleased with the success of MSBoston.”

The meeting was a financial success, as well. Sponsorship sales were double the goal set. Net revenue for the event was $4 million.

The next triennial meeting will be hosted by ECTRIMS in Paris, France in 2017.

 

MSBoston by the numbers

Meeting

  • 8,806 participants from 92 countries
  • 59 sessions
  • 206 speakers and chairs
  • 50 exhibitors
  • $10 million revenue

Posters

  • 981 posters
  • 22 late breaking e-posters

Media

  • 146 reporters from 22 countries
  • 60 original articles
  • 85 video and TV interviews
  • 1,000+ Tweets reaching 1 million timelines
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Record-breaking registration numbers is every meeting planner’s dream. But what if attendance grows so much that the contracted meeting venue is no longer the ideal location? Put on your thinking cap because it’s time for a creative backup plan that will appear flawless to the participants.

AMPED recently encountered this very situation when hosting the world’s largest single gathering of multiple sclerosis physicians, clinical researchers and scientists in Boston. The convention center contract was signed years ago, prior to our full-service management, at which time a realistic growth goal was 6,500 attendees. This attendance projection made for the perfect match between the venue and the program. However, when we saw a huge surge in registration numbers just weeks before the kickoff of the live event, it was time to think outside the box.

The convention center auditorium could not accommodate our nearly 9,000 registrants. Thankfully, technology made an overflow plan possible. We were able to stream video of the keynote presentation from the auditorium to the largest ballroom in the convention center. In the event we needed another overflow room, we were prepared to stream into a second ballroom.

We had originally planned to have all food and beverage in the exhibit hall to drive traffic to our valued exhibitors and supporters. Unfortunately, the packed exhibit hall could not handle the 38 percent increase in attendance, so we had to rethink our menus as well as the food and beverage placement. It would be impossible for all attendees to go through a buffet line one by one; the length of time for decision making and serving would create unacceptably long lines. Boxed lunches were the best solution fulfilling our need for a “grab and go” scenario.

The sheer volume of people meant we also needed to reconsider the staffing plan. Having additional team members on hand to direct traffic to either an overflow meeting room or the nearest food station was key.

Make no mistake, finding the best solution for your attendees is not a one-person task. You’re going to need your entire team behind you to make this successful. Bring in your logistics professionals, audiovisual crew and catering team, in addition to your program experts who truly understand the heart of the event.

Although stressful at times, I am so proud to have been a part of a passionate team that was fully committed to producing an outstanding event. The compliments and positive feedback continue to pour in. Congrats to all!

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face to face meetings

Great tips on increasing engagement during meetings — like, bring food!

I once heard a generational expert say that people my age prefer face-to-face meetings over phone calls or email. That seems like a broad generalization to make about 76 million Americans, but I will say that a meeting doesn’t have to be a waste of time – if all those involved in a project or decision are participating.

I learned a lot about leading meetings during the two terms I served on the council of a church with more than 4,000 members and an annual operating budget of more than $1 million. The church was growing rapidly, which meant the council needed to reach consensus on a series of issues related to property, staffing and resources.

Every year, when new council members started their terms, the senior pastor laid down the ground rules: “If you have something to say, say it here, not in a meeting after the meeting in the church parking lot.” He also said, “Debate all you want during the meeting, but when we leave this room, we stand united.” Those are good rules when you have volunteers making decisions in matters that members care deeply about. Truth be told, those are good rules for any group.

The pastor started every council meeting by asking each person to offer a brief joy and concern. I’ve noticed that people who speak early on in meetings tend to participate more throughout the meeting, so I started using the joys-and-concerns tactic at work. I started meetings by asking each participant to briefly share something on their minds: It could be anything – news about a client, a rapidly approaching deadline, a sick dog – you name it. Take five minutes to let people say what’s on their mind and you clear the way for productive participation, plus you become aware of other issues that may need your attention.

When major decisions were about to be put to a vote, the pastor asked each person to comment. When people know they will be asked to articulate a response – more than a yea or nay – they tend to consider it more carefully. More than once, after going around the table and hearing others’ responses, someone would say, “Wait. I’ve changed my mind.” Yes, the meetings could run late, but the decisions were solid.

Other suggestions, based on countless hours spent in meetings:

Prepare people to participate. Send a brief agenda with the topics you want to discuss and specific goals for the meeting. Tell participants how they can contribute. For example, if “leadership retreat” is an agenda item, consider writing “make a decision about the retreat destination – bring one or two location suggestions.”

Offer food. There is something almost magical about breaking bread together that helps people open up. I think it’s hardwired into our makeup to feel more at ease with people we share nourishment with, so bring doughnuts.

Encourage everyone to be fully present. If people are looking at their laptops, whispering in a side conversation, texting or passing notes (it happens!), you’re going to find people have less and less to say because they perceive that others aren’t listening.

Give people the freedom to fail. If the environment doesn’t allow for human error, humans will stop participating. “The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one,” said Elbert Hubbard. People engage with the group when they feel safe.

Practice the Golden Rule. Encourage participants to treat others as they wish to be treated. Just as parents are encouraged to separate the behavior from the child, people sometimes need to be reminded to challenge the idea, not the person. Taunting or putting someone down in front of others is not acceptable.

End on a high note. I won’t suggest you end every meeting with a prayer, as the church council did, although you might want to say a silent one. Instead, wrap up by explaining what the next steps are, acknowledging the group’s accomplishment and recognizing the value of everyone’s contribution. Everyone will leave the room feeling like their time was well spent.

Comment, call or email me (hey, we could even meet!) with your tips for making meetings time well spent.

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 low rez CSIA 2014-Day 1-4

It was another record-setting year for the Control System Integrators Association's 2014 Executive Conference,
in terms of attendance, sponsorship dollars and registrant satisfaction.


Summer at AMPED is an important time for building a strong foundation for our clients’ upcoming spring annual meetings. Although venue contracts are typically signed several years in advance, the meeting framework including detailed logistics and content is often identified a year before the event kicks off. While the big picture work of successfully planning a meeting is similar from client to client (preparing budgets, identifying speakers, securing AV, etc.), it is key to understand that each client is different and therefore every meeting is unique. Some groups are more adventurous and desire designated times for field trips and workshops. Others are family-oriented events, at which entertainment for spouses and guests must be arranged.

No matter the client's needs, AMPED has proven success in raising the bar in regard to increased registration numbers, sponsorship growth and positive attendee feedback, year after year. This starts with preparing the venue RFP and negotiating the contract and continues all the way through the execution of the live event.

Taking the time to get to know each client and understanding their current and future needs immensely improves the quality of the program. Spring of 2015 may seem like a long ways off, but any meeting expert knows is it right around the corner. Let the planning begin!

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food money

Looking for ways to stretch your meeting food and beverage budget while exceeding your attendee expectations? Give these ideas a try!

The simpler, the better.
Often, hotel and convention center break packages are very “heavy,” not to mention pricey. Consider lighter options from the a la carte menu. For example, we’ve had great success with offering a variety of protein bars and fresh fruit for morning breaks. Simple, yet filling, and it won’t put your attendees to sleep!

Less is more.
If fancy break packages are your thing, consider guaranteeing less than your actual headcount. Often, extravagant breaks have a variety of options with large servings and attendees rarely sample everything. Don’t waste the food or your money.

Hold the dessert.
For smaller gatherings, request the dessert included in your lunch menu be brought out during your traditional afternoon break time.

All-day packages equal big savings.
A number of venues offer half or all day break packages, meaning one flat fee per person for all meal and break function(s). Meeting planners know how quickly the cost of bottled soda or water adds up, so if the package includes beverages for your program you’ll really save the green!

Schedule extended lunch hours.
This allows time for attendees to explore the host city and try the native cuisine while buying their own meal at a local restaurant. Or work with your destination’s CVB to arrange meal vouchers at area eateries. Say your budget allows you to spend $10 per person. You’d be hard pressed to find a venue that can accommodate such a budget, especially after taxes and service charges. However, a $10 coupon for guests to use at the restaurant of their choice means you stay within your budget your guests save money.

Drink responsibly.
Offering a cash bar rather than hosted bar is an easy way to save your dollars. If that doesn’t work for your event or client, consider drink tickets. Give each attendee a limited number of drink tickets and switch to a cash bar once the tickets are gone. Of course, give your VIPs a few extra tickets!

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