30 Ways to Save Money on Your Next Association Event

Posted by Kelly Sutter on Sep 19, 2013 12:29:00 AM

Events can be a great member benefit but without the proper planning can become a huge expense. Here are 30 great ways to save money.

  1. Know your budget. Before you start any of the planning, know your budget so you can keep priorities in order.
  2. Plan your event early. When vendors still have a lot of availability, they are much more willing to work with you on price and may be able to include a few "extras" at little or no cost.
  3. Be flexible on dates. Rates can vary greatly by the time of year, day of the week, etc.
  4. Get at least three estimates on your big expenses including the venue, catering, and printing. Vendors may offer better pricing when they know they are competing for your business and you may be surprised how much pricing can differ for similar services.
  5. Think local. Choosing a venue, speakers, and other vendors that are local can save you big money on travel costs.
  6. If you have flexibility for choosing an outside caterer, consider partnering with an up-and-coming caterer. Offer to promote the caterer alongside your event for a reduced rate. But be sure to get references and sample the food before committing.
  7. Consider a meeting planner. While this is an additional expense initially, often their expertise can save you money in the long run. They'll help you make the right decisions the first time, know what vendors provide the best deals, and know where there's more room to negotiate on price.
  8. Get your venue for free. Many venues will offer their space for free if you meet food and beverage minimums, so be sure to ask.
  9. Limit promotion of your event to email, social media, and your website. Create an online communications strategy that builds excitement. An affective online campaign can allow you to do without a mailed piece, eliminating printing and postage costs.
  10. Reuse materials from previous events. Do you or your venue have table decorations, linens, or other items from another event that are in good condition and can be reused? You can save lots of money by using items more than once.
  11. Only pay for the audio/visual that you need. Talk to your speaker(s) and find out their requirements before purchasing or renting more equipment than necessary.
  12. Go electronically where you can. If your event requires lots of materials, you can probably save by putting them on a flash drive rather than printing them. And, your guests will thank you when they don't have large packets or binders to take home with them.
  13. Rethink all of the events over the course of a year. Would it be more cost-effective to have a few large ones or many small ones? Do the math and come up with a schedule that meets the needs of your members and makes sense financially for your organization.
  14. When you receive late cancellations, apply the costs to future event participation. This will eliminate unforeseen reimbursements that hurt your bottom line. 
  15. Use economical paper stock for your programs; it’s unlikely your participants will be concerned with the thickness of printed materials but can add up to significant savings.
  16. Use sponsors. Your events provide access to lots business professionals, and companies want to get in front of these people. So create a proposal and reach out.
  17. Go buffet style in lieu of the classic lunch/dinner menus.
  18. If you have a bar, limit drinks to beer, wine, and a few signature cocktails. There will likely be something to please everyone, without the cost of a full open liquor bar.
  19. Check out local deals on group activities. If you have some sightseeing or other event planned, look for opportunities for group discounts.
  20. Negotiate on everything. While it can sometimes feel uncomfortable, it's the norm in event planning. And more often then not, there's a bit of wiggle room in pricing.
  21. Look into bulk pricing. For example, can your venue also supply the catering and AV? Are you hosting your event at a hotel where guests will be booking rooms? You'll have more room to negotiate when your spending more money with one particular vendor.
  22. Give attendees free time. Attendees want time to explore on their own and it also means you don't have to foot the bill. Consider keeping evenings free for attendees to go to dinner and activities on their own; but provide them with some affordable options.
  23. Consider purchasing AV equipment that you'll use more than once. Often, the cost of rental can almost equal the cost to own. Just make sure you have a back up plan if something breaks or doesn't function correctly.
  24. Think green. Consider cost savings that also help the environment. For example, offer hydration stations using water coolers rather than bottled waters and sodas. You'll save money and many attendees will appreciate your efforts to go green.
  25. Plan multiple events at once. Do you have 4 events this year? Contract with the same vendors for multiple events for deeper discounts.
  26. Use smaller cups for beverages. This may sound silly, but a gallon of coffee can go for up to $100/gallon in large metro areas. Using a 6oz cup rather than 8oz or larger can add up to significant savings.
  27. Have a dessert break in the afternoon. Desserts at lunch often go uneaten so saving dessert until the afternoon can be practical because your guests are starting to get hungry again but you save by not having an additional staff break.
  28. Ask for internet rates to be reduced or waived. This is something venues are often willing to throw in at a discounting price.
  29. Use volunteers where you can. Save staff time and costs to hire outside help by asking members to help out.
  30. Increase revenue. Sell speakers' books for a percentage or produce online conference presentations that can be viewed online for a fee. Look for alternative revenue streams to offset event expenses without increasing attendee costs.

And of course you'll want to pull your event together using event management software that is integrated with your membership database, association website, communications, and financials.

For more great event tips, check out Curt Moss's blog on Creating a Perfect Event for Your Association or Chamber of Commerce.

What cost saving tips can you offer?


Topics: Association Marketing Strategy