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A small, memorable and thrifty off-site event

The Goggleworks at night.

Mondays and Thursdays are cheaper.

When seeking space for an off-site event, consider discounts by looking at seasonally hard-to-book days of the week – such as Monday and Thursday, said Kevin Bergman, former director of sales and marketing at The Inn at Reading in Wyomissing.

It’s just one way to plan for a budget-conscious off-site business event such as a workshop, seminar or retreat for about 20 or fewer people. Keep scale and proportion in mind, bring your own technology and focus on must-have amenities, discounts on package deals and services or extras that are negotiable for a memorable and money-saving event away from the office.

“Overall, working with the hotel sales team on menu engineering, event technology, amounts, costs and value provided is a critical success factor for the success of the meeting you’re planning,” said Paul Sharp, director of sales and marketing for Renaissance Allentown Hotel.

When searching for discounts, remember you’re ultimately going off campus for an event because you want to change things up, prime creative wells and leave inspired.

The goal should be a positive and energizing experience while keeping the budget in mind.

“Being a [savvy] shopper means that you know what the market will bear, so getting the other hotels in market to give you their menus, floor plans and pricing is a great way to be a value-driven meeting planner.”

 

PLUG A HOLE FOR A BETTER RATE

Planners can save money if their event can plug a hotel, resort or restaurant booking hole.

“Be flexible on the dates, to fill a hole in a [venue’s] schedule,” Bergman said.

He said bookings for sales meetings, special conferences and corporate retreats also can benefit from negotiating a one-room deal.

“If you can order in and not use a [different] room for the meal, you’ll also save money,” Bergman said.

 

THE FOOD CONUNDRUM

Bergman said to beware things that might seem cheaper but end up being more costly, such as buffet meals.

“People often eat more at the buffet,” he said, which can end up costing more than table service would.

Look for package deals and on-site catering, Bergman said.

Some meeting room plans may include food, such as continental breakfast, mid-morning and afternoon snacks and lunch offered all in the same room, which will save money.

“Booking a separate room for meals will increase the cost,” Bergman said.

 

TIMING IS IMPORTANT

Margaret Pendleton, events rental director for GoggleWorks in Reading, said the time of day meetings are booked also can save money.

“If you start in the morning, breakfast and lunch along with snacks should be served, but if you start mid-morning, you’ll only need to think about lunch and snacks,” she said.

GoggleWorks, an arts and cultural resource center, offers business meeting spaces that seat up to 20 people, along with other spaces for larger events.

 

BYO TECHNOLOGY

Planners also can save money by bringing their own audiovisual equipment, microphones, projection laptops or other devices. It also means you’re familiar with the devices and can eliminate lost time or delays in setup or figuring out how unfamiliar devices work.

Arrange only the tech you’ll need, such as a microphone or speakers, if you don’t have videos or charts to display. Opt for less equipment offered by the venue rather than unnecessary huge screens or high-end devices.

Avoid equipment rental costs by managing the set-up yourself so you won’t have to pay venue staff to monitor or help.

Think old-school, too. Get the creative juices flowing by offering coloring tablecloths and markers or crayons and giving an assignment to break the ice. Or create icebreaking “show and tell” or “finish this sentence” word games.

Also to create an atmosphere for engagement, consider role-play games, such as a game show spin when questions revolve around work issues or how to land a big prospect.

 

CLIENT-VENUE RELATIONSHIP

Sharp said that first impressions matter.

“Responsiveness, customer service and being attended to” are hallmarks of a quality experience, he said.

Sharp stressed the venue staff should work collaboratively with the client to produce a partner relationship.

He advised to look at each segment of the meeting and value those line-items accordingly when putting together an event.

“So when the boss looks at the invoice, there is value,” Sharp said.

 

INSIST ON SLASHING COSTS

Sharp said a balance between technology and face-to-face contact helps create the best event experience.

During the booking, clients should be aware and prepared to advocate for ways to cut costs.

“We are looking at creating relationships, so one of these events can be the beginning of a business relationship,” Sharp said.

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