3 Ways to Cut Non-F&B Costs at Your Next Conference

Improve the ROI of your next conference by implementing the following cost-cutting measures.

Your annual meeting is likely a good source of your association’s non-dues revenue. Ideally, you want to grow that revenue by increasing attendance, exhibitors, and sponsorship opportunities. And on the other end of the ledger, you want to figure out where you can cut costs without negatively impacting the meeting experience.

According to Convene’s 26th Annual Meetings Market Survey, most meeting planners are under orders to cut meeting expenses, with 63 percent reporting that they have been asked to focus on reducing food and beverage expenses. That focus on F&B isn’t surprising since it is often the single largest meeting expense. And tips on how to do this is well-covered territory.

Here are three other ways to cut costs to improve the bottom line of your next conference.

1. Get a sponsor to cover Wi-Fi costs.

You are in a tight spot on Wi-Fi. You have to provide it, and it’s never cheap. And you really don’t want to skimp on it. Nothing will get your attendees grousing faster and louder than slow load times.

Mitigating this cost through sponsorship makes a lot of sense. Many venues, like Montréal’s Palais des congrès, offer prominent sponsor real estate on the Wi-Fi connection page. Your sponsor gets great exposure, you cut that cost, and your attendees don’t blow up their data plans. Big wins for all. You can also give your sponsor further kudos in meeting materials and on-site signage.

2. Go local with speakers.

You want keynotes and panel speakers that can deliver value to your attendees. If you can source some of those people from your host city, your speaker travel expenses will drop.

A good city partner will be able to help you book local speakers that meet your needs. Tourisme Montréal, for instance, has strong relationships at the city’s four world-class universities, which means you can book conference speakers who are dynamic leaders in their respective domains.

3. Ask about any savings unique to your host city or venue.

Your hotel or venue contract negotiation is a delicate dance. Sometimes you walk away with more concessions than expected, and sometimes less.

But there might be other ways to save costs, depending on where you hold your meeting. For example, non-Canadian organizations that hold a conference in Montréal can reclaim up to 100 percent of sales taxes on expenses, including meeting room rental, accommodations, food and beverage (at 50 percent), audio-visual services, and other vendor services. This rebate comes by taking advantage of the Foreign Convention and Tour Incentive Program.

Dealing with a government body—in this case the Canada Revenue Agency—might sound arduous, but it’s really not. Tourisme Montréal puts all non-Canadian groups in touch with ConsultExpo, which can then handle the nuts and bolts of getting the reimbursement.

Four years ago, Diane Labbé Deegan, director of sales at ConsultExpo, read up on how to get this tax refund and then approached a non-Canadian group she was working with on shipping and customs. Would this client let her test out her newfound tax rebate knowledge? In the end, she recouped C$76,000 for the group.

“Because I’ve been on convention floors for 23 years, I know all the suppliers that go into a trade show,” Labbé Deegan said. “That benefits the client because I know what invoices are missing.” She estimated that over the four years she’s been doing this, she has recouped about C$1.3 million in total rebates for events in Canada.

Bonus: ConsultExpo also serves as a customs broker and shipping company for non-Canadian organizations holding conferences in Montréal. “You just register your meeting with Canada Border Services Agency, and then they allow goods to come in temporarily, which can then clear customs at the facility you have chosen for your event,” Labbé Deegan said. She walks meeting planners through each step of the process.

Cutting meeting costs is an important piece of your conference revenue puzzle. Getting sponsors for standard costs like Wi-Fi and taking full advantage of your host city partnership can help you trim expenses without taking anything away from the conference experience.

Contact Tourisme Montréal to turn your next meeting into an unforgettable event: 1-800-230-0001, ext. 2310;; or

(Handout photo)