Greater Palm Springs

Five Ways Savvy Scheduling Can Rescue Your Meeting’s Budget

Free time, midweek savings, airport access: All of these scheduling tricks ladder up to a higher-value, lower-cost meeting.

You’ve combed through your budget line by line to find savings. But here’s a thought: Maybe your budget hero lies not in what you’re spending, but in how you’re scheduling.

Slating the right place—and the right time—can help you uncover savings you might otherwise overlook. Here are five ways scheduling choices can support your budget needs.

1. Incorporate Free Time

“One of the things you’re hearing from attendees is that they’re overscheduled,” said Will Trokey, national accounts director of Visit Greater Palm Springs. Meeting planners may think they’re maximizing resources by cramming in programming. In fact, it might backfire by draining attendees’ energy along with your budget.

The California Society of Association Executives used to feature a keynote or general session every day of its annual conference, reported Lindsay Poss, CalSAE’s director of meetings and events. In reviewing attendance, the team realized that a quarter of attendees were leaving early on the last day.

“It’s not uncommon to see that drop-off—people want to get home or back to their office,” Poss said. “So we’ve adjusted our scheduling to not offer a keynote on day three.”

This deepens attendees’ relationship with the event by allowing them to develop a connection with the destination. Planners can host group activities that carry a lower price than programming. “For example, if they want to do outdoor yoga—a popular activity here in Greater Palm Springs thanks to our year-round sunshine—the cost behind hiring a yoga instructor versus the cost of speaker activities can be a savings resource,” Trokey said. Other possibilities in the area include Jeep tours, golf cart polo, and sightseeing tours of midcentury modern architecture.

2. Schedule Staff Time Wisely

“We look closely at our AV contracts and relationships,” Poss said. “Is there a way we can avoid overtime? Is there a way that, if they’re on eight-hour shifts, we can move our dinner up an hour so we’re not going into that overtime?”

Beginning and ending the day with a plenary session can complicate things, as you could be paying for dead time. Dropping the evening session might make sense; so can making sure the audiovisual crew is improving the event overall. “If a team is working for eight hours, how can I work with them during those eight hours, even if it’s just them checking in on our breakout sessions?” Poss said.

3. Find Midweek Savings

“There can be real value found at midweek,” Trokey said. Planners might shy away from Monday starts, to avoid having attendees travel on Sundays. But delegates might be willing to trade time for savings: As Sundays tend to have the lowest bookings, hotels tend to have lower rates.

Midweek meetings can even help you find savings in destinations that seem packed.

“Greater Palm Springs is known for Coachella, Stagecoach, those sorts of things,” Poss said. “A lot of those end on a Sunday. Some associations would say, ‘I don’t want to be a part of that festival traffic,’ but we’ve actually moved in on a Sunday as a festival has been moving out.”

Planners may benefit in other ways from timing meetings to sync with larger events. “It’s helped us zhuzh up our events, because hotels are at their best during those festivals,” Poss said. “They have some fancier décor out; they’re trying to impress people. If you can come in on the back end or the front end of that at a destination, it shines.”

4. Know Your Airport Access

With easy airport access, planners can save on speaker accommodations. “Some of our speakers want to fly in, speak, and fly out,” Poss said. “Easier airport access has helped keep our event on budget.” Poss noted that the Palm Springs International Airport’s recently expanded access has helped CalSAE save; 12 airlines now fly nonstop to and from more than 30 cities, connecting to more than 500 locations worldwide.

“Our airport has greater accessibility than a lot of people realize,” Trokey said. “Plus, it sets the stage for the destination because the concourses are outdoors.”

5. Work With Your CVB or DMO

Meeting planners may be the experts on which dates work for attendees, but destinations are the experts on which dates will provide the best experience.

“We always have that conversation with the CVB first,” Poss said. “We can be like, ‘OK, we want to come in March; where can we slide in?’ They’re the ones who can say, ‘I don’t know if these dates will work—but you could switch here.’”

“There’s a wealth of resources we can provide,” Trokey said. As an example, he cites the perception of Greater Palm Springs as being limited to the town of Palm Springs. In truth, the nine cities that make up the area each have unique features, with some offering venue or accommodation space and others offering recreational or other opportunities.

Visit Greater Palm Springs also has a Destination Experiences team, which guides planners with one-on-one, specialized insider knowledge to help associations and attendees get the most out of their meeting budgets.

“We can provide that knowledge,” Trokey said. “We are always going to be your guide.”

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