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Today features an article from Smart Meetings Magazine’s very own Mr. Smart E. Pants and his response to an inquiring meeting planner regarding event photography.
Dear Mr. Smart E. Pants,
I’m figuring out my budget for next year and wanted your perspective on event photography. Do you think professional photography is a priority for event planners?
I think hiring a professional photographer completely depends on what type of event you’re hosting. For example, most of our events are featured in our magazine and require high-resolution photos; so, for us, it makes sense. We also use the photos in our marketing materials.
If you host attendance-driven events like I do, it’s important to have quality photos that you can use to promote the event. However, if you’re hosting an annual meeting that focuses on educational sessions, professional photography doesn’t matter as much; plus, attendees are required to attend. Note: association members aren’t required to attend their annual meetings; they choose whether or not to attend, and have to pay their own way.
One way to cut back on your professional photography budget is to hire local photographers instead of flying in staff members from the photography company you work with in your area. A lot of companies are also willing to work out partnerships, giving you discount rates to advertise at your event. I do advocate, however, that if you are looking for photographers in another location, you should get recommendations from the CVBs or hotels you’re working with for your event. The last thing you want is to pay big bucks or endorse the photographer and have them come up short.
Lately, I’ve been using both Specialty Imaging International and Orange Photography, for different reasons. Specialty Imaging is more focused on incentive meetings. For instance, they offer various ways to create a unique name badge; they help us interact with attendees on our social media pages; and they have photo kiosks for our attendees to print out their own images. Orange Photography, on the other hand, has lots of experience at a variety of functions. They have a unique style for receptions, and they even offer on-site photo booths.
No matter what you decide to do, the bottom line is that you want to make your events look attractive. If you use marketing materials to advertise your events, I suggest hiring a professional that’ll portray them at their best. If your educational seminars on their own are impressive enough to get people to attend, then maybe photography isn’t something you need to have eating up your budget. Either way, good luck in the coming year!
Mr. Smart E. Pants
Mr. Smart E. Pants is none other than the energetic meeting and event manager Benton Partin. With a diverse background and 10 years of planning experience, Benton brings a unique and creative approach to meetings management. Have a burning question for Mr. Smart E. Pants? E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As seen in Issue: Smart Meetings November 2010
Highlights from an education session at The Motivation Show (late September), “10 Ways to Cut Costs and Retain Quality”—the mantra of meeting professionals in this challenging economy. The discussion was led by April Mescher, executive director, travel, at Dayton, Ohio–based Excellence in Motivation.
Here is a recap of the important tips shared at the event:
1. Timing is everything. There are almost always savings to be found when you can be flexible with your meeting dates. Consider peak versus shoulder periods for both weekly and annual patterns, and seek out the “hot dates” when your hotel has pressing holes to fill.
2. Negotiate upfront. Prioritize what’s most important to your meeting and communicate that clearly and concisely in your request for proposal as part of a competitive bid process.
3. Look for value. In a down economy, with meetings being cut back and cancellations common, seek out last-minute hotel deals. Don’t be afraid to ask what’s available.
4. Scrutinize program content. Put your meeting under a microscope, with an eye toward cutting anything not directly adding value to the content or the experience. Several attendees noted the savings to be found simply by weaning attendees off bottled water, with one association planner boasting a $67,000 savings by eliminating bottled water at a three-day meeting. Another strategy: Combine incentive rewards with a meeting by upgrading the winners’ accommodations or tacking the incentive portion of the trip to the tail end of the meeting.
5. Destinations with a purpose. Match the sponsor’s goals with the meeting venue and activities. An executive wellness event has “better optics,” said Mescher, than some more traditional resort activities, and eco-tourism and volunteer programs are becoming expected. “But people don’t want to build a bike anymore,” Mescher said, referring to events confined to a hotel ballroom. Attendees, she said, want to connect with the communities they visit. A close look at exchange rates is another purposeful way to select a destination, says Mescher, noting that many exotic destinations, such as South America, Africa, and Asia, are surprisingly affordable.
6. Buy on consumption. Negotiate flat, per-person rates for things like coffee breaks and bar tabs. And if you do have leftovers, one attendee pointed out, remember that they’re yours. He asks for leftover breakfast items to be served at morning breaks and extra desserts to be served at evening gatherings. Another tip: Hotels typically have décor stored away. Ask what’s in the back room that can liven up your meeting or banquet at little or no cost.
7. Rediscover your backyard. New hotels and restaurants continue to open around the country that can delight your meeting and incentive attendees, avoid jetlag, and keep North America working, said Mescher.
8. Try an all-inclusive. Mescher saw a “huge surge this year [in the use of all-inclusive properties] because clients could anticipate costs.” One planner in the audience warned that it is important to know what is and is not included for guests, to experience the property yourself, and to make sure you’re comparing apples to apples when evaluating several all-inclusives.
9. Consider cruising. A cruise meeting offers similar budget controls to an all-inclusive property, and you can have an international experience while paying in U.S. dollars. It’s a great fit for meetings that include spouses and families, Mescher said.
10. Guarantee exchange rates. By making deposits early for international meetings, the budget won’t be affected by inflation or currency fluctuations. “I’ve been blown away by what our international suppliers have been willing to lock in,” Mescher says.