Subsidizing Your Company, Association Meeting Costs By David Lund, The Hotel Financial Coach

In my recent travels working with clients and delivering keynotes as well as financial leadership workshops for management teams and hotel associations, I noticed an interesting way that more than one client used to “subsidize” their meetings—reducing their costs—and I wanted to share it with you.

Having your regional meeting, national meeting or hosting your association event is expensive. There are travel costs, perhaps speaker fees and venue costs. Depending on the type of event there can be accommodations, meals, audiovisual and meeting room rentals. For companies, there is also lost productivity cost associated with having people away from their day role in selling your hotel or managing their team. These all add up to some serious dollars and justifying the costs can sometimes be questionable.

We all know how important meetings are but there is no question about the expense. What I have learned is some clever operators are using an age-old system to cut their costs for meetings.

What I noted recently with one client that hosted a statewide conference was the level of sponsorship. I have spoken at and attended many hotel conferences and this one really stood out. With few exceptions, everything had a sponsor. The keynotes, breakout sessions, receptions, coffee breaks and meals all had sponsors. In most cases the sponsor was clearly noted in the program, the use of their name and logo being front and center.

With group events the sponsors were given a moment to thank the attendees and the association.

These partners all had a clear message for the association members. The message was of appreciation and dedication to the spirit of hospitality and the members’ challenges and the partnership they enjoyed and appreciated with the association members. Not a sales pitch but one of we are all in this together and we appreciate you and your challenges. Sponsors even mentioned local political issues and health of the owner and operator’s business in thanking the members. It was all powerful stuff and very much in line with the goals of the association and its members. Never once did it feel like a sales pitch or a product or service endorsement.

Reflecting on this, it is obvious to me that the sponsors all had their “message” crafted and coordinated which resulted in a real and tasteful partnership message.

I know when the sponsor of my event introduced me they made specific reference to the challenging situation that hotels were experiencing with minimum wage rates and the government recent and future planned increases. In partnership with members, the sponsor told the audience that they heard their concerns and to help they brought me to the conference to speak about a system that everyone could use on labor productivity measurements specifically for hospitality. You could feel the appreciation for the sponsor. This was so well done because of the alignment with the members’ challenges. My sponsor was a wireless provider – go figure.

Another great example of a company meeting using sponsors was an annual regional meeting of 10 hotels where the owners of the management company, corporate executives, GMs, assistant GMs and sales managers were all gathered for two days of meetings and team building. What stood out was again the use of sponsors. I delivered a workshop on the morning of day two. While being introduced by the VP of operations, he thanked the audience for the previous night’s paintball event and the sponsor for the evening. I was taken aback by the ingenuity. The sponsor for the paintball was an amusement park and several of the hotels packaged admission along with their rooms. What a great way to thank the hotels and their sponsor.

Now it is time to talk about me. The VP tells the audience he knows how hard they all have been working on improving their financial literacy and to help them with this cause he brought me in to lead the morning session on Hospitality Financial Leadership. In conjunction with my workshop, their sponsor was the management company’s accounting software provider. He mentioned the company by name and he also spoke about the level of progress and all the hard work that the operators had undertaken with their monthly financials and daily reporting. This blew me away. I should have charged more.

At the morning break, he had a coffee vendor take a moment to speak to the attendees. The coffee man spoke about his family-owned business and how much he appreciated the support of the hotels and how he felt the use of his product in several of the hotels had helped his retail sales. He wanted to show his appreciation with the sponsored coffee break as well as by giving each person a cool stainless steel coffee container. All of this played right into the theme of the conference which was built around being part of the community and making a difference in people’s lives.

Having a meeting can be expensive but with some planning and attention to the alignment of goals, it can also be an opportunity to do more business.

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