Want to save more money on your event budget without cutting back on the quality of your meeting? Consider piggybacking, a strategic practice some planners have been leveraging for years, where two or more events taking place around the same time at the same venue share resources and leverage spend on event components such as decor and floral, food and beverage, and AV. Best for similar-sized, flexible groups, piggybacking enables planners to save money and reallocate funds into other areas.
“It’s a win-win,” says Christy Lamagna, president of Strategic Meetings and Events. “If you can find ways to leverage your projection, gang menus or share centerpieces, each group’s cost goes down. You end up saving money because you’re spending smarter.” To best use this practice, you need to know how it works and in what areas it works best.
Piggybacking: Floral and Decor
Piggybacking on room decor and flowers can be one of the easiest ways to cut costs, afford nicer arrangements and reduce waste, says Lamagna. “If your final night reception [is] while I’m loading in and the next night is my welcome reception, I can use your final night florals for my reception, split the bill and we both save half,” she says.
Another simple way to reuse resources is to keep the room set-up and design from a previous event, says Lisa Gentilin, owner of Fancy Shindigs, which offers educational courses for meeting planners. “If a large company came in and did a themed evening event before yours, you can work with the venue to see if they’ll leave the room set up with that decor,” says Gentilin. “It’s a different group of people, so they aren’t going to know it’s the same theme.”
Piggybacking: Food and Beverage
As long as you can be open-minded about menu items and don’t mind serving what another event is offering, you can take advantage of bulk food orders on F&B, which saves money for both groups. “If you and I are both doing events on the same evening or a day within each other and I can’t afford lobster but you’re ordering it, I can ask the hotel to add or piggyback on your food order,” says Lamagna. “Even if the meals are a day apart, the food is still fresh.”
Piggybacking on wine orders by requesting open-case lots from previous events is another idea, says Lamagna. “It may not be enough wine to put on the hotel menu, but it’s enough that it’s just sitting in the wine cellar. You can end up with wine that’s more expensive than what you would have ordered at a decent price,” she says.
Piggybacking: AV and Room Set-Up
Besides saving money on labor costs for set-up and tear-down, piggybacking on AV can be a big bonus for the venue in a tight meeting room turnaround. If two groups with the same AV needs host their general sessions in the same ballroom several hours apart, the hotel can leave that AV set-up in place and flip the room faster rather than risk losing room rental revenue by having to schedule those groups further apart.
“AV is naturally where a hotel is going to approach you about working with the group before you,” says Lamagna. “I can either have my production team hang their lights on the other group’s rigging, or if their projection needs are similar to mine, perhaps pre-hanging my lights so that the other group doesn’t have to do a full-on load-out. This means your group doesn’t use as much time to load-in, and the other group doesn’t have to strike their rigging.”
Similarly, sharing meeting room configuration cuts labor costs. If you can have flexibility with dates, consider piggybacking with compatible groups on scheduling as well as set-up, suggests Gentilin. “If they’re only going to use the general session set-up area from 9-12, I can be flexible and use it from 1-4,” says Gentilin.
Finding a Partner
Before jumping into piggybacking, be clear about your event objectives, needs and expenses. Once those are settled, contact your convention services manager and let the person know you’d like to partner with another group. As the facilitator and intermediary, the CSM should research similar events taking place around the same time as yours, determine if there’s a good fit and reach out to the group’s CSM or planner on your behalf.
“The CSM is going to be the one who knows all the other groups in-house and what their needs are, so they can [find the right match],” says Gentilin. Depending on the size of the event, they may coordinate either a conference call or a site inspection that [both planners] do at the same time so you can meet and talk.”
Piggybacking can be a great practice, but there are possible risks and pitfalls, cautions Tracey Lane, president of The Lane Group. “Although it can be a great cost-savings, from a management end it can tend to be more difficult,” says Lane. She cautions about potential issues with AV, such as who’s paying for insurance and who’s securing the equipment. “You’re dealing with so many different facets that everything really needs to fall into place perfectly for it to work.” To avoid potential piggybacking problems, consider these tips:
- Make sure your requests are aligned with the objectives and needs of your event.
- Be upfront, open and honest, and engage in cooperative communication.
- Make sure everyone in your company buys in and understands the commitment.
- Talk through what-if scenarios.
- If possible, piggyback with planners you know or believe will be easy to work with.
- Don’t do something just to save money if it doesn’t align with your event objectives.
- Don’t place all the pressure on your CSM. You have to share your needs and help manage the process.