Hosting an Effective Meeting without Breaking the Budget

Written by Paul Marchildon, on August 30, 2013.


A big, fat budget is never a bad thing. Ask Iron Man. It cost $200 million to create the blockbuster Iron Man 3. Worth every penny (Or is it nickel now?). But a few guys with action figures, cardboard, and poster paint did a pretty good rendition in the “sweded” trailer they recreated. Who needs a big, fat budget when you have creativity? Ideally, you have both. Realistically, companies are paring down their event and meetings spending. Some have cut too deeply, forgetting that meetings are the way to get your message through and make it stick. We might need to reduce budgets, but we have to be conscious of our audiences and our content. What is the best way to deliver essential messages in budget-conscious times?

Spending $800,000 on an interior decorator to redo one’s corner office is frivolous (here’s looking at you, John Thain). Spending money on meetings and events is not frivolous; it is a must. When you stick your people in a barebones environment, they are not engaged in the message. That doesn’t mean you need a laser light show, holograms, and Robert Downey Jr. to make an impact. Strategic spending is critical in creating the buy-in you need for your message, for creating the impetus to act on it when they get back to the office, or out in the field.

Meetings Lacking Effectiveness?

Paul Marchildon, an experienced Leisureologist, can work with you and your team to design meetings that will capture your audience’s attention from start to finish.

The best creativity is often driven by low budgets. (I know, I know: not something you want to broadcast as a marketing strategist!) We worked with a client who stayed with us for years because we were there to handle events when times were good, and when times were not so good. One year, their brand team had three products to be launched, and they planned a meeting at the Clevelands House in Muskoka to develop the roll out for each. Normally, they would have had $20,000 to $50,000 per product to put together videos, create compelling stories, and generate content to excite the sales force about the market potential. This year, they had, maybe, $20,000 between the three of them.

At the time, Blair Witch Project was freshly out, and it surprised everyone. The thing cost about $25,000 to make and raked in $248,639,099. It was fate, or damn good timing. We took our little budget that could and put together a “Muskoka Witch Project.” The film had three main actors – and thanks to the mighty hand of fate again – we had three brand managers and three products, one of which was Trident White. As the managers were walking through Muskoka’s woods at dusk, you’d see dental floss hanging from the trees and hear dentists’ drills in the background. We incorporated all three products in the fun. I mean, in the fright.

We eschewed a ballroom or corporate conference room and splurged on a church hall. $50 venue rental and some popcorn later, we were ready. Even showing the video on an old projector worked because it was in line with the Blair Witch Project’s homemade, LB feel. The president got up and said, “The brand managers were supposed to be here, but we don’t know where they are.” Of course they had to go “missing.” Have to set up the sequel.

People loved it. They got all the content they needed about the new products in a way that was unexpected and different. It was low budget and completely memorable. No word on those brand managers, though, which is disturbing. But, all in all, a success.

When you are working within a tight budget, you have to think about how you are going to deliver your message so people listen, so it sticks, and so they act on it. Sometimes you miss these objectives even when you have the luxury of a roomy budget, so you can’t always blame money. You have to be creative, at whatever price point, but if you take dollars out of your budget, you have to put back in imagination, originality, and inspiration.
Paul Marchildon

Paul Marchildon

A self-proclaimed Leisureologist and Motivational Speaker, Paul Marchildon applies his vast expertise in human engagement to help leaders create more productive, effective organizations. Building on an influential career as a pioneer in employee incentive and loyalty programs, strategic creative communications, social media and mobile marketing, Paul provides insight into the advantages of incorporating a leisure culture in the "work" place. He is past president of Society of Incentive and Travel Executives’ (Site) Canadian Chapter and founder of Atlantis Creative Group (now part of Maritz Canada). He is one of a select group of Canadians who have received the Certified Incentive Travel Executive (CITE) designation.