Often the biggest disasters come from mistakes that could have been easily avoided with proper planning. Don’t let this be the case for you and your meeting! For easy reference, we have compiled a list of common mistakes along with tips for how to prevent them.

  1. Misunderstanding the Overall Goals

Although planning is partially dependent on seizing opportunities, don’t make the mistake of securing vendor-partners or the venue without clarifying your goals. Meet with the key stakeholders to ascertain the key performance indicators (KPIs) as well as the “who,” “what,” and “why” of the meeting or event. A clear understanding of your objectives will shape key decisions, such as the location/venue, desired space or set-up, speaker, content and/or agenda, equipment needs, food, or décor.

  1. Neglecting to Set a Clear Budget

Your company might already have a pretty good idea of what they can afford. However, to ensure you stay within the desired spend, you’ll need to make sure your budget is informed by data. Look at the amount spent at previous corporate meetings, if available. Take into account varying factors such as size, time of the year, industry fluctuations, etc. Get price quotes and compare these numbers to numbers known from previous meetings. If you see gaps in your budget (which often is set too low), determine why there is a price adjustment needed, and be clear about why the budget needs to change.  (You may need this in the event you need to argue your case with a supervisor and/or someone in accounting or purchasing to increase your budget, especially if the event is larger, the venue has changed, or if there industry changes which impact pricing overall.)

  1. Overspending in a Given Area

After you set your overall budget, don’t forget to allocate the amount into sub-budgets.  This can help prevent overspending in some areas.  (For example, you may find that booking that special speaker has left you with the budget for a meal of granola bars and water.) Take into account price quotes, but make sure to leave room for special dietary needs, taxes, and gratuities.

If you’re unsure how your budget should be allocated, or if you want to check your sub-budget against benchmarks, you may find checking against other industry metrics invaluable.  According to a recent M&C survey, here’s a basic breakdown of the typical expenses.1

  1. Accepting Contracts at Face Value

Don’t forget that negotiating is a normal part of selecting your venue and interacting with vendor-partners. It is completely possible to bargain hard while still being considerate and polite. To reduce costs, leverage your big-budget items for discounts and free extras. Also, ask about bundle deals or negotiate a clause that allows outside vendor-partners. Additionally, negotiating value isn’t always about what’s the best pricing.  Sometimes great negotiation means looking for what’s the best overall value given you’re your overall needs might be.  Meeting planners that truly understand how to negotiate will evaluate price as well as rebates, overall value and the desired needs.  Look here for more tips on negotiating.

  1. Skimming the Details

A meticulous study of a contract isn’t exactly a pleasure read. However, failing to carefully read and understand contract details can easily cost your company thousands of dollars. Be attentive to the cancellation, force majeure, and attrition clauses. Often times contract details can also be negotiated or minimized. However, even if the clauses are inflexible, it is better to be aware of this on the front end than being surprised later. For information on reducing attrition impact, click here.

  1. Blindly Paying the Bill

Keep in mind, your negotiations could be in vain unless you hold your vendors accountable to what was agreed upon.  It’s not enough to simply sign the contract.  Be sure to follow-up as the event gets closer to be sure the details you agreed to still match the contract.  While the event is happening, have a checklist prepared and check off items (if possible) to be sure items that were promised (whether services, equipment, food, etc.) are as agreed to contractually.  If not, speak-up.  After the event is over make sure to compare the initial agreement with what was received and the final charge. Sometimes vendors, even the very best ones, can forget small details.  Cross-auditing for discounts, rebates, negotiated rates, bundles, etc. can help ensure that the pricing you agreed to was what you pay.  Additionally, if you were charged for services or deliverables that were not needed (and your contract stipulates you would be pro-rated for unused services or deliverables) be sure you are given credit.

  1. Failing to Expect the Worst

It seems to be a rule at major events that at least one thing will go wrong. Make sure you are prepared for medical emergencies and safety concerns by crafting an Emergency Action Plan. Take time to prepare a plan for the less dire situations as well, such as speaker or vendor-partner cancellations or power outages.

  1. Ignoring the General Wellness of Attendees

Ugly yellow lights, crackling or buzzing speakers, and stuffy or foul smelling rooms will certainly leave an impression, but not the one you want! Attendees should leave an event energized as well as refreshed. Do a walk-through of all the rooms you plan on using and keep in mind lighting, air quality, and the general impression the space makes. When setting the schedule remember to leave room for breaks, networking events, and interactive workshops. Even if your material is excellent, back-to-back lectures will likely cause attendees to check-out and leave feeling drained.

  1. Lack of Communication

Miscommunication and false assumptions are oftentimes the greatest evils in planning. Make your expectations clear and communicate any changes to vendor-partners, the venue, and your staff. This will strengthen your relationships and leave less potential for unexpected fees, last-minute setup, and general panic and confusion.


Don’t leave the details of your event to chance. By using the above list, you can easily navigate around potential catastrophes and leave your attendees, as well as your stakeholders, wowed by the results.

For assistance in planning your next corporate meeting, contact Gavel International.


Eloisa Mendez