Expert insights

Meeting for free: how the experts keep costs down

3 May 2017 by Trudy Heenan

Looking to reduce spend on your company's meetings? M&E account manager, Trudy Heenan, has some of her top tips to share with you...

With most companies wanting to reduce costs for travel and events, more and more of us are looking for cheap or free meeting spaces – or avoiding unnecessary get-togethers in the first place. If you need to meet with colleagues or business contacts but don’t want to blow the budget, here are my tips for keeping costs down while staying professional.

1. Watch out for hidden venue costs

There’s rarely any such thing as a free lunch – or a free meeting space. Some hotels and venues have introduced a minimum spend for those using public areas such as the lounge space.

This is especially true of venues in busy locations, such as railway hotels or those on key motorway networks. Pick a more out-of-the-way venue if you want to keep costs down.

In addition, if you’re driving to a meeting venue, don’t forget to factor in any parking charges – these can add up, too. So prioritising venues with free parking could pay dividends.

2. Embrace walking meetings

One idea that is gaining popularity is the walking meeting. Inviting your colleagues to go for a stroll to discuss ideas could benefit employees as well as keep costs down.

Firstly, physical activity energises people and makes them more alert. Secondly, fresh air and exposure to sunlight also improves physical and mental wellbeing, so you could find yourself happier and more productive. Not to mention the fact that working in different environments can also inspire new ideas and stimulate creativity.

Find out more about the benefits of outdoor meetings.

3. Rethink the pub for informal meetings – and get creative with communal spaces

You can’t drop into a pub without at least stumping up for soft drinks. But if the person you’re meeting is frequently on the road and privacy isn’t an issue, why not hold a meeting in the communal area of a motorway service station? Just make sure you remember to leave within the usual two-hour time limit, to avoid a fine!

It’s also worth considering other venue spaces that could be used for a free meeting. For example, if you or your colleagues are staying in a serviced apartment, many of these properties now include living spaces well suited to small meetings. Similarly, unbooked internal hot-desking spaces can be a useful resource.

4. Add a casual internal meeting space

Many businesses are introducing ‘pods’ or ‘nooks’ – usually standing-only tables, or tall tables with high stools, designed for two or three people to gather without catering or connectivity, and often no door.

These non-bookable spaces are designed for quick, off-the-cuff meetings (and the occasional office gossip). They’re ideal for less formal meet-ups – and require less space than a conventional meeting room.

5. Remember to check company security policy first

While most of us would think twice about reprimanding employees for chatting about work in the queue for the company canteen, it’s worth reminding your people that some meetings are too sensitive to be held in public spaces.

And that goes for sharing data, too. For example, downloading a contacts database over a coffee-shop WiFi connection could compromise your data security.

An impromptu meeting isn’t necessarily an unimportant one, so do be vigilant about who is around. Don’t be tempted to collaborate on a contract, map out your sales territory or discuss important business strategy in a public place. As a general rule, it’s a good idea to avoid mentioning companies by name when you’re meeting or teleconferencing in public.

And remember, meeting in cafés or hotels close to a customer’s office may inadvertently mean sharing that space with competitors or with your customer’s employees – so be sensible!

6. Make the most of the space you already have for free meetings

Some Capita Travel and Events customers are using our technology for managing internal spaces to optimise their own meeting rooms and keep external venue spend down.

Internal meeting spaces can be hard to keep track of, meaning that opportunities for a free meeting can be missed. But within our own business, meeting rooms, hot desks and even parking spaces are all bookable online.

We actively encourage our teams to schedule meetings at our own offices. This approach is not only free, but also helps fulfil our internal communications agenda by increasing the visibility of employees and opportunities for face-to-face meet-ups.

Interested? Let’s have a chat about your company’s travel, meetings and events objectives - from the stuff that keeps you awake at night, to the everyday experiences of your employees! Call us on 0330 390 0340, or submit the details below, with an idea of the times that suit you for a call.