How to Save Money When Attending a Conference

A lot of people have the misconception that with the advent of the Internet, business meetings and conferences are dead. If you have to meet with the manager of your office’s branch in a different state, you can simply conduct a conference call or a video call.

Any issue that needs to be addressed with a speedy response can be discussed via e-mail. This seems to be the trend in the business industry right now.

Fast Internet connections have made it possible, so there’s practically no need for executives to fly somewhere for conferences or business meetings, right? Not necessarily. In today’s digital world, there is an even greater need to follow up on virtual connections, which is where physical conferences and business meetings come in.

Why Should I Attend Conferences?

First, let’s take a look at the reasons why it pays to still invest money in travel and lodging when attending a business meeting or conference. Let’s say that you are a computer engineer. You can practically do all your communications online, so what are the benefits of your attending a summit, conference or a business meeting? The number one reason is for you to meet people from different organizations, with whom you can discuss industry-related issues.

You can also use the conference to follow up on the relationships that you have established via social media. Attending conferences and business meetings let you broaden your network. If you need a specialized service, you might meet someone in the conference who knows a professional who can do an excellent job of it.

Such events are also meant to update people from the same industry about the latest developments. Again, if you’re a computer engineer, attending tech events will let you in on the latest that the industry has to offer.

Moreover, professional conferences allow you to gain insight into the experiences of others who are in the same business that you are in. You can also use the experience and information that you gained to generate ideas for e-books, actual business, products, etc. With the contacts that you added to your business network, you can forge partnerships and discuss the common issues which are relevant to your industry.

Ways to Save Money When Attending a Conference

Of course, the number one rule if you would like to save money when attending a conference is to simply skip the travel. If there are one or two issues that need to be addressed, you should not waste time travelling back and forth and spending on food as well as accommodations if a simple conference or video call would do.

But, as mentioned in the reasons above, there are a multitude of benefits that you can enjoy when attending professional conferences and business meetings.

If you are attending a physical conference or business meeting, here are the ways for you to save money:

Secure your airline tickets in advance

Think of your business trip as a family vacation. Gone are the days when companies are willing to shell out thousands of dollars to send an executive in a different state or abroad to attend a conference. These days, every single cent spent on such trips is important, so make sure to plan for the trip accordingly.

Your goal should be to iron out all the details in advance, but without having to pay too much. The first task that you need to take on is securing your airline tickets. Do this six to seven weeks in advance, since this is when airline companies offer the best rates.

It is also cheaper to travel during off-peak hours, and airline tickets are cheaper in the weekdays as compared to weekends. When travelling with a group, take advantage of bulk discounts if this is something offered by travel agencies.

If possible, use alternate airports

If you’re booking domestic flights, always check on the prices of lower-cost airlines which fly from secondary airports. Again, follow the rule of booking the trip during a weekday and during off peak hours.

If you really want to save money, you can even take advantage of red eye flights which are a lot cheaper. When planning your trip, check out websites like Fly.com or Kayak where you can use the option for checking nearby airports. This will give you an alternate route, which will most probably be cheaper.

Use your credit card’s mileage points

If there’s one instance where you should take full advantage of a credit card’s rewards points, it is none other than when travelling for business. You might have an office-issued credit card which, when used, will rack up mileage points.

When booking your trip, check if you can already use the points or if the points that you will earn by securing the new round-trip tickets will give you free seat upgrades or maybe even an additional ticket.

Save money on accommodations

Again, companies are a lot stingier these days when it comes to business travels. This means that you cannot simply book a room at a five-star hotel on whim if you are flying to Hong Kong for a conference.

A great way to take advantage of lower rates is to go online to look for prices. However, during the booking of the hotel room, make sure to call the hotel directly. These establishments usually offer upgraded rooms with great rates at the last minute.

You can also visit sites like AirBnB for alternative accommodations. Tingo is a hotel website which lets travellers book rooms. If the price suddenly drops, there are even refunds issued for the difference. When looking for accommodations, make sure that the facilities you need are available at the hotel as well so you won’t have to pay extra.

Save money on communication

As long as you have Internet access, you do not have to spend a single cent on calls made to your office. Use services like Skype or Viber for calling; What’sApp for text messages and similar applications to make landline or mobile phone calls.

Use public transportation as much as possible

The best way to get to know an unfamiliar city is to use its public transportation system. Aside from getting deep into the gutters of how the locals live, using public transport will also help you save money.

If you must rent a car, book one in advance

If you must rent a car when travelling for business, make sure to do it in advance. This will save you a lot of time and effort lining up at the Arrivals hall of the airport where your flight is landing.

When booking a rental car online, you can make a comparison of the different local rent-a-car companies available. Not only that, but you can also have a bigger number of car models and makes to choose from.

When booking a rental car online, you will usually be met by the representative of the rental company at the airport, then lead you to where your rental car is parked.

Save money on Internet access

Again, using the Internet is the cheapest way to communicate with relatives at home, or with your office branch. If you’re still in the process of booking a hotel room, save money by looking for ones with free Wi-Fi or Internet access.

If you must pay for the service, make sure that you are not paying an arm and a leg for it. If the place where you’re going has slow or non-existent Internet connection, contact your local mobile phone provider. Ask about international data or calling plans if you are travelling abroad.

Save money on food during a professional conference

Similar to your accommodations, you should also save money on food when attending a professional conference or business meeting. Look for local grocery stores where you can shop for a few staples including bottled water.

You can eat in your hotel room or try the local food. Ask around and you should get recommendations about where the locals hang out – this should clue you in on which establishments offer the best food at cheap prices.

Don’t forget to document your trip properly

The purpose of your trip is to meet up with business colleagues, broaden your network, update yourself about the industry or acquire a new skill. With all the excitement that such an event produces, you might not be able to embed your brain with all the information that you can absorb from a three or four-day event.

You don’t want the trip to be wasted so make sure to document everything properly. If there are slide presentations, take pictures of the screen so you don’t have to take notes anymore. You can also record the presentation. Gather the business cards of the contacts that you made and make notes at the back of each card. You can use these contacts in the future.

By following these tips, you can save money when attending a professional conference or a business meeting.

Irina Vasilescu: Irina Vasilescu is our crafty designer. She joined the team three years ago and is also involved in the writing process.

View Comments

  • This post has been invaluably helpful to me. I am a freelance writer by trade and I often enjoy going to trade conferences and con ed conferences to help further myself in my career and keep up with what's new and developing in my field. I pay for these conferences and the travel out of pocket so I am always looking for new ways to reduce costs so that I can continue to enjoy them without breaking the bank. Thanks again!

  • The average person really doesn't attend conferences that often, though. It's easy enough to save money no matter what reason you're traveling for, so I guess these tips would work for other types of travelers, too. I can't remember the last time I attended a conference, even as a professional that constantly travels.

    • I think these tips are just as relevant for anyone who travels for any reason. The tips about using public transport instead of rental cars and saving money on food are especially useful. I don't really do conferences. That's too many people at once and too much socializing for me but I do like to travel.

  • Don't forget that if the conference is being held at a hotel, they often offer a discount to attendees. This is also true of hotels near to conference facilities. It is always worth ringing before you book to check.