More and more meeting planners today are facing the challenge of working with limited budgets and rising costs. Sound familiar? Predicting the cost of air travel can be like predicting the cost of corn futures. Lodging costs continue to rise faster than budgets, seldom do you get requests for macaroni and cheese for banquet dining, and corporate / speaker demands for more high tech are escalating each year as you try to top the previous year’s performance. In an effort to battle some of the costs, we have seen several new approaches to the area of expenses. One we are seeing and like is an all-inclusive expense allowance or a flat bid for expenses. This gives the planner the ability to know all related costs for bringing in their speakers right up front, before making a final commitment. This gives meeting planners several very distinct advantages. First, you will have greater accuracy in putting together your budget proposal for those who might need to approve it. Second, speaker expenses can vary dramatically depending on travel distances, workbooks, AV equipment, and other needs. These expenses can be substantial and might be critical in making your selection. A third factor is the knowledge that you aren’t going to get caught by any post-conference bills that put your department in the red and your position under someone’s blow torch. An all-inclusive expense allowance would include things like airfare, incidental meals enroute, personal mileage and other ground transportation, handout materials, tips, and any other costs to be incurred with bringing in the speaker, presenting their program, and getting them back to their original destination. Expenses usually covered by the client are then restricted to items like on-site lodging and meals, handout duplication, and production equipment. A/V and other physical equipment is optional but should at least be discussed because some speakers need very little equipment, but we know of others whose equipment needs alone run in the thousands of dollars for a single presentation. However, if you are using multiple speakers with duplicate needs, you might want to take responsibility for providing that equipment. Just make sure that one piece of equipment isn’t needed in two separate locations at the same time. Never should an organization be responsible for paying such things as speaker’s laundry, movie rentals, personal phone calls, gift shop items, health club charges, or other such items. It is for these very things being charged on direct-billed rooms, that we as bureaus are seeing this move to flat-fee expense contracts. It is also the reason our bureau asks our speakers to send their bills to us so that we can monitor these situations and make the appropriate adjustments before sending it on to you for payment. It should be pointed out that this situation doesn’t arise that frequently and in most cases is by accident or neglect. However, if it has happened to you once, you’re not going to want it to happen again!