Industry educational conferences offer a wealth of opportunities for training and networking, but if you’re looking for even greater value, you’ll be grateful for these tips on shaving a few bucks from your next conference bill. We asked IDEA Facebook fans for their best advice on not breaking the bank at conventions and trade shows; here’s a summary of their savviest advice:
- Bring your own food (snacks, meals, coffee). “I bring my own daytime foods--oatmeal, bars, nuts, protein powder--and shop before the conference for my fruit and salad stuff,” says Teresa Estill, a Pilates instructor in Los Gatos, California. She also travels with her Magic Bullet blender to stay juiced. Another fit pro even brings her own coffee. If you do buy meals at the conference, smartphone apps like Food Tripping can help you find healthy options at nearby restaurants.
- Double up in a hotel room. “I always share a room, which not only saves money but makes it fun,” says Carrie Cheadle, a sport and exercise mental-skills coach in Petaluma, California. “It’s much cheaper to request an extra bed and split the cost of the room between three people, instead of paying for it solo.” She suggests requesting a fridge in the room to store the food you’re bringing along. You can also use social media to help you connect with other fit pros looking for roommates. Make sure to join event-related Facebook groups to help you connect, or tweet with the official event hashtag to find others attending the conference.
- Walk or use public transportation. “I walk everywhere ... no taxis and no parking fees or rental cars,” says Jennifer Epling, a personal trainer in Orange County, California. “I stay at or near the convention location (depending on the price of the room) and am on foot except for a shuttle to/from the airport.” Try to book a room close to the convention site so you can walk. If you book a hotel farther from the convention site to save money, look into public transportation options like trollies, buses and bike shares.
- Volunteer to work at the convention. Many conferences give discounts to volunteers. It’s also a great way to network. IDEA offers an assistant program that requires assistants to work 4- to 6-hour hour shifts each day. Once assistants have put in their time for the day, they are free to attend sessions and activities at no cost.
- Bring a refillable water bottle. Lisa Fruge Johnson, a Zumba instructor in Eunice, Louisiana, recommends bringing a water bottle with a built-in filter so you can fill it from faucets and drinking fountains. If you are unable to do this or forget your water bottle, buy a drink and save the bottle for reuse.
- Book flights and rooms early. Prices for travel and lodging increase as the event date approaches, so you should make reservations as early as possible. Travel sites such as Kayak, Priceline, Travelocity and Expedia can offer solid airline and hotel deals. Most conferences have certain hotels booked for attendees at a predetermined price, but you can always scan for a better rate in the area.
- Use early-bird event pricing. “A very simple way to save is to make sure you register on time,” says Steven Teahan, owner of Peak Form Fitness in Tewksbury, Massachusetts. “Many conferences increase their prices after a certain date.” Sign up during the early-bird registration period for the lowest prices. The IDEA World Fitness Convention™ early-bird price saves attendees $70.00 on registration and runs through June 28, 2013.
- Inquire about discounts. If you belong to a club or are affiliated with a specific company, ask your owner, manager or program director about potential savings. Some companies have stipends or are willing to pay a portion of their employees’ fees to ensure they are staying current with their continuing education. Other companies have relationships with the conference hosts and receive coupon codes to extend to their networks.
- Apply to be a presenter. “The only way I get to conferences and get CEUs is to apply to speak,” says Shari Kalkstein, a certified strength and conditioning specialist in Davie, Florida. Most conventions offer presenters special benefits and discounts, and some presenters are paid to appear. If you feel you have the knowledge, background and specialty to be a presenter, look into applying to IDEA World. If you are affiliated with certain brands or companies, find out if they need people to present or promote on their behalf at the convention.