As an event planner, you want to throw an event fit for the Queen of England. Unfortunately, your budget likely stands in the way of making that happen. Money doesn’t grow from trees, and you have limited finances.
Even so, you can still organize a spectacular event that will impress attendees and garner some social media mentions. Staying within a budget does not equate to a lackluster event.
1. Venue Selection
You’re probably not going to be able to secure a venue along the lines of Buckingham Palace, but there are still a number of great conference venues that are affordable. Just because you’re on a budget doesn’t mean you have to settle for a high school gym or bland multi-purpose room.
Many venues are not only affordable but also negotiable. Price is rarely ever static and often fluctuates depending on demand. Venue prices are usually highest during end-of-the-year months like November and December when people are renting out facilities for holiday parties.
Demand is typically at its lowest in months like January and February since the major holidays just ended.
With that in mind, would you be willing to settle for an event on, say, a weekday in February, as opposed to a December weekend?
2. Event Registration
Do away with paper registration. You should also do away with printable tickets. Once attendees register, their names should be recorded in your database, which you can retrieve when guests check in at the event. Printing costs are an unnecessary overhead especially at a time when everything is available in a digital format.
You should have some sort of registration software in place instead of logging everything by pencil and paper. Some programs, such as Bookitbee, provides a free system with the option to upgrade to a paying membership if you need additional features. (currently in US & Canada - in other countries, a small fee per paid for ticket still applies)
3. Cut Back on Food
There are a few ways to cut back on food. Take the following into consideration when preparing your food budget:
- Decide between a buffet and sit-down meal. Contrary to popular belief, a buffet isn’t always the more expensive option. A sit-down meal may cost more since there are usually servers involved.
- Forgo bottled water or any bottled beverage for that matter. Provide water dispensers with plastic cups.
- Limit alcohol; however, you may opt for a bar where guests can purchase their own drinks.
- Consider a potluck if holding a more casual and informal event.
- Use the venue’s catering service if available to avoid a potential surplus fee
4. Cut Back on Décor
You want the venue to look spectacular for the occasion, fitting of being the backdrop for a selfie. However, at the end of the day, guest perception of the event is going to be influenced mostly by the quality of the lectures, workshops, and tradeshow booths.
If there is a strong networking component and guests acquired some additional contacts, they’re going to value that as well.
The point here is that venue decoration is rather low on the totem pole of factors that influence overall event experience. You can afford to cut back on the crystal swan or sophisticated food art and settle for some balloons and inexpensive floral arrangements. Also, some venues are already quite upscale in appearance and don’t really need a whole lot of decorations to begin with.
5. Cut Back on the Swag
You should definitely have some form of promotional gear to give away. However, you should limit the items; it’s not necessary for attendees to leave with a bag full of small knickknacks that they’ll probably never use.
Stick to swag items that can be produced by the bulk at a low cost. Examples include writing utensils, coasters, erasers, and pocket combs. You can still hand out more expensive swag, such as hoodies, duffel bags, and umbrellas.
However, you should limit these to attendees that are willing to give you something in return, such as their email for you to include in your subscriber list.
6. Explore Alternative Marketing Methods
The pre-event marketing also constitutes as part of the overall event budget. Luckily, with the exception of pay-per-click ads, such as Facebook Ads and Google Adwords, most online marketing methods are free.
You should explore these methods that don’t cost you a penny:
- Old-fashioned SEO. This means link building through content creation
- Setting up a YouTube channel and creating your own regular vlog or podcast
- Leveraging brand advocates and influencers
- Encouraging staff and sponsors to reach out to their own social media followers
- Promoting your event in industry-related forums or social media sub-sites like LinkedIn Groups
7. Negotiate with Sponsors
It’s very rare that sponsors will foot the bill for the entire event cost. Usually, a deal is struck where sponsors agree to give you X amount of funding in exchange for, say, a spot in the venue for setting up their own exhibition booth.
Negotiate with sponsors to see if they are willing to increase their funds. Of course, you’ll give something additional in return, such as adding their logo to your own swag items, or introducing a sponsor product during the presentation. The more funding your sponsors provide, the less you pay out of your own company pocket. Negotiate and be willing to provide something a little extra in return.
When you budget for an event, you end up exploring novel ways to leverage the resources available to you. You learn how to organize a memorable event that doesn’t involve lavish expenses. Ultimately, these lessons are infinitely more valuable than the money saved.
This is a guest post by Dan McCarthy, Event Manager at JD Parties, an event management company based in the UK. Dan has five years of event project management under his belt. He has worked on many successful events, and currently he shares his knowledge by writing on the company blog. Follow him on Twitter @DanCarthy2.