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Eventful Advantage / Event Tips  / You Don’t Need to Break the Bank to Have an Event
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You Don’t Need to Break the Bank to Have an Event

Tips to Stretch Your Event Budget
(In-person or online)

I have had the opportunity to put together events with big budgets and on a shoestring budget.  It is harder to put together a good event on a small budget, but it is not impossible.  Sometimes when people are working on a tight budget, they skip part of an event to save costs.  To cut corners they find the most minimal way to do things and this is not the right course of action.  You must still create an experience for your attendees if you want the power of events to work for you.  You also want yourself, your business and brand to be memorable.  You need to find a way to give champagne on a beer budget.

Power of Events

There is a true Power of Events whether they are in-person or online that should be part of every businesses marketing strategy that in one fell swoop of having an event it can do the following:

  • Keep current clients loyal and engaged in the business
  • Gain additional clients
  • Increase Sales
  • Grow Your Brand Awareness

Event on a Shoestring Budget

I recently put together an event for networking group.  They give most of their dollars to charity and keep a small budget for events for the members to meet new people and to grow the group.  They mentioned to me their past events were not well attended and the little money they did have went to waste because their event was not good.  I discovered while finding out more about their past events that they cut corners and did not think about all aspects of the event.  I went to work to give them an experience not just an event for their small budget.  We found free space to hold the event for exposure of the space to others in our marketing and at the event.  We found new businesses to supply the food and beverages.  With these vendors we set up couple different tasting experiences plus had the chef prepare the food right before the guests to increase interaction and engagement.   These vendors were happy to give a combination of both free and heavily discounted services for more exposure and an opportunity to give out marketing materials at the event.  We found a local musician who was happy to play live music for both exposure and tips.  The members of the group of the event displayed their business materials on the table to give them more exposure and a few donated prizes from their businesses that we gave to attendees.  We came up with a plan to communicate and promote the event to get people to attend.  We used different nametags to distinguish both members and guests and the members were tasked with welcoming and conversing with the guests.  We even tied one of the charities this group gave to as part of the event with a large check made out to the charity presented during the event.  There was interaction and engagement and all 5 senses were stimulated leading to the best event they ever had with their attendees having a great memorable experience.  Because of the event, they gained new clients and some new members for the group – and all this was done with a very tiny budget.

Cost and ROI of Events

Events can be costly.  First step is to look at your overall purpose and goals of what you want to achieve, what return on investment you want to earn and set an overall budget that makes sense to work with.   Events when looked at this way can be very lucrative for your business.  Events are one of the quickest ways to scale your business where you can reach a group of people at one time vs one person at a time.

Currently there is an opportunity to do an online event which helps tremendously in keeping event costs down since space, food and beverage do not have to be included in the cost.  However, it is important to remember that even with an online event, you need to make it an experience which will require either a package sent to your attendees or for them to bring some materials to the event.

Stretch the Event Budget to Make it Go Farther

There are several ways that you can stretch an event budget to make it go farther.  Here are a few tips.

#1 – Use Professional Event Help

Event Professionals know how to creatively work within a budget to make your dollar go farther.  They also have built up relationships with vendors to get you the best prices.  They know how to allocate the dollars across all the needs of the event so that you do not blow your budget in one area.

If your business already has inside event professionals, get them involved as early as possible in the planning of the event so they have time to research and negotiate with vendors.  This will help to keep the costs down.

If you do not have inside company event professionals, you need to figure out how much you or others in your network can take on.  Is it better for yourself and staff to stay focused on their jobs or can they take time away to work on the event?   Events take more time and energy than most people think to plan and manage all the different moving pieces of the puzzle.  Also, planning events can be stressful.  With that in mind, it is often best to work with an outside Event Professional.   Events ALWAYS take more time than initially planned.  Because of this, it is recommended to work with the Event Professional on a package rate vs an hourly rate.  This way you also know how much the Event Professional will cost and can figure this into your budget.

#2 – Volunteers

Usually, leading up to the day of the event and on the day of event there is a need for more hands-on deck.  For this short duration of time staff, family and friends can be utilized as volunteers for the event vs having the need to hire additional staff.  It is good to let the Event Professional take on the creation of tasks needed and the management of these people to help put all the different pieces of the puzzle together.

#3 – Power Partners

Do you have friends that can help by being a vendor/supplier for the event?  Do you know of a complimentary business that works well with yours that can join you in your event?  The Event    Professional usually has resources and contacts they can reach out to, but if you have friends that are willing to help you out, make sure that the Event Professional knows this and can find a way to utilize their services.   In addition, if you have complimentary business people that you can share the event with, this collaboration can help reduce the event costs for each of you versus having your own individual event. You also get the benefit of sharing your lists with each other. This will expand your audience reach for your event.

#4 – Event Space

Would you be able to host your event at your business?  Or at your home?  Free event space can help you save a lot of dollars that can then be used elsewhere.  This is also one of the reasons an online event can save you dollars.

Also consider creative spaces that are not used or newer spaces that need to get rented (i.e. coworking spaces) where it is a benefit for them to have people see their space.  You may be able to work out something in exchange with these spaces for giving them exposure in your event promotion.

#5 – Business Showcase Tables

Does it work with your event to highlight other businesses?  Are there businesses that could benefit from the audience that you will be attracting?  If that is the case, whether online or in-person you can create business showcase tables and highlight these businesses during your event and in your promotional materials for a fee.  You are doing the work to create the audience; other businesses will be willing to pay to have access to them.

#6 – Sponsors

Are there businesses that it would be seen in a good light that they are supportive of your event or want to be noticed by the audience you are attracting?  You could develop sponsorship packages to sell for different things that would be a benefit for them.  Mention in promotional materials, signage, a chance to speak at the event…  They could even sponsor a certain event charge for the event, i.e. dessert, flowers…

#7 – Minimal or DIY décor

You do want to create a nice environment for your event but there are ways to do this at a budget.  You can keep the décor minimal or use more do it yourself décor that is reasonable to purchase the ingredients and put it together yourself.  Repurposing materials that are readily found or easy to come by can also help keep the costs down.  (i.e. spray-painting wine bottles to use as vases)

#8 – Alcohol

If you do serve alcohol, make sure that you are using a certified and licensed person or service.  This can be a liability if you do not do so if someone should become inebriated, have an accident. If you are using an event space that has alcohol, you usually need to purchase your alcohol through them and use their service to do so.  This is usually extremely high priced.  If you can bring in your own alcohol, some spaces require corking/service fees to serve it for you. If you use a space where there is no alcohol or service requirements, unless you have a bartender friend that is certified and licensed, you should hire a mobile bar service that are certified and licensed.

A way to control costs with alcohol is to either limit the drinks that are free for guests (give drink tickets), limit the alcoholic beverages to beer and wine, or have a cash bar that requires the attendees to purchase their own beverages.

#9 – Food

You can work with the venue or caterer to come up with an enticing menu that can be appealing but taste good.  You might want to pick a time to have an event where appetizers vs a meal can be served.

#10 – Branding Materials/Swag

It is good marketing to give your attendees something they would find valuable that has your brand name on it that they will want to keep.  This helps remind them of the event along with your business and brand.  Developing one nicer thing is better than giving them a bunch of things they will want to throw out.  Sponsors and Partners could also add to what the attendee will receive to cut down on your cost and feeling to give them more.

#11 – Charge a Ticket Price

If you are holding an event that gives a lot of value to your attendees for the content, the contacts, the food, and beverage, you can charge for a ticket.  A paid attendee has more skin in the game, and it weeds out the people that just like free things from the people who are genuinely interested.  This could mean less people attend, but of the people who say they are attending a higher percentage will show up.  For free events, it is considered incredibly good if half the people who say they will show up do.  Even charging a lower ticket price could help better qualify your audience ahead of time, control the size of the group so that costs are less for the event (especially important for in-person events) and you receive some dollars to cover a part of the cost of the event.

Important Thing to Remember

I hope that these tips help you think of ways that you can control the costs of your upcoming events.  The important thing to remember is that no matter what budget you have for your event, you do need to build it around your purpose and goals and make sure your attendees have a memorable experience.

Also consider having an online event – it is a more economical way to have an event and people are now more comfortable to come together in this way.

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