Some events have bigger budgets than others. While most people believe that with an unlimited amount of resources or a whole lot of money, you can potentially move mountains and make huge ripples in the lake, it also does not mean that events with smaller budgets are going to be less impactful and successful.
With a tight budget, you can still get things done and make a strong impression and get your message across to your audience. Here are some key guidelines on how to do so:
1. Get organized with your venue early
The venue is critical and will probably be among your biggest items on your budget and it should be looked into early in the planning process. Finding a suitable venue is already hard by itself and it will not get any easier with a limited budget or by incurring any extra, last minute booking costs. So, it is imperative to plan early, choose wisely and book it at the earliest while carefully choosing the location and access, the type of venue, the dates.
Find out if off-season dates can possibly work out for your event. You can get a good bargain with spaces and amenities by choosing less popular dates. There are also sometimes other creative ways of using a venue that may be less expensive; a balcony or a rooftop, if any, can work wonders while making a big saving…
2. Location and transportation costs
Do you really need people to travel or can your event still make sense in a place close by? Is it possible to cut down on transportation and lodging costs? Of course, it will depend on what kind of event you are organizing and who are your attendees. But if your budget is limited, it will not take too long to know and decide that transportation and lodging costs can prove to be huge costs for you and for your attendees.
If it can’t be helped in the case of an international event, consider a hybrid event with a combination of live and digital guests.
3. Food and beverage costs
Not unless your event is a culinary event, then the food and beverage ought to be the highlights. Otherwise, the catering provided can still be good but not necessarily fancy. With a small budget, it is an opportunity for you to think out of the box and venture away from the conventional approaches while staying cost-effective. It can be simple and still a crowd-pleaser or promote an alternative way to be more conscious and healthy. A vegetarian DIY pita, falafel and salad bar can well do the job. Cup cakes can be fun too. Choose some signature cocktails as opposed to having a full shelf, if having liquor is really a must. And set up a water station instead of distributing bottled water, are just some of the many ways to work with your tight budget.
4. Go digital & cut down printing cost
There are nowadays many other alternatives to having printed materials for planning your events and to be used at events for your attendees. This can allow you to save money with printing or limit the printing to what is absolutely essential and also saving some trees along the way.
Technology can facilitate management and planning of your event, registration, displaying schedules, sharing information about and around the event. Consider a mobile optimized event specific website, an event app and/or using RFID wearables. Find out more here.
5. Be flexible, be creative
Prioritizing your spending to know what and where you can allow yourself to be more flexible and creative about. Also, the more fixed you are on ideas and elements with regards to your event, the tougher it will be to get them according to your budget. Sometimes what is offered to you for free or at a lower cost may not be the exactly the things you ideally wanted but ask yourself if they can still do the job. It may be less stylish but still serves the function.
Think about recycling items instead of getting new ones for every event. You can chose to have those items designed and built in such a way that they can be reused, by only changing certain parts or nothing at all. Those items are usually more for functional purposes and are used over and over again at multiple events.
Try to stretch your dollar. While staying honest and upfront about your budget, you can negotiate with your suppliers and explore the idea of extending business beyond just a one-off event if it is within your long-term strategy. It is important to know what is the market value of the services and items you are requesting before negotiating – do not insult your way through by offering a price far lower, it is not helpful for anyone to do so.
Look for package deals by having one or fewer suppliers; this can substantially cut down some costs. Your chosen venue may be able to offer you all or most of the services you need in the same deal or get you preferential rates with some recommended vendors.
You need to do your research because it may also be a case where the venue insists that you use their in-house catering without much flexibility and can considerably be more expensive at the end of the day.
Negotiation can possibly lead to collaboration. Seek leverage where possible. See if you can build partnerships with your suppliers or sponsorship opportunities by giving visibility in exchange for services or a reduction in costs.
8. Free tools
There is a multitude of free tools on the market that can help you to manage your event as well as promote it.
While you can buy or spend a bit to get an event management software to work a bit more for you, there are also free one that can help you do the job from start to finish. Use Capterra to help you find one that suits your need.
As for getting your event out there and known, there is an array of promotion tools you can use through social media and email marketing without the need to pay for newspaper or billboard ads. Find out more here: 5 Promotional Ideas for your Next Event.
9. Train volunteers
It may be a good idea to invest time in a volunteer program or an internship program. It will be a good way to get extra manpower and back you up and your team.
Volunteers as opposed to interns can contribute without necessarily adding cost. They just need the right guidance and have a direct access to a key person in the management team in case something urgent needs to be attended to. Otherwise, good perks such as free entrance or access to the conference, concerts, or anything that is special enough can work out – they can have privileged access to as opposed to being just a regular attendee or not there. Of course, some tasks are more specialized than other and should not be handled by them.
As for interns, they are usually in search of experience but can be valuable with whatever expertise they come with.
10. Small costs add up
Keep track of all expenses, including the very small ones because they add up. The budgeting exercise in the planning process should give you a clear idea of what is needed for your event. The tighter the budget, the tighter you ought to be on your spending and make sure each one of the expenses is accounted for.
Make sure that you are fully aware of all the additional charges or any hidden fees, such as set up and break down costs, prior to signing the contracts with your venue and vendors. They tend to pop up only in the final invoicing with a surprising figure. Check contracts, double check proposals and counter-check with final bills.
Be mindful of your budget but it does not mean be cheap. Working with small budget can make your job harder, but it is not impossible. In fact, you can become a stronger event planner in doing so, more creative and reliable one. Eventually, when the resources are made available to you, you will know how to further maximize your event ROI.