A huge show is in the pipeline and you have got it all worked out: pyrotechnics, stunning light designs, a killer soundscape and world-class guest performers. It is going to be absolutely awesome.
There’s just one problem.
You don’t really have a big enough budget for all that. In fact, you could quite accurately describe it as a tight budget. So what can you do? Well in the immortal words of 19th century circuses – the show must go on. And actually, here’s why a smaller budget can be a good thing.
The Polish theatre practitioner Jerzy Grotowski’s “Towards A Poor Theatre”details his methods and philosophies that drive his art. In it, he argues that theatre cannot really compete with television in certain technical aspects and so, for the sake of its long-term survival, should focus on the essence of theatre. It’s a concept he called “poor theatre”, stripped of the excess and unnecessary.
Now, I happen to subscribe to this philosophy personally and believe it to be quite a useful guide to many aspects of life – including event planning of course. With this in mind, let’s think about how we can make the best of the budgets that we have.
Focus on the Necessary
This isn’t to say that you can’t have the glitz and glamor that big shows have. With big budgets and a willingness to be a spendthrift, who am I to tell you what to do with your money? But even with a tight budget, a spectacle is possible. (And besides, the aforementioned glitz and glamor should really only be used when it helps you develop the event rather than hinder it.) Firstly, as hinted at earlier, focus on what you determine to be the essence of your event. If, for instance, it is a product launch, then decide what is the ultimate selling point of this item. Dedicate your efforts into building a narrative and a program around this point. If it is a sports or music event, let those things take center-stage. You can safely assume, after all, that your patrons and attendees are there for a certain thing; make that certain thing the star of the show.
With a smaller budget, economy is key. Settle early on what you feel is vital and is an absolute must. Once that is done, you have established for yourself ways to create budget space for the essentials.
The thing about shock-and-awe effects is that while they have the power to overwhelm the senses they also have the ability to distract from the core message. As event organizers, then, a tight budget does not necessarily have to be seen as a constraint but an opportunity. Like many other things in life that require multi-departmental planning, a smaller and more tightly run ship is not only easier, but more conducive for audience members and viewers to grasp the real message. Fireworks and massive strobe lights can undoubtedly add a lot to an event, but most audiences go home thinking and reminiscing about these. Instead, they will remember the experience. A huge pop concert with big sets and effects works, that is for sure, but so does Ed Sheeran with just a guitar and his voice. So, be creative and work on creating an experience. Search for the core and ditch those expensive add-ons if you feel they add nothing to it.
As a performer myself I can attest to the fact that all your creations feel like your own babies and while you may not love them equally, you love them all the same. That is why it can be hard to have to exclude some things from your intended program. When you consider how many posthumous albums can be made from Michael Jackson’s rejected songs list, it will remind us all that to produce a show or program of exceedingly high quality requires us to be humble and brave in deciding to gut what doesn’t fit. So, while you as a producer may well enjoy the 5 hour-long affair of details that you have come to love, you can be pretty sure the audience won’t be. This ruthlessness works not only to tighten your event but also to save costs.
Big budgets are great but they also give you a bigger shovel with which to dig a creative grave with. Without apologizing for such a macabre analogy, the truth is that creativity often springs out of (relative) economic poverty. Much like a child in an empty room, you’ll have to fire up your imagination to work something out. But like that same child, there is nothing more fun than that.