As event planners, we’re passionate about what we do. We make grand plans to create experiences that are posted about and dreamed about for years to come. With all of this lofty ambition, it’s sometimes a little too easy to blow through a budget. To help you create a dream experience — all while keeping costs down — we’ve collected 6 tips to consider when building your conference budget checklist.
Map it out, line by line
After you have a clear understanding of your event goals, mapping out expenses for an event is your first step. Make each and every piece of the puzzle its own line item. List costs of every detail from venue rental to tech platforms to cocktail napkins, and don’t forget any items that apply to multiple events in your schedule.
Reference existing data
Is your event annual? Have you hosted a similar conference in the past? Your post-mortem and/or collected data is chock full of helpful information. Take a look to identify areas of overspending and underspending. The data will tell the story. What was necessary to hit your goals? Which was unnecessary? What are the differences between this event and last year’s event —and do these differences allow for any areas of cost-cutting?
Negotiate like a pro
Event planning is often a two-way street. Have you worked with a particular vendor or venue multiple times? If so, you’re generating valuable business for them. Take advantage of the rapport you’ve built and have a conversation about a lower price, especially if you plan on working together this year, next year and beyond.
Remember: When it comes to negotiating, you don’t know until you ask. Don’t hesitate to talk to your vendors about how you’re trying to save money. Ask if they can help. Do they have any outside-of-the-box services or ideas that are a bit more budget-friendly? Together, you might be able to come up with a more affordable, albeit less obvious alternative. You may be surprised how collaborators appreciate a sincere ask for help and take pleasure in being able to find solutions, especially if there is a long-term relationship in sight.
A closer look at marketing efforts
Let’s face it, marketing efforts usually eat up the majority of event budgets. And that’s okay, provided they actually pay off! It’s critical to understand if your strategies and methods are working and to what degree. Take the time to figure out which metrics truly indicate success, and calculate return on investment for each marketing channel (marketing costs compared to how much revenue they generated).
A sponsor and social media marriage
Sponsorship can help offset a lot of your event costs, and high engagement stats on the social media front are valuable for event partners. Is there a product or brand that resonates with your company and/or event mission? Strike up a conversation about partnering together. To incorporate branded product throughout your event is already a marketing win for a partner brand. To promise additional exposure through high social media engagement is a gigantic win, and one they’ll be willing to pay for. Make sure you understand your partner’s goals and of course, obtain permission from attendees regarding information gathering and sharing.
Quality over quantity
There are so many variables to get right: food, guests, decor, engagement, venue, giveaways and much, much more. While we always want everything to be the best of the best, budget constraints often translates to mediocrity all around. Rather than spending on tacky, useless giveaways, consider scrapping the idea altogether. Rather than a full course meal that doesn’t quite hit the mark, consider mouth-watering hors d'oeuvres with a nutritious punch and a more refined, signature cocktail menu. Mediocre experiences don’t make memories, but a few quality, artisanal options will go a long way!
Put your creative caps on when it comes to resourcing and repurposing. Scan your own storage closet and take inventory of anything that might be useful, whether it’s equipment, decorations, a surplus of useful knicknacks. Jot it all down and run through the list with your team. Talk to your partners about resources they can offer, whether it be extra goodies-turned-giveaways, to A/V equipment or volunteers who be able to help out, free of charge.
When you put your budget together, don't cut corners on the things that truly matter (like an excellent event app), because events are well worth the investment so take the time to cosndier your business plan for an event.
The trick to developing a strong event budget checklist is to prioritize your spending on things that will increase engagement and loyalty, cut anything superfluous, and negotiate with vendors and sponsors to get help where you need it. To learn more about strategizing for your next event, contact us for a free demo and talk with a MeetingPlay expert.