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How to Produce a High-End Event on a Budget


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From five-star hotels and exquisite service to designer clothing and fancy cars, luxury experiences tend to come with a high price tag. As in-person events resume post-pandemic, event planners want to design events that look and feel luxurious, but they may not have the plush budgets to match. Luxury doesn’t have to mean expensive, however. With strategic planning and careful event budgeting, it’s entirely possible to design a show-stopping, high-end event on a budget, complete with beautifully branded, customized experiences for your clients. The key is prioritizing what’s most important based on your objectives and event format. Here’s how to plan.

Produce a High End Event on a Budget

Step 1: Define Your Event Strategy

You already know that the first step of planning an event is mapping out your goals and objectives. Similarly, you should apply this same thinking to your event budget planning. Before you begin any event budgeting, think through what you’d like to accomplish with the event and the outcomes you’d like to achieve. From there, you can dive into your event budgeting strategy to think about what is important to allocate budget to and where potential event expenses can be spared.

Start this process by reviewing historical data. Unless this is a first-time event, pull the numbers from past iterations of the event to identify your total event expenses. Go line by line to look at how much you spent on various items. Similarly, do some research on the industry to learn the going rate for various pieces of an event. Costs may have fluctuated, especially over the past two years. Next, think about where each expense fell in terms of your total event budget: In which categories did you overspend? Underspend? Spend about the right amount? The key here is to pinpoint which parts of your previous event could potentially be trimmed or tightened and determine how you could reallocate those funds to achieve your event goals this time around. Clearly defining what areas within your event to highlight for attendees (perhaps they don’t care about swag, but would highly value a networking happy hour, or you’re hosting a hybrid event and trading out a large venue for a smaller one, but spending more on live streaming to maximize the virtual experience) will help you to prioritize line items within your event budget.


Step 2: Map Out All Expenses

Budget for EventsNow that you’ve reviewed previous event budgeting, it’s time to map out all your expenses to create an actual budget for the event at hand. List out every possible line item and break out larger categories (such as food and beverage) into individual lines. This makes it easier to determine how much event budget you’ll be dedicating to each specific item. Build out your costs based on your historical data, research and reaching out to vendors for quotes.

Some examples of potential line items:

    • Venue rental
    • Staffing (your team and your venue’s team)
    • Travel
    • Transportation
    • Audiovisual equipment
    • Internet/Wi-Fi
    • Event management platform
    • App
    • Ticketing partner
    • Live streaming
    • Marketing (break out social media, ads, emails, photography, design, etc. individually)
    • DĂ©cor
    • Food
    • Beverage
    • Speakers
    • Entertainment
    • Signage
    • Furniture
    • Event branding
    • Swag
    • Attendee experiences, such as happy hours or city tours

The format of your event — live, hybrid, or virtual — will influence which line items you’ll need to incorporate into your event budget. For instance, an in-person event will incur a significant venue cost, whereas a virtual event will eliminate that line item, freeing up budget to dedicate toward live streaming or an event management platform. Remember that choosing the right technology providers can make a tremendous difference in stretching your event budget along with creating a memorable, valuable experience for your attendees. Depending on your event format and objectives, consolidating your vendors and investing in an event management software that can handle multiple planning features can also help you streamline your budget and process.


Step 3: Account for Changes

Budget for High End EventsWhen you’re building out an event budget spreadsheet, be sure to include two columns: projected cost and actual cost. If you’re using different vendors or adding a new item that you haven’t previously budgeted for, there’s always the chance these two columns will end up being different numbers. The more you research and the better you plan, the more likely they are to match, meaning you’ll come out on budget.

Event planners know that any plan must also include a plan B, C, and D, and sometimes more options, depending on the situation. Flexibility and adaptability are two essential skills in this industry where things often change on the fly. As such, your event budget template should be designed to enable some flexibility as well. Make your budget template as specific as possible while being able to accommodate changes that occur. You may consider building a discretionary fund line item into your budget that’s available for last-minute changes or emergencies.  

It may sound obvious, but it’s important to keep your budget in mind as you move into the actual planning stage. Use it as a continual, evolving guide to shape your decisions and strategy in creating a high-end event on a budget, rather than a simple task to check off your list. Keep updating your spreadsheet as you work through the event and pay vendors to ensure your event budget is accurate and up to date.

Step 4: Evaluate the Final Product

Evaluate changes in Event Budget

After your event is over, don’t toss your budget aside. Look back at your event budget and analyze your projected and actual costs to evaluate how it all played out. First, identify your total spend. You’ll need that number to share with your stakeholders and measure your outcomes. Next, go through line items. Did any items come in under budget? Did you overspend anywhere? Did you have extra budget that you can allocate toward something else next time? Going over your budget planning process and outcome will help you to identify savings and overages, make adjustments and inform how you budget for your next event. Over time, you’ll refine your event budgeting process and become skilled at planning a high-end event on a budget.

Make Space for MeetingPlay in Your Event Budget

Strategically thinking through which line items are most critical to your event’s success, and where you can save, can help you to stretch your event budget and create a high-end event on a budget. Learn how you can make room for MeetingPlay and design events to dazzle your attendees and your stakeholders by booking a free demo with us today.

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