How to run a budget-friendly event

How to run a budget-friendly event

Nearly everything is getting more expensive, so here’s how to save money while still delighting your delegates. 

This article is produced in partnership with Cvent.

Event budgets are tricky to manage at the best of times, but conditions are particularly unpredictable right now. Inflation in the UK is at a 40-year high, there are supply-chain challenges, and planners are having to spend more on elements such as Covid-19 safety measures. In addition, it’s hard to predict whether you’ll have no-shows, whether that’s due to delegates testing positive on a lateral flow, or a nervousness or unwillingness to attend live events.  

According to a 2021 global survey of event professionals by American Express, respondents estimated that budgets would decrease by -3.7%. When asked what area they would cut first, 18% said either the number of nights or off-site evening events, and 27% said off-site optional activities.

But, for a live event, that still leaves big-ticket items such as the venue, speakers and catering. So how can you get a better deal on these?

Look at data from previous events

Where did you save and splurge on your last events? Think about what you could cut back on this time without affecting the quality of the event. Also, how many attendees didn’t show up? This might inform the size of your venue this time. Which brings us to…

Be flexible on your venue

Bigger isn’t always better – do you need two rooms for speakers, or could you condense your schedule? Be creative and look at smaller, more boutique venues rather than large hotel chains; this also gives attendees a more interesting experience. But make sure your venue has great tech and digital capabilities if you don’t want to provide your own AV equipment.

Negotiate early

The sooner you speak to venues, the more options you’ll have. Can you secure an early-bird booking? You might be able to get a discount if you book multiple events at the same time. Be sure to ask for quotes for off-season times and stay away from popular holidays; you could also pick a cheaper day of the week. And ask if it’s possible to get a discount if you do away with some of the facilities – you might decide not to have a cloakroom, or one one bar instead of two, for instance.

Think creatively with speakers

Speakers’ fees can take up a big chunk of your budget, and rightly so if they’re a big draw that attendees can’t wait to see. But travel and accommodation costs mount up, so it’s worth seeing if there’s someone local you can use. It’s rather frowned upon to ask speakers to appear for free, promising ‘exposure’, but if they have something to promote it could be a beneficial arrangement. Another way to cover costs is to offer VIP one-to-one sessions with an expert for an additional fee, if the speaker is willing to do it.

Foodie tips and tricks

According to a survey from PCMA, 33% of event spend goes on food and drink. With rising food costs, choose quality over quantity. That might mean opting for a buffet rather than a full meal, or if you’re running a half-day event, start after lunch and serve canapés at the end. Consider a cash bar, or provide your own alcohol. For outdoor events, food trucks are popular and cost-effective.

Do away with brochures

Virtual events have led the way in event apps, so embrace technology and banish paper brochures and marketing materials – it’ll save money as well as being eco-friendly. On the same lines, use decor and signage from previous events, and make sure any new decor isn’t specific to an event so it can be used again and again.

Don’t be shy about sponsorship

You’ll probably already have a main sponsor, but remember you can sponsor any part of your event, such as break-out sessions, which might appeal to a local business with less money to spend. And approach sponsors about in-kind sponsorship, which helps your bottom line – can sponsors provide soft drinks, snacks, gazebos? The possibilities are endless.

Remember that your delegates won’t fuss about every single detail (unlike event planners!), they just care about the quality of the overall experience. It’s more important than ever that live events are meaningful and memorable if attendees are going to make the effort to go in person rather than attend virtually. By thinking carefully about every element, planners can meet their attendees’ high expectations, as well as balance their budgets.

 Find out how Cvent can help make your event planning more efficient to have a bigger impact and greater ROI