Outlining your event budget can be one of the most intimidating parts of running an event.
And with so many variables in play leading up to the day-of, staying on budget is as much art as it is science.
While there are thousands of strategies and spreadsheets out there telling you what to do, getting your mind wrapped around it is a whole other story.
Instead of getting overwhelmed, make your budget work for you by having clear goals right out of the gate. There are plenty of expensive things you could spend your money on, but choosing which ones are musts and which ones you can live without is the difference between working your budget and having it work you.Once you decide which parts of your budgets are deal breakers, offset your other costs to avoid breaking the bank. Click To Tweet
Which expenses you choose to ‘go big on’ will be up to you, your audience, and the style of event you run, but below are some of our favorite ways to save big without skimping on experience.
The venue will always be one of the largest expenses for your event, meaning that if you’re looking to offset costs it’s also one of the best places to start.
If renting a large, expensive event venue isn’t mandatory for your event, there are plenty of ways to make renting a space more reasonable.
For example, choosing a venue that includes services like equipment rentals, discounts on catering, or access to staff members can save you from purchasing those items on top of your venue.
Likewise, choosing the day and time you host your event can also affect your venue costs. David Epstein says, “Just like the cost of a hotel room or the price of a plane ticket, event venues will vary in expense depending on when you try to book. The same venue could be had for below market rate if you decide to plan an event during an off-hour.”
Finally, don’t be afraid to think outside of the box about the type of venues you can use. Co-working spaces, museums, loft spaces, or hotels can all be great, low-priced choices for a venue depending on the size of your event.
After venues, marketing costs tend to be one of the highest overall expenses for events.
Creating budget-friendly marketing and promotional campaigns for your event can be tricky, especially if you’re trying to reach cold audiences. That said, there are plenty of cheap or free strategies you can start using to cut down dramatically on your marketing costs.
If you’re trying to reach new customers, one way to bring down your marketing costs is to stick to fewer platforms with the best ROI. While it can seem appealing to try and get your event all over the internet, if you’re spending thousands of dollars on advertising to do so, it probably isn’t worth it. Instead, focus on the platforms that have worked for you in the past.
Likewise, you can leverage your warm audience on these platforms to help promote your paid content even further. Send an email blast with your ad ID to encourage past attendees to like, share, comment or cross-promote your ad so that it can reach even more potential people.
Finally, don’t forget all the free tools you have available to you like hashtags, email marketing, cross-posting blogs, affiliate marketing, and joint ventures. These can all be excellent ways to promote your event on the cheap. For more ideas on how to cut your marketing budget down to size, check out our post Best Free Strategies for Marketing Your Event Online.
‘Hidden costs’ (things like transaction fees, taxes, room drops, etc.) are another one of the biggest expenses for events, but also one of the most easily missed.
Hidden costs can be harder to offset than other expenses, but being aware of them in the first place is the first step. Click To Tweet Naomi Tucker at Socialtables suggests “If you are looking for a way to protect your budget from some of these pesky items, think about adding a contingency line to give your budget padding. To do this, estimate anywhere from 3-10% of your total costs and include within your budget to protect you.”
Likewise, another great strategy to start offsetting hidden costs is to establish clear expectations with your venue and vendors so that you won’t need to factor in rush fees, room changes, or extra charges which add up greatly along the way. Also, make sure you sign all contracts early, and review them again before the day-of so that you have a clear idea of what to expect.
Depending on the type of event you run, speakers, and all that goes along with them, can be a huge cost. According to Azavista, “We might underestimate (or even forget) that not only will we have to pay for their time during the event, but also for their travel expenses and accommodation fees.”
If you want to cut down on these costs you can:
- Find local speakers who don’t need their travel expenses covered.
- Give a sponsor the opportunity to share on the mainstage, since they’ll be there already.
- Offer to compensate smaller speaker budgets by selling their products at the event or highlighting their branding like a sponsor.
- Bolster higher-priced speakers by including a few lower-cost speakers or having industry volunteers lead break-out sessions.
- Don’t be afraid to negotiate until you find a price that works within your budget and that feels aligned with the speaker.
Regardless of how you go about offsetting your speaker costs, don’t give up at the first “no.” Work with your budget and the speaker until you can find something that works for both of you.
Another large expense for events comes from using printed materials, such as signage, name tags and badges, programs, etc. Unfortunately, offsetting printing costs can be tricky, since they directly affect the user experience. Printed signage can help show your attendees the way around, name tags facilitate networking, programs show what’s happening when, and so on.
However, printing costs can be exorbitant and extremely wasteful. Luckily, with a few workarounds, you can still maintain a positive user experience while cutting down on the number of printed materials you use.
- Cut down on signage you use by placing volunteers around the venue to direct attendees to break-out rooms, bathrooms, vendor hall etc.
- Use a digital screen to post where people need to be when, instead of printing signs.
- Have a map of the venue saved in a mobile app.
- Instead of pre-printing name badges, you can have attendees write their own name on a tag, especially if your event is small or one-day.
- Use wristbands instead of printed name badges to identify event participants.
- While printed programs seem nice, the reality is most of them end up in the trash. Instead of throwing money down the drain, use an event app like ours. It allows you to put the whole program online, which not only saves on printing, but attendees have it in their pockets at all time.
While running events on budget can be tricky, paying extra attention to the little costs that add up along the way is essential. When all else fails, come back to the goals you’ve outlined for your user experience and make sure your costs are aligned with those.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to think outside of the box. Not only will it add to the uniqueness of the event, but it can help offset some costs along the way.