Budgeting is a necessary evil, in business and in life. Event planners have to walk a very fine line when it comes to budgeting. Who among us hasn’t decided to cut back on one or more budgeted event items in order to spend dollars on a really cool non-budgeted idea? Or worked overtime leveraging all of our event planning skills to find new fundraising ideas in order to keep the budget intact?
But event planners are nothing if not creative. That includes finding ways to pinch pennies. It’s important to set the budget at the beginning of planning an event and to track every expense scrupulously. Don’t let up as the big day approaches. Here are 10 actionable ideas to save dollars on event day and still offer a great experience for attendees.
Sponsored Snack Stations
Find local restaurants, bakeries, or grocery stores to sponsor snack stations at your event. Ask them to provide finger food, packaged snacks, baked goods, and drinks to serve during breaks and in sessions in return for free marketing both on the stations as well as in event marketing and advertising.
Instead of paying for sit down or buffet meals, invite local food trucks to come to the venue at mealtime and tell guests that meals are “on your own”. Organize a progressive meal in which attendees as a group visit multiple nearby restaurants for different courses, paying for their own food as they go. Or just leave meals out of the event planning altogether, giving your attendees the option to make their own meal plans.
If you do plan a catered event, you could save budget just by eliminating alcohol from the menu or offering a cash bar instead. You may save on liability insurance costs as well. Plan a special nonalcoholic drink menu or find a sponsor to provide drinks in exchange for marketing opportunities.
If you need promotional takeaways for attendees, find a business or two that is willing to fund the purchase of the swag in return for marketing opportunities. You could also offer to include one of the sponsor’s promotional items in your swag bag as a part of your deal.
In-kind Business Partnerships
Find local businesses to partner with you for some of the services that you need on event day such as photography, videography, staffing, A/V, staging, decor, flowers, printing, signage, entertainment and security. Offer marketing opportunities in exchange for their professional services. Get the agreement in writing so that there is no confusion as to deliverables on and after event day.
Find students to volunteer on event day for check-in, wayfinding, customer service, etc. You’ll save money on staffing and the students will have the opportunity to meet prospective employers. By making a deal with a local university or trade school, you may even be able to offer students school credit for volunteering.
There Are Other Cities
While it may be tempting to host your event in Miami or Las Vegas, it would be infinitely less expensive to choose a city that is not so expensive and competitive. There are many wonderful cities in the United States that offer state-of-the-art facilities and attractions.
There Are Other Venues
Find a new, unique, and lesser-known venue willing to make a deal with you. The rise of dedicated meeting space in co-working spaces, micro-breweries, wineries, museums, art galleries, and other nontraditional venues have made your options much broader. In addition to saving dollars, a nontraditional venue is a differentiator to use when promoting your event.
Save on rental fees by purchasing and storing staging, props, tables, chairs, stanchions, and linens instead of renting them for each event. Also, create evergreen marketing materials at each event such as step and repeats, event banners, wayfinding, and parking signage, swag bags, and badge lanyards.
Stop printing tickets, agendas, conference booklets, signs, maps and badges by using event management platforms like Eventzilla or developing an event app to communicate all of your necessary information. No matter what cost-cutting measures you decide to do, it’s important to use a good budgeting tool in order to keep track of the dollars. One lost invoice or forgotten deal can crush your budgetary house of cards. Regularly document and review your progress so that you know what is coming in and what is going out. With a thoughtful cost-saving strategy, you’ll be an event management budget superstar.