In the perfect event management world, your budget is endless. You have enough funds to book the perfect venue, order the best catering, and tend to all the other details along the way. But that isn’t the reality of event planning. Instead, you have a set budget to work within, and with event planners spending 70% of the event budget on venue and catering alone, you have to find ways to stretch your event budget.
Stretching your budget is a work of art—even for the most veteran planners—because it doesn’t mean cutting corners or skimping on your needs. That just results in an underwhelming event with disengaged guests. Instead, you have to find savvy ways to plan a stellar event that doesn’t leave you in the red.
You may need to stretch your event budget because of funding cuts, unforeseen expenses, or even to roll over additional funds to the next bigger event. No matter the reason, these insider tips will help you stretch your event budget without sacrificing the integrity of your event.
Own Your Budget
The best way to plan for unforeseen costs down the road is to start off with a strong command over your entire budget. Set specific line items based on your event needs, and plug in well-researched costs for each one. Don’t guess how much you should be spending on a venue; research locations in your target area and establish a reasonable budget. This will prevent you from over-spending.
Before you make any official purchases, consult your budget to make sure there’s enough money to do so. And update your expenses after each purchase; letting receipts add up is a surefire way to unnecessarily overspend, leaving you with little-to-no wiggle room to stretch your event budget. If you’re co-hosting with a friend or coworker, meet regularly to assess the budget together. This is a team effort, and it’s not your budget versus theirs. Rather, working together will make stretching those dollars even easier.
Digital Is King
According to recent Eventbrite data, almost one-third of B2B event budgets are for printed materials. That’s a serious part of your budget! A simple way to stretch your event budget is to show preference to digital—both with event marketing and day-of materials. And the best part? Digital actually works! While there is a time and place for formal printed invitations, don’t rely on them to get the RSVPs you’re looking for. Instead, work in digital invitations and online marketing. Social media is, after all, the most effective way to spread the word about your upcoming event. And an alarming 78% of event creators attribute emails as their most effective source of event invitations and marketing.
For handouts and reference materials at the live event, we’re not advocating that you eliminate them all together—but stretch your event budget by cutting down the page count or number of copies. Start paying attention at your events and others that you attend. Notice how many attendees leave with printed materials, and what types they are, and adjust based on your observations. However you proceed, store all your event materials online for guests to access later on.
Re-Think The Menu
Do you really need a wait staff to hand out hors d’oeurvres at your event? Or is it more engaging for guests to visit sampling stations and select their own tasty treats? Eliminating the need for wait staff will significantly stretch your event budget—and might even lead to happier guests. Plated meals certainly invoke a more formal ambiance, but guests might before to create their own meals for dinnertime. And that certainly saves you a few dollars, too! Remember that we’re not encouraging you to remove necessary elements—like food—from your event. But carefully inspect those elements for places you can reduce the cost without sacrificing guest satisfaction.
Consider Long-Term Venue Contracts
If you have an annual sales meeting, or quarterly dinners for top clients, approach your preferred vendor about yearly contracts. You’ll be able to stretch your event budget (every time!) by saving on venue costs for each event. And your favorite venue receives your continued business; both parties win in that exchange.
Before choosing a venue—either to book or partner with—explore their local networks. Do they offer a deal on the catering company across the street? Maybe they work with the local print shop for discounts on large orders. By building relationships with these businesses—instead of one-off exchanges—you’re setting all your future events up for success.
Network Local Sponsors
Build lasting connections with the local community where it makes sense—like near your office, or near a top client. See if they will sponsor your catering in exchange for a front-and-center banner and advertisement space in your collateral. This lets you spend those catering dollars on a different element, while creating business for your sponsor.
Keep in mind that sponsorships don’t have to be monetary. The local catering company may offer their services free of charge in exchange for a public mention at the event, the and permission to hand out business cards. Of course, you don’t want your event to turn into a marketing campaign for other businesses—but a few key partnerships can elevate your event.
Being able to stretch your event budget is an art form. It requires creative thinking and an honest assessment of what your event truly needs. Yes, you need food—but do you need caterers who will also need tips? Prioritizing needs over wants, and tradition over flexibility will give you the budget you need without compromising the quality, and revenue, of your event.
Which of these tips have you tried before, and did they work? What other trade secrets do you know to stretch your event budget?