If you had an unlimited budget, you could host the most magnificent event the world has ever seen – and if wishes were horses, beggars would ride. Since you have to work within the confines of a budget, it behooves you to face the harsh realities and team up with a trusted global meeting planner to create the best event possible with the cash on hand.
This means making every dollar count, which requires innovation, negotiation, and careful planning. Frugality and creativity go hand-in-hand. The good news is, you’re not necessarily reinventing the wheel, and you’re bound to find that a little can go a long way when you and your corporate meeting planner put your heads together to come up with viable solutions.
How can you create a truly spectacular and memorable event when you’re working on a shoestring budget? Here are several ways to squeeze more out of your meager event budget.
1. Cultivate long-term relationships. Chances are you’re not simply hosting one event. Although you’re planning a single event right now, you know there are more in the pipeline, and you can use that to your advantage when it comes to cutting costs for your current event. All you have to do is consider booking venues and vendors for multiple events in order to negotiate for discounts.
Says Tessa Cameron, VP, Strategic Sourcing at AMI, “Vendors don’t have any real motivation to provide discounted rates to one-off clients. However, if they know there’s repeat business coming their way, they may be much more inclined to throw you a bone and offer a deal in order to ensure future business.”
Long-term relationships can net you major discounts and deals, especially if you make a vendor your first choice and even refer them to trusted contacts.
2. Negotiate like a pro. You may have to lean on your corporate meeting planner to handle negotiations early on, especially if you’re not entirely familiar with the ins and outs of venue and vendor contracts. When it comes to negotiating pricing, the devil is in the details, so you need a good understanding of what constitutes needed costs.
Could you get a better rate on a venue by shifting your dates? Do you have to use on-site catering or can you bring in outside vendors? Are there food and beverage minimums and are they in any way negotiable? Knowing what to ask about when it comes to contracts can help you to whittle down costs one service at a time.
3. Tap your corporate meeting planner to split events. Networking can be a great way to find quality goods and services at low costs, but you may also have the opportunity to split costs for your event if you can team up with another upcoming event. The best way to do this is probably to ask your corporate meeting planner to connect you with another client that’s also seeking cost-saving alternatives.
Perhaps you can split an event space and share services like catering and promotion in order to save on every front. It won’t be easy finding a compatible partner that’s working with a similar budget and has comparable requirements for catering, hospitality, and venue, but this is where a trusted event planner can really prove their worth.
4. Get creative with venues. Who says you have to host your event in a hotel or a convention center? Just because these are traditional venues for corporate events doesn’t mean you have to limit yourself and stress your budget to uphold outdated standards. Instead, speak with your global meeting planner about the potential for using alternative venues like parks, zoos, botanical gardens, museums, libraries, or historical buildings, just for example. There’s a good chance you’ll save some dough on booking fees and you have the opportunity to really wow guests with something they haven’t experienced before.
5. Reuse materials whenever possible. Big-picture thinking can help you to save in the long-term, as well as the here and now. Many event hosts get caught up in the idea of presenting something new and amazing, but the truth is that you can actually reuse a lot of materials from old events by just sprucing them up and adding a few new touches. Foundation materials like tents, booths, tables, chairs, displays, and more can simply be re-skinned, so to speak, to create an entirely new dynamic and suit your upcoming event theme.
6. Ask your global meeting planner for tips to do a lot with a little. Adopting a less-is-more mentality is essential when dealing with a limited budget, but it’s important to understand that the little has to offer major appeal. For example, you may not have the budget to cater an expensive dinner for guests.
What you can do instead is offer a cocktail hour or dessert bar so that guests still have a chance to socialize and grab a nibble, but you don’t have to pay full price for a five-course meal. Just make sure you go for quality so guests don’t feel like they’re missing out.
7. Offer exclusive merch. If you’ve exhausted avenues for cutting costs, it’s time to start thinking of ways to add more wiggle room to your budget with an influx of cash. One way to do this is to work with your global meeting planner on exclusive merchandise in limited quantities.
You’ll want to come up with a clever idea for items that match the theme and tenor of your event and that appeal to event attendees. Branded, reusable water bottles are a popular choice since attendees walking the event floor are bound to get thirsty.
Tote bags are also a smart option that add convenience as attendees can easily carry all the promotional materials they pick up at exhibit booths. Choosing the merchandise that makes sense for your particular event and speaks to your audience can definitely help to add some padding to your budget.
8. Boost registration. Getting the word out and encouraging attendance is the best way to bulk up your budget, so come up with a catchy name, a creative theme, and a sound marketing strategy early on to start seeing sign-up and get the dollars rolling in.