Organizing a successful meeting or event can mean a lot of different things depending on what planner you ask. But a common measure of success undoubtedly lies with your budget, and organizers are constantly thinking of new ways to save money.
Whether you're hoping to curb back significantly on your event spend or are looking for new ideas of trimming back here and there, consider these 17 tips to save money while planning your next event!
1. Goal setting/ROI
Before your budget gets out of hand, start from the beginning. Setting goals before you plan out your event budget can save you from a lot of headaches later on. Consider using analytics tools that can help you track event ROI so you can understand what's working well within your budget, and where to cut back.
2. Use budgeting tools
These days, spreadsheets just don't cut it, especially for larger events. Whether it's Concur to help with staff travel expenses, Quicken or Mint for your small business, or event management software to track registrations, these tools can help you better understand trends and set budgets.
3. Plan for the unexpected
Just because you have a budget, doesn't mean you have to spend it all. In fact, to prevent disaster, make sure you plan for any unexpected last-minute costs or surprises by having a discretionary fund. You'll thank yourself later.
4. Venue sourcing technology
According to GBTA, roughly 80% of a meeting’s potential savings comes from venue sourcing. Luckily there are sourcing tools out there to help simplify the process, as well as aid in the back and forth negotiations. If you're looking to save on venue costs, investing in a sourcing solution is the right way to go.
5. Be flexible
This step often goes hand in hand with venue sourcing, and it can certainly pay off in a major way, no matter what aspect of planning you apply it to. For example, if you're not dead set on a certain date for your event, see where you can fit on your venue's calendar. They want to fill up their space and may offer incentives to make it work.
6. Don't be afraid to negotiate
Whether it is with your venue, caterer or any other vendor, don't hold back on asking what they can do for you regarding making a good deal. You'll never know if you don't ask!
7. Don't underestimate your headcount
Has your headcount been wildly over your expectations in the past? Has it caused your F&B and other budgets to skyrocket? Either way, depending on your event, don't just guess on the number of attendees to plan for. You can budget for extra attendees or consider setting a limit on the number who can attend.
8. Hire volunteers or interns
Take advantage of free or low-cost help! Whether it's those who want to give back at a non-profit event, students who want to gain experience in their respective industry, or event planners just starting out, try to determine a role or two where they can be helpful.
9. Shared housing/transport
If staff travel is involved in your event, encourage them to share transportation costs. Try to take cabs or Uber rides together as much as possible and encourage staff members who are friendly to share a hotel room, or even rent an Airbnb for larger groups to share.
10. Go paperless
This is one of the easiest ways to cut back on your budget, and you have the added benefit of reducing your event's carbon footprint at the same time! As the world has become more digital, it's easy to stop printing programs, brochures, handouts, etc. and keep important information online via your website, mobile app and/or digital signage.
11. Go mobile
On top of helping you reduce paper, robust mobile apps make for a great investment. It can be the place where attendees can build their agendas, engage with one another, take surveys and polls, and much more. Not to mention, many apps today include monetization features like sponsored push notifications and ads.
12. Remove single-use plastics
Another way to go green at events is to remove plastic straws, cups, water bottles, and other single-use plastics. Since this is the latest trend in sustainability, it's easy to do, and it won't be an unexpected change. Start by encouraging attendees to bring reusable water bottles and buy a couple of water coolers to display throughout your event.
13. Rethink swag
Can you think of the last time you brought back swag at a conference or a favor from an event and it was something you still use today? Didn't think so. Try for one high-quality swag item that is usable and memorable, or use discounts or coupon codes as a giveaway.
14. Think outside the box with decor
Flowers are expensive, and they're also not the only thing you can use to decorate your event. Candles, lighting, greenery, trinkets or even fruits and vegetables can be used as decor, some of which could reusable. Have a multi-day event? See if your nonperishable items can be used in different ways throughout your event.
15. Shared catering
One of the latest F&B trends is shared catering. Hotels and venues are starting to have one shared space for multiple events where all-day snacks and beverages, as well as meals, are provided. The drawback is that these items are often the venue's choice (not the planner's), but if F&B is not a priority for your event, this can make for a great cost-saving option.
16. Choose trends wisely
Trends can help with your event's wow-factor, but it's often short-lived and can be a budget bomb. Don't jump the gun on the latest technology or F&B trends right away. Stop and think if it's worth your budget and will fit your audience's needs.
17. Make investments
With trends in mind, it's important to make investments that will have a lasting impact when it comes to your event. Whether it's event management software with multiple features or other technology that you can reuse, by making investments, you'll save money in the long run.
While all of these money-saving ideas are inspiring, don't feel pressured to try everything at once! Think about one or two that make the most sense for your event and your budget and give it a shot in the coming year. Just make sure to try to measure your results so you know which budget-saver is a winner or if you should try something else.
What's your favorite budget tip for event planners? Did any of the suggestions listed here work for you? Share in the comments below!