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The 2019 Event Budget Guide

Within this guide, we will go over real-life examples of how executives are optimizing their event’s ROI through more efficient use of budget. Learn how three executives in different industries are changing the way they provide ROI around their events.


 

Introduction

Every year, executives are tasked with reimagining the machine in a Click here to download the Stretching Your Event Budget - 3 Cost Saving Tactics eBook way that meets the aspirations of the CEO, and the constraints of the CFO. Live events are one of the biggest items that executives are constantly looking for ways to not only validate, but to provide more revenue back to their organization.

This guide will go over real-life examples of how executives in three different industries optimized their event budget by making crucial decisions that drove their business forward. By the end of this guide, you will be able to use these tactics no matter what industry you are in or type of events that you plan to create a holistic approach to event management.

What cost saving tactics are being implemented? 

Three cost saving tactics executives are currently deploying to make their event budget plan:

  1. Controlling costs on hotel rooms, meeting rooms, food and beverage, concessions and travel
  2. Consolidating technology into an end-to-end event automation platform
  3. Reducing labor hours or shifting labor hours to more valuable work

To effectively execute each tactic, there are also three steps that you need to take:

  1. Confirm that the processes underlying the tactics are sound
  2. Have the technology enable the process, not prevent success
  3. Ensure that people managing the tactic are prepared and supported with the help of an event 

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Controlling Costs with Event Management Software

How Event Management Software Helps Control Costs

Vicky, a VP of Sales Enablement for a multi-national financial services company, organized and executed hundreds of events geared towards high net worth investors every year. Keeping these events on budget was critical to Vicky’s MBOs. To manage the costs, she conducted a quarterly review of all expenses to understand where there were leverage points and savings opportunities.

There were 5 typical items that she reviewed: 

  • Hotel room costs
  • Food and beverage costs
  • Meeting room rentals
  • Concessions
  • Attrition clauses

Quantify the Value from your Hotel Negations

Without constant monitoring, it was hard to ensure Vicky was getting the best room rates for guests. The volume of attendees at these investor meetings can fluctuate, and ensuring the right discounts based on volume was time consuming.

To solve for this, Vicky employed a venue sourcing tool that allows her to take in multiple proposals, negotiate room rates effectively and show the cost savings on hotels room blocks. In the end, Vicky saves between 5-15% on rooms in various cities.

Take Control of No-Show F&B Costs

Food and beverage costs are often the greatest offender of misused spend, and rarely are event teams looking for F&B savings in the right place. Poor registration processes, which hinder visibility and accountability for the sales team, lead to high no show rates.

Using an end-to-end event management software to organize all the marketing and communication efforts around events, Vicky is able to track her event outreach with integrated reporting features on each personalized email sent. By personalizing and tracking all communication around events, you can drive down no show rates by 75%, and recover hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on plated meals.

Leverage Benchmarks to Drive Meeting Room Savings

As a large organization, Vicky did not have direct insight into every event that other internal meeting planners were organizing. She believed that across meetings, the planners were not enabled to negotiate the best rates on meeting room rentals because they lacked benchmarks and comparisons.

With the sourcing tool that Vicky implemented and putting an eRFP process in place, planners now had insight into what venues had been booked in the past and the value of each. Overall, this process has helped to save thousands of dollars a year on the multitude of events Vicky’s organization plans.

Drive Concession Value

An often-overlooked aspect of controlling events costs are concessions. Vicky found that simply asking for concessions on Wi-Fi and A/V in meeting spaces often produced savings.

Through her sourcing tool, she set specific concessions to auto populate on every eRFP that was sent through the system. Saving between 5-10% on every event booked, Vicky made it possible for everyone to contribute to savings – even employees with no experience in venue negotiations.

Mitigating your Event Risk Across the Company

Some attrition is inevitable. Paying for that attrition is not. Vicky’s team creates standard company contract clauses that auto-populate on every eRFP. This helps them avoid stiff penalties by setting reasonable fees, such as 25% attrition up to the day of arrival. For additional safeguards, they lock in no walk and resell clauses into all eRFPs. When Vicky reviews registrations vs. attendees and calculates what she would have paid without these clauses, she typically finds 10-15% savings on each event.

Vicky’s strategy required simple invitation and registration systems that were easy to understand for thousands of decentralized financial consultants. It had to be repeatable and scalable for a growing planner team. It had to drive a more sophisticated approach to negotiation that could save millions of dollars a year. In short, Vicky needed an event management platform to manage and monitor all of these moving pieces in order to realize the savings.

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Consolidating Technology for Event Automation

Graduate students holding a piggybank with education savings

On college campuses around the world, event teams are hindered by primitive systems, siloed decision making, and shrinking budgets. Heidi was tasked by her dean’s office to structure a centralized event plan across campus, with a key goal being to reduce inefficiencies and redundancies across the organization. Heidi set out to analyze three key costs to reduce:

  1. Software costs
  2. Maintenance costs
  3. Enhancements to proprietary systems

Software Costs

Heidi referred to the software systems across campus as the “spaghetti plate,” as in almost every school on campus was using a different platform or process for managing their events.

  • Event websites were either on individual school pages or the main university page
  • Registration for events were collected through various point solutions or the proprietary system
  • A few schools were dabbling in mobile apps and engagement solutions
  • Budgeting for events was completed through manual processes

The entire campus was all over the place with the technology they used for events and a unified process needed to happen. With different contracts in place across campus, and different event processes working out of different budgets, bringing them all together seemed an impossible task.

Along with a singular event management platform, Heidi took the opportunity to create standard event planning and execution processes across campus. She hosted numerous trainings on the new processes for the hundreds of planners working at her university to further guarantee success. The university gave all event planners 12 months to migrate to the new event platform. This saved the school 25% of its event technology costs.

Recommended Resource: Are you struggling to create an engaging environment that builds life-long relationships with students and alumni on campus? Our digital guide to enhancing meeting and event success at colleges and universities will give you the most essential tips & tools to keep your attendees happy while also increase ROI.

Maintenance Costs

Heidi worked with her IT department to determine the cost that went into maintaining the current proprietary systems. Between security enhancements, system upgrades and server capacity constraints, Heidi was able to identify hundreds of hours of IT maintenance.

As she considered options to manage her processes, the ability to "outsource" this work to a trained team of professionals seemed like a no brainer. Plus, the professional services teams that came with their event management platform would be more responsive and knowledgeable of the system than a typical IT department.

She is forecasting 50% less on maintenance costs heading in to next year.

Enhancements to Proprietary Systems

One of Heidi’s solution design principles was that it be agile and walk the fine line of standard processes and custom workflows. As more event teams around campus joined the platform program, there were always one-off workflows that had to stay intact in order to deliver for a planner’s constituents. Being able to accommodate these custom workflows was essential to any solution.

Cost savings on event enhancements are both tangible and intangible. Labor hours are reduced and results are delivered more quickly. This cuts enhancement costs almost completely.

And often, these custom workflows impact the experience of students, university guests and delegates, and alumni.

Heidi was able to build a powerful case for an event management platform that brought the university into the modern age. When software, maintenance and enhancement costs were considered, the CFO was able to understand the business case and feel comfortable making a decision. Providing the tools and information to help the university realize extreme cost savings allowed her to invest in an end-to-end platform that has led to better events managed more efficiently.

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Headcount Planning Tools for a Global Events Team

Success in events is 50% event planning and 50% event talent Click here to download the Stretching Your Event Budget - 3 Cost Saving Tactics eBookaligned against the plan. Effective event teams have the best people, while efficient event teams have the right people. Terry was tasked with developing a people plan for the event team in their mid-market technology company.

One of the first key insights as Terry began to develop the people plan was that the team that drove success was wider than simply just the event team. He first established a full roster of roles that impacted the exhibits, user groups and tech conferences that drove their events business. He then considered all the costs associated with each role:

Key Roles

  1. Events team members
  2. Support staff
  3. Technical staff
  4. Training staff

Key Costs

  1. Salaries and bonuses
  2. Benefits
  3. Recruiting costs to fill a role
  4. Onboarding costs to ramp a hire

Events Team Members

Front line event planners are the most important role in the event team. Terry first determined the competencies that his tech company required from their events team. He assessed his event planners on communication skills, problem solving, creativity, time management and attendee-centric approach.

Terry then identified the tasks event planners were executing to determine which ones were valuable and fit the competencies. 40% of the tasks were able to be automated, which could lead the events team to handle more events. In some cases, it allowed the event team to consolidate as team members left for other opportunities.

Business people working in office having meeting

Support Roles

Terry found that for every six event planners across the organization, one support team member was required to handle logistical and administrative tasks.The cost savings were multiplied when fewer event planners were required, and support team members could serve more events at any given time. By improving the support ratio to 8:1, the event team was able to realize 20% savings in the support organization.

Technical Roles

With complex systems in place, technical roles were required to investigate bugs and user errors. These technical specialists bounce around the organization and have a general understanding of all of the company systems. Being able to reduce these roles and move them out of the events budget helped Terry identify 10-20% savings on technical support. In addition, user productivity can go up as they spend less time waiting for, and working with, technical support.

Recommended Resource: Learning how to run an effective meeting can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be.
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Training Roles

With more event planners comes more trainers. These trainers need to ensure new event planners are brought up to speed quickly. They ensure that they receive continuing education, best practices and tools. Finding ways to reduce these training costs was critical for Terry’s budget. Plus, with fewer planners, less onboarding was required. Terry ended up saving 30% on training costs the first year.

Reduce Costs Across Roles 

The kicker for all of these roles are the hidden costs of a hire (or mishire). For each new hire, consider the costs of hiring that person: recruiters, advertisements, missed opportunity, etc. Once a new hire is in place, how long until they are fully productive? And what does it cost to ramp them up? Additional insurance and benefits must be considered as well. When these costs are aggregated, they have a major impact. 

To realize this cost savings opportunity, Terry required an event management platform that handled those automated and low value tasks. It required a streamlined process which sped up event planning and execution. Within two years of implementing an enterprise wide solution, Terry had realized 30% cost savings per event simply by optimizing their people plan.

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Conclusion

This guide has demonstrated real-life examples of how executives in 3 different industries are optimizing their event’s ROI through more efficient use of budgeting. These cost saving tactics have been proven to help you prepare for every phase of the event and ensure you are saving instead of overspending. By using an event management platform, you’ll be able to plan in detail and prepare for the unexpected.

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