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Planning On A Budget_blog

Planning on a Budget 

Outside the Box Ideas to Optimize Event Spending

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Planning with our budget in mind isn't a new concept to anyone, but with costs increasing and talk of inflation, many of us have found ourselves trying to stretch our event's budget(s) even further. According to the 2023 Global Business Travel Forecast from the Global Business Travel Association and CWT, the cost per attendee is expected to increase significantly. Due to the uncertain economic outlook, pent-up demand, and the need to meet again in person, the forecasts estimate the cost per attendee will be 25% higher this year than in 2019 and an additional 7% higher in 2023 (or 32% higher in 2023 than 2019). When you pair this with the hotel rates, airfare, and raw material cost, increases and labor shortages squeezing every penny out of your budget has never been more difficult nor imperative. While we all recognize the need to stretch our often already thin budgets, doing so without negatively impacting the experience can be a massive challenge, a challenge most meeting planners and event professionals are going through. Below, we’ll dive into some of our favorite creative ideas we’ve heard lately from our customers.  

  1. Be transparent with attendees about what to expect. Everyone is familiar with cost increases in their personal life, and when given the opportunity, generally understands this when it comes to travel and attending events. Be sure to communicate if the price has gone up, but the offering is the same, if the price has stayed the same but the offering has decreased, or if the price has increased but the offering has decreased. Properly setting your attendees’ expectations prior to registration will ensure they aren’t disappointed with any budget-related decisions or cuts you’ve had to make from previous events. 

  2. Opt for locations closer to where your attendees are located. This strategy allows your attendees to minimize their travel costs and can often free up some of their event attendance budgets to be able to spend more on your event. Just like you have a total event budget, they often have a total conference or event budget. Limiting the travel cost can mean more money for them to spend on registration or event extras that improve their overall experience. 

  3. Offer sponsorship packages. Corporate and government meeting and event planners are taking a page from associations and nonprofits' books that have been using this strategy for decades. Offering sponsor packages can offset the cost of giveaway items, award dinners, happy hours, and even keynote speakers and breakout rooms. Consider cobranding giveaway items and signage for a more cohesive event theme. 

  4. Limit the number of breakout rooms. Pre-pandemic, content was king, but gone are the days of packing as many back-to-back sessions into a day as possible. With the return to live events, attendees are more focused on networking or making meaningful connections than how many sessions or speakers they can attend. Three great ideas from planners on how to limit breakout rooms while still having attendees’ days both full and value-filled are below: 
    • Send out pre-event surveys. During the planning and scheduling phase, consider sending out a survey to attendees on what speakers or topics they would be most interested in. Tailoring the content offerings and speakers to those able to attend can greatly increase the value they feel they get from the event. This will allow you to save budget dollars by reducing the amount of space needed and any speaker fees. Pair the strategy of a shorter, more productive in-person event with tailored content with online aspects to foster excitement and education both pre and post-event. 

    • Use a roundtable format for some or all of the sessions. Distribute the content and recorded speakers to the attendees a few weeks before the event, then set up the rooms or plan sessions that are a conversation or roundtable between the attendees who attend that topic. This will facilitate valuable and enlightening discussions and networking. Make sure to communicate this to attendees ahead of time so they can come prepared and with the proper expectations. 

    • Supply wellness and shared work areas. While creating and staging more rooms or areas might seem counterproductive to your budget, creating these areas can allow you to decrease the session and breakout rooms you need. Having one or two small wellness areas or breaks as well as an area for people to work will increase the value and overall attendee experience and ensures they won’t feel shorted with fewer sessions.   
  1. Save money where you can. While this one might seem obvious, we’ll dive into some of our favorite customer recommendations on how they’re saving on on-site graphics and branding.
    • Pick smaller graphics that still have a big impact. Planning on a smaller budget doesn't always mean you need to settle for smaller graphics, and getting creative with how you use your graphics can ensure a big impact, even at a lower cost.  Ideas like using floor and wall decals in the place of traditional banners or signs or opting for graphics that break down into compact dimensions to lower the cost of shipping to and from a venue can help you cut unnecessary spending while still helping you to boost your brand visibility and communicate with attendees.  Some of our customer's favorite products for a big impact on a not-so-big budget are the Value and X-Tend banners, the SMARTsign ECO, Tabletop Signs, and our Floor & Wall Decals

    • Choose reusable options. If your upfront costs allow, choosing reusable options that can be repurposed to serve you across multiple meetings can also help you save some budget dollars all year long.  Signs outfitted with a SMARTlens that can be used for registration in the morning and then to identify break-out rooms later in the afternoon means you can use just one sign in the place of many. These signs can also be outfitted with Removable Sign Stickers to change the look of the sign to match your event’s theme or to thank sponsors as they change throughout the year and from event to event without having to purchase all new signs.  

If you're currently using creative ways to stretch your events' budgets and are looking for a partner to bring your vision to life, we'd love to hear from you!   Alternatively, if you're looking to solve a specific budget challenge, or are just looking for some money-saving ideas based on your event goals, contact us, and we’d love to help!

Courtney Zgraggen
Written by Courtney Zgraggen

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