6 Budget-Saving Tips for 2019: Maximize Your Event Budget, Not Your Spend

Whether you’re a B2B or B2C brand, there’s no doubt that events offer a bounty of benefits. In fact, 77 percent of marketers use experiences and events as a core part of their marketing strategy.  But, as any marketer will tell you, events come with a price tag. And, depending on the event marketing benefits you choose to focus on, you may charge guests little to nothing to attend your event. While this is a great way to increase brand awareness and the number of attendees, it doesn’t do much (if anything!) to cover your event costs. Thankfully, with a few savvy budget-saving tips, you can run a successful, professional event with minimum event budget costs in 2019. I’ve done it many times, and all it takes is some strategic thinking before you start spending.

Here are the six ways to save that have worked for me and other event marketers around the globe.

1. Co-host the event

Why take on all of the event budgeting costs if you don’t have to? Co-host an event, then divide and conquer.

An event host might have access to resources you don’t, such as A/V equipment. Even if they don’t have the materials, they might have an established relationship with someone who does. Say you want a videographer to record your event, but you haven’t worked with one before. Check and see if your event co-host has. As a regular client, they might have the benefit of a discounted rate.

As a bonus, co-hosting means more than dividing the cost – you’re dividing the labor, too! Whether it’s setting up the event, printing name tags, or creating the event registration page, the work can be shared by both parties.

Plus, when promoting your event, you’ve got twice the audience. Whether it’s social media or email marketing and list building, your database of potential attendees will grow substantially, which means your leads and brand awareness will grow, too.

When partnering to host an event, remember: you’re sharing the cost and the work, so you’re also sharing the credit. Whether it’s the emails leading up to the event or the event name badges, make sure you prominently feature both logos.

For example, these name tags show the logo of both the Australian Association of National Advertisers and StarComm Media Futures for their co-branded annual event:

event budget savings in 2019

2. Offer event sponsorships and contra deals

What would an event be without an event sponsor? Some companies generate revenue from their event marketing strategy. Others are looking to maximize the different benefits of event marketing. These brands may charge a big price tag for that sponsorship deal.

However, the word “sponsor” doesn’t have to mean money changing hands. Consider offering contra deals.

By utilizing a contra deal, you’ll get the benefit of a brand’s product or service, and they get exposure to your audience. It’s a perfect win-win for those who want maximum impact with minimum (or no!) spend.

Ask businesses to sponsor the entire event – providing the venue, food, and A/V equipment, or just one element.

Say your event budget covers just the essentials, and you’d really love professional photos. Reach out to your favorite local photographer and ask them to provide their services in exchange for promotion at the event. Ask a customer if they can provide a venue or an extra piece of swag for that conference goody bag.

For example, in addition to Content Jam, the annual content marketing conference run by Orbit Media, the company also hosts a monthly Wine and Web event for marketers in Chicago. Every event has pizza, a presentation, networking, and – you guessed it! – wine.

The wine is provided courtesy of Independent Spirits, Inc. In exchange for putting the “wine” into Wine and Web, at each event, Orbit Media shares the following slide and information about Independent Spirits Inc. at the beginning of the presentation.

This is one example of a benefit you can offer sponsors. Others include:  

  • Logo and brand mentions in the event promotional materials
  • Logo placement on event signage and agendas
  • Brand recognition on your event registration page
  • Sending an email to your database promoting the sponsor
  • Sponsor handouts (such as postcards or fliers) at the event itself

If you’re providing this type of contra deal, remember that paying clients may come before you. This is especially true when it comes to deliverables following the event. For example, if you secure a contra deal with a videographer, don’t expect unlimited edits. Make sure to manage the expectations between both parties up front.

3. Provide an exclusive experience

Okay, I know – as soon as you read the word “exclusive” your brain goes straight to those dollar symbols. But here’s the thing: you don’t have to be the one to spending those dollarsleave that for the partner who is getting the experience.

Say there’s an international event speaker that will guarantee those registrations come rolling in. The only problem? There’s no way you can afford the speaker fee, let alone their flight and hotel.

See if a brand would be willing to foot the bill in exchange for a second private speaker presentation for one of its employees. You need a speaker who is willing to share their expertise twice, meaning the price tag might go up a small amount. But there’s a good chance you’ll get a deal on that second speech; fixed costs, such as travel expenses, are already covered.

4. Pay for the food – not the catering

Notice this point says “skip the caterer,” not “skip the food.” In no way do I advocate skipping food and drinks entirely – you don’t want hangry guests!

According to the Professional Convention Management Association, the biggest event and meeting expense comes from the food and beverage tab.

event budget cost savings 2019

The biggest expense also provides an opportunity for some of the biggest savings.

Depending on the size of your event, there’s no reason that food has to come from a caterer instead of the grocery store. Bring a few fancy platters, pick up or get your food delivered, then swap those nibblies from the plastic supermarket tray to your elegant platter. (Shhh! No one will know, I promise!)  Then, either set the food out on tables, or jump ahead to the tip on volunteers, and find a few participants willing to walk around offering food to guests. Fruit and veggie platters, dessert trays, and sushi can all be easily sourced from your local grocery store. Buy them off the shelf or see what party platters the store offers.

Bonus tip! If you’re not sure how much food to provide – err on the side of caution and throw a few storage containers into your event day kit. There’s no shame in making sure that food doesn’t go to waste!

5. Put out the call for volunteers

Instead of hiring an actor or additional help from a freelancer platform to work your event, why not find volunteers to hand out those name badges?

I got my start event marketing thanks to the Australian Marketing Institute (AMI). As a recent graduate, I was eager to attend the company’s annual conference but lacked the funds to pay for my own conference pass. Thankfully, volunteering at the conference and annual awards provided an experience that jump-started my career and benefitted the brand.

When seeking volunteers, consider reaching out to universities and professors in your industry. They can share the opportunity with their students who are eager to make connections, meaning, even though they aren’t paid, they will work hard and bring their best self to your event.

Make sure you show appreciation to your volunteers. If you have the budget, bring a few extra pieces of swag, or give volunteers a gift card to say thank you. Just like customers, you can build mutually beneficial relationships that last. Volunteers who know both your brand and how you run your events will give you peace of mind come that hectic event day.

In my case, that first event turned into five happy years of volunteering for the AMI!

6. Focus on the details that matter

When it comes to events, there’s need to have and nice to have. If you’ve got some budget remaining after the “must-haves,” (think food and beverage, venue, A/V, and any printed materials), there are plenty of additional ways to spend that money – and it can be hard to choose.

What element will add the biggest wow factor to your event? For example, a sophisticated floral centerpiece is always appreciated. However, rather than buying the most expensive flowers, simplify the arrangement (or skip them altogether) and find unique ways to surprise and delight your guests.

Take the annual Marketing Profs B2B Forum. They choose to brand their event in quirky details such as the “Profstock” cocktail hour, which offers a 60s vibe and the perfect opportunity for social media pictures.

These experiences are what make you stand out, resulting in guests who are excited to tell others about your event, then keep coming back.

You don’t have to break your event budget in 2019 

Unlike other marketing strategies, there’s no doubt that events require more than your time and a computer. And while these requirements often come with a cost, there are plenty of ways to minimize them. Involve your network – see what local businesses, partners, or customers want to work with you, then let the event planning begin!

Related Resources:

[Blog] How to Develop an Event Budget for Your Event or Meeting

[Case Study] GetWellNetwork Scores at Cost Savings and Attendee Engagement

[Blog] Event Budget Basics: Everything You Need to Know

*This post has been written by guest blogger, Kristen McCabe, from G2 Crowd. G2 Crowd is the leading website for online business software and service reviews, where EventMobi ranks as a High Performer on the Summer 2018 Mobile Event Apps Report.