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A closer look: How to hack your event budget

Previously, we’d written an overview of event budgeting, touching on the basics that need to be covered. This article takes you through the granular details that many event managers often overlook. Enjoy this 4 minute read on some quick tips to master your event budget immediately.

Drawing up (and then sticking to) an event budget could see even the most seasoned event planners break out into a cold sweat. We get it – no matter the size of your budget – the buck stops at you to ensure that every cent goes towards making the event a success, and ultimately, generating ROI. Balancing the books will never be fun (unless you secretly harbour dreams of becoming an accountant), but it can be manageable. We’ve reflected on our extensive industry experience to compile the most effective tips to help you cut down on stress, and importantly, runaway costs.

 

Smart budget management to stretch your funds from the start

Grade your costs: essential and nice to have, only if the budget allows

When planning, categorising your costs can help you to make cuts when and if needed. Those that fall into the ‘essential’ category are must-haves like the venue, speaker fees and on-site security. ‘Nice to haves’ are linen tablecloths (as opposed to cotton), a mobile bar that guests can help themselves from, or additional wait staff. Costs that fall into the ‘only if budget allows’ category would be an elaborate thank-you basket for each guest, a valet service, or a sought-after wine. If you’re still struggling to decide whether that centrepiece really needs to be so big, or whether you require a live string quartet, ask yourself whether it will add value to your guests and whether it’ll contribute to guest engagement and ROI.

TIP: An effective exercise to help you ‘find’ money at the last minute is by adding a ‘why’ column next to each expense. For example, next to your keynote speaker, your ‘why’ could be ‘main attendee drawcard to the event’. If they’re set on staying at a five-star hotel and being chauffeured around the city (on top of their fee), consider choosing another industry expert who is based locally and is less of a diva. If the reason as to why you need to spend money on a certain item or vendor is flimsy, scrap it, or swap it out for a more affordable option.

Don’t forget about hidden costs

Many ‘surprise’ event costs arise during the event. From paying overtime for venue staff or paying a DJ for an extra hour of music to have to move an outdoor event inside, last minute, ‘never thought of that’ costs can quickly add up.

Have a contingency plan in place

Events are notorious for last-minute changes. Inclement weather, fly-by-night vendors, and even load shedding can throw a spanner into the works at any time. But that doesn’t mean your budget should have to go out the window. Keep your cool by drawing up a contingency budget plan as soon as you’ve created your initial or working budget. Then identify the areas from which you can pull money from in case an emergency cost crops up.

 

Budgeting hacks: best practices to set you up for event success

Safeguard all budget-related info by storing it in one centralised place

Last-minute purchases can fall into a void if you’re not saving everything in one, centralised repository. Keep all invoices and take photos of receipts and save them to a cloud-based folder, so that when it’s time to consolidate spending, you have a detailed record of every expense.

Be a pedantic record-keeper

One lunch with a prospective vendor here and one last-minute deposit to a cater who forgot to add tea and coffee service to his invoice there can quickly add up. Be pedantic about recording every single expense – even if it’s only a few soft drinks for the team during set-up. At the end of the day, you’ll be liable for any expenses that haven’t been recorded. 

Commit to updating the budget daily

Have a dedicated budget consolidation time slot in your calendar, and then honour it. Continuously updating your costs helps you to see how your budget is changing and enables you to make informed decisions about expenses that are due further down the line.

Turn on ‘track changes’ to give your client (and you) a transparent timeline of expenditure

Whether you’re using Excel or Google Sheets, and especially if you’re tasked with managing the budget of a client, track all changes. This enables you to have a (digital) paper trail that gives you and your client insight into how and when things shifted. What’s more, it allows you to justify any requests for additional budget and enables you to account for every rand spent.

 

Cost-saving tips to make small budgets go further

Opt for off-season

There are some major savings to be had when you hold an event off-season. Venues which comprise a major portion of your budget are cheaper during autumn and winter, as are accommodation and flights. What’s more, if you’ve got your heart set on a particular venue, it’s far more likely to be available off-peak (not to mention, more affordable).

Determine hidden venue costs before signing

Many venues make their real money by charging for corkage and additional hours used. Clarify what their policies are around a minimum bar spend or headcount, as well as the use of their staff and in-house caterers.

Swap printed materials for an event app

Paper is passé. Not only are printed programmes, info packs and menus expensive – they’re also frowned upon by increasingly green-minded attendees. In addition, printing event collateral can easily add up into the thousands. Opting for an event app that houses all event info digitally, enables you to save a significant chunk of your budget (not to mention, elevate your attendee experience too).

Hold a virtual version of the event

If you’re orchestrating a large-scale, public-facing event, consider adding a virtual-version of the event as an additional source of revenue. Attendees can participate from anywhere in the world, and because tickets are cheaper, you can tap into a larger audience too – giving your brand more exposure for a fraction of the price.

Have strict bar limits in place

Bar tabs have been the downfall of many an event budget. Before your event kicks off, implement strict bar hours that cannot be extended by anyone without your permission. To further save money, consider limiting the type of alcohol served for free, as well as the amount of alcohol available.

Become a master negotiator

As the saying goes, “if you don’t ask, you don’t get”. Many suppliers will negotiate their rates, especially if they’re trying to break into the event space, or if you agree to use them for a certain number of future events if they deliver on this one.

Our event management solutions have helped brands like Facebook, Red Bull, MTN and more to orchestrate successful, future-facing events. Get in on the action by getting a budget-friendly quote from us today or get in touch (we’d love to hear from you.)

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