Tax day is upon us. And while it’s an inevitability each year, it doesn’t make it any more enjoyable. I think it’s so stressful because it requires organizing a lot of documents, working under the immense pressure of a looming, inflexible deadline, and, ultimately, coming face to face with some potentially uncomfortable financial realities.
But really, that could be just another day in the life of an event planner.
Planning events is challenging for many reasons, but one of the top contenders is definitely planning and sticking to a budget. Like most event planners, I get excited at the start of any planning process. It’s hard to resist getting attached to event concepts, ideas, and entertainment options that fall outside your budget. Even if you do stick to what you can afford, you have to be aware of unexpected costs that could pop up at any moment.
Since no organization can afford to write a blank check to foot the bill for their events, here are some tips to help you hold the event you envisioned while sticking to your budget. And, quick plug: if you like these tips, don’t forget to register for Cvent CONNECT in Las Vegas on June 16-18. It’s an event for event planners (corporate and association) that’s designed to give you the learning opportunities you need to make every aspect of your events successful.
Now, back to budget guidelines:
- Be Prepared – First, make sure you know exactly what your budget is. Don’t settle for ballpark figures. Get a hard number and go with it. Once you have that, start planning immediately; we start planning the following year’s Cvent CONNECT almost right after the event ends. The earlier you begin your venue and vendor search, the more options you’ll have and the less likely you’ll be backed into a corner with something out of your price range.
- Be Open to New Venues and Destinations – It’s great to have a rapport with venues and hotels, but sometimes their dates, amenities, and prices don’t fit with your event. In that case, you have to be like Fleetwood Mac and go your own way. It doesn’t hurt to see what else is out there. Consider not returning to the same spot every year. Even if you end up going back after all, it’s worth it to send out additional RFPs to other venues and destinations. Our Supplier Network makes it easy to explore. Non-traditional venues and smaller cities could be a great way to save money.
- Look internally for talent and referrals – Is anyone in your organization an all-star photographer? Do you know someone who personally knows a great caterer or band? Make sure you ask around your organization to see who has any hidden talents that can be of use to your event. Also, see if you know anyone who has a personal or professional relationship with a vendor. People do business with people they know and like—and often times they give those people a break on the price.
- Identify every single expense – After you have your budget, review your proposals and contracts (read the fine print!) and begin keeping a record of every single expense. Master lists in Excel will work, but we use the Cvent Budget Module. It’s a total time saver. We can track all our line items, compare expenses to past events, analyze average cost per attendee, run reports, and monitor everything in real time.
- Be persistent with sponsors – Send your sponsor proposals out early and be ready to follow up. Make sure you follow-up and are prepared with information regarding ROI. While some sponsors may not require it, personalizing your pitch and showing you’ve done your homework to find out what’s important to them goes a long way.
- Make no assumptions and write everything down – Unless it was agreed upon and detailed in your contract with a vendor, don’t assume it will be done. If you’re confused about something, ask for clarification. Assuming vendors will provide something they haven’t agreed to leads to unexpected costs. Which is a nice segue to my next tip…
- Build in a budget cushion – The event planning world is unpredictable and even the best laid plans can go awry. Set aside 10 percent of your budget just in case.
- Ditch the paper – Paper invitations, event programs, attendee lists and session materials are not only antiquated and a huge hassle to produce, they are expensive to print. Use online registration technology to manage attendees and a mobile event app to house all your event details. Attendees will love having everything right on their phones!
Photo Credit: Jeshu John