By Daria Knupp, Content Marketing Manager

Does it feel like everything has suddenly gotten way more expensive? You’re not the only one. Costs are up everywhere, and it’s especially true for event planning as we start returning to in-person events. We’re thinking to ourselves, “Did everything really cost this much before?” 

We are hearing from industry professionals that the event budget is the number one priority for 2022. While budgets overall are staying the same, if not increasing, expectations and costs are rising. 

We reached out to a few event professionals to get event budget basics on conferences and trade shows that your attendees won’t even notice! 

Start Early with the Event Budget

Kara Dao, Senior Director, Client Engagement and Operations, at JDC Events, stresses that starting early is critical and making sure you have a clear communications plan for both the internal and external audiences.  “Commit early to a plan for health and safety management and make it conservative,” Dao explains. “Time is money.  By committing to a conservative plan, you are able to save time and money by executing early and putting the right resources in the right places.” 

By starting early, not only are you setting up good habits for the remainder of the process, but you’re also providing a sense of confidence to your clients, boss, or anyone else who’s entrusted you with an event.   

Be Flexible with the Event Date

Let’s face it; flexibility is one of your greatest assets when it comes to cutting event costs. And if you’re starting early enough, you can tap into off-peak rates for venues, suppliers, and such. You don’t always have to stick to the same timeframe as you did last year. Who knows, you might even attract newer attendees who typically can’t get away from work in your usual month. A word of warning though, – you should quadruple-check through all available sources that there are no other big conferences or compeititor events around the dates you’re looking at. 

Leverage Technology 

Printed materials can be dated and invalid sometimes before it even rolls off the presses. Events are evolving faster than ever. According to Rich Vallaster, Director of Marketing and the Tradeshow Wonk at Personify, anything print needs to be evaluated. 

Vallaster points out that because of this, it makes more sense to go digital. He cited Printweek, which reported that paper alone is going to increase 8 to 15% this year. Printing also takes time to produce, ship, and distribute.  

“Digital allows for real-time information on all aspects of your events, which is extremely valuable,” he said. “And, let’s face it, digital is an expectation in the new events world, especially among digital natives.”  

You’ve heard the saying, “There’s an app for that.” Well, it’s true. Many event management companies offer digital event management solutions, such as an event app and interactive floor plans. 

With these powerful tools, you are able to increase exhibit and sponsorship sales, strengthen digital revenue, and expedite cash flow with simplified payment collection. In addition, you are able to deliver the right information at the right time that provide exhibitors, speakers, and attendees the power of self-service. 

Maximize Volunteer Opportunities 

Human hours from venue personnel, third-party staffing, or paying your staff can really add up. To help reduce costs, consider reaching out to volunteers. Many associations, for example, have members all over the country. 

“When we had our regional conference this year, we reached out to our local members for volunteer opportunities,” said Kaitlyn Simpson, Marketing Manager of the YMCA. “We found we had some incredibly talented members who were more than willing to help out. They were lifesavers!” 

Brittany Peck, Training Events Specialist at Shared Hope International, agrees that you would be surprised at how many people are willing to volunteer. She does recommend utilizing a “volunteer packet,” which will help set the tone and expectations of the volunteer program. She adds that having a dedicated staff member that manages the volunteers is good, and to set up a texting group chat so they can keep in touch with each other and on-site. 

“We check-in with them often and try to make it fun and personal, “Peck says. “They are volunteering their time because they care about the content of the event, and we like to celebrate that as much as possible.” 

You can even offer them free registration to an event, drink tickets, a specific VIP-level experience, and specific access to networking opportunities in exchange for volunteer hours. This approach helps make it easier to recruit help and reduce costs. With good management and clearly defined roles, they can help you deliver a high-quality event without hiring additional staff. And let’s face it, good volunteers are worth their weight in gold. 

Elevate Your Sponsorship Game 

We all know the typical sponsorship packages offered but try offering some fresh approaches for your next event. Not only do individual sponsorships work well with companies who may not be willing to go for the “Gold Package,” but they also provide your bigger sponsors additional ways to generate awareness and thus bring in more overall revenue, thus reducing costs. Some ideas to consider: 
Exhibitor’s Charity of Choice: Promote a cause that is important to them and gives everyone the opportunity to do good, all while providing exposure for the exhibitor. 
Complimentary-Sponsored Bag Drop: Designate an area where attendees can drop off their swag bags or other items they feel comfortable leaving, and offer the exhibitor to staff the area, thus promoting exposure. 
Sponsor a Selfie: Consider offering a company the right to staff a selfie station, where they take a selfie and tweet or Instagram the hashtag to win a prize. This is a promotion for them and for you. The support they provide doesn’t need to be confined to financial support alone. 
VIB (Very Important Bathrooms):  Assuming the venue allows it, an ordinary restroom can be transformed into a memorable lux experience. With a few simple additions like logo branded mints to fancy soaps, this will be something attendees will appreciate. 

Whether it is mixing up an old idea with a new twist or coming up with something completely original, we hope these ideas inspire your future sponsor relationships. 

Reduce Your Speaker Fees 

Guest speakers can be great additions to your events, but if you want an in-demand speaker, that can get expensive. Consider exploring speakers near the venue location so you can save on travel expenses. Or, if you want that popular speaker, be sure to book well in advance, as many speakers raise their fees as their calendars fill up. And be sure to maximize their time there. If you have for the keynote, see if they would be willing to do a breakout session to help save from paying another person for that. 

In conclusion, prioritizing needs over wants and tradition over flexibility and trying innovative approaches will give you the budget you need without compromising on the quality and revenue of your event.