There’s no doubt about it, budgeting can be tricky. Oh sure, on the surface it sounds easy enough to trim a few dollars here and there. Event planning budgets are no different. Not understanding how and why budgeting dollars are allocated can lead to a real mess of an event. To me an event’s budget helps me understand whether or not a planner knows what they are asking their potential suppliers to do. Here’s my point. How many times have you been asked to quote on a piece of business without being able to get a budget range from your client? Oh sure, I’ve heard the argument from many planners who think that if they disclose their budget amount then the proposals will come in at that amount. Okay that may be the case, but if you’re getting a couple of quotes it’s easy to determine which suppliers are playing that game. My opinion is that it’s far more beneficial for meeting planners to disclose their allocated dollar range as they’ll receive program proposals that are tailored towards the budgeted amount. Let’s face it, if you have $50 per person to spend on an event, then asking your supplier to propose museums and art galleries would be a total waste of time.
Suggestions for Keeping Event Planning Budgets in Check
Attractions. Some organizers like to build in a few attractions and tours for their delegates during a meeting or conference. Many associations will offer attractions and tours. To keep their budgets in check they do it by promoting a tour registration sign-up for their delegates (handled by a pre-approved local destination management company or tour operator). In other words the individuals will pay their own way if they do want to go on a tour or see an attraction. And the Association and planner maintains control as they direct the local company on when to offer the tours and attractions.
Venues and decor. Decor costs can quickly add up. Of course everybody has champagne taste until they see the itemized breakdown of the costs. Then all of a sudden they’re A-OK with those votive candles (not that there’s anything wrong with votive candles). Some creative ways to address decor costs is to look at the type of venues that are being considered. Some have enough of an ambiance to stand on their own therefore eliminating the need for a lot of decor. But what you have to weigh is the cost of that particular style of venue versus the cost of decor. Another alternative is to look at the decor items. Depending on the event, vignettes or balloon displays might be enough to spruce things up.
Transportation. We once worked with a client who needed to trim the events budget so she simply eliminated the return transportation component of the event. I kid you not. And the location was not in an area were public transportation is readily available. They needed to call taxis for over 100 people. And the bonus, they didn’t tell the delegates until that they were at the venue itself. Pissed off? You betcha. While I’m not a proponent of two-way transportation (that’s where vehicles arrive and take the group to its destination and then leave. Then they come back when the event is over to return them to the hotel’s etc). The problem that I have with this type of transportation is that quite often there can be logistic issues which make the return vehicles late for picking up the guest parking the venue. However if budgets are extremely tight then two ways are definitely a budget solution. At the airport, sedans can be expensive. Many of the larger cities have dedicated train service which will take delegates from the airport to the city’s downtown core. Another alternative to help keep airport transportation costs down is to provide coach shuttles (say every half-hour or hour depending on volumes).
Food and beverage. There are several ways to help keep your event planning budget in check when it comes to catering. Some venues have in-house caterers who often come with a price reduction because most of the equipment is already on site. You can also sit down with your caterer and discussed the type of menu that would best fit your budget (plated, food stations, heavy hors d’oeuvres etc.). Many events are eliminating a host, or open, bar concept. That’s where the organizer pays for all of the alcoholic beverages consumed. I understand why they’re doing that, as beverage costs have skyrocketed and certainly add a considerable dollar amount to the event’s budget. It really depends on the event itself as to whether or not this a host bar is the way to go. If it is then perhaps consider beverage tickets that could be handed out to each delegate. Then the meeting planner knows exactly what he or she is spending on beverage service. And if people want to imbibe a little bit more, then they can do so at their own expense.
Tip: wondering how much alcohol to order for your event? Our drink calculator can assist you.
Event planning budgets are the building blocks, or blueprints, of an event. Planning an event without a budget makes as much sense as purchasing a plane ticket without knowing your destination.