Event Planning ROI: Bigger Bang for Your Buck

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The economy has more and more companies forgoing corporate events and skipping conference hosting altogether. Those that continue to put on events are feeling the crunch, but don’t want to sacrifice class or quality to put on an affordable occasion. It is possible to cut costs without catastrophic results, however. We look at four major areas of savings, and provide tips from the experts to help save your next event!

4 Tips for Boosting Your Event's ROI

1. Strategize

While weekend affairs are glitzy, they are also rather costly. By forgoing the sweet spot on your calendar and keeping your event within the first three days (Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday), you can ask for — and expect to receive — significant savings. Dawn J. Strain of DSJ Events explains why:

These are off nights for anyone in the event business meaning caterers, entertainment companies, audio visual, etc. You will have a much easier time negotiating price, and since for most of these businesses, it is either book a budget job or book nothing, they will find a way to make it work.

2. Prioritize

As one of the most substantial portions of an event budget, the venue can open up a world of opportunities and possibilities for your next event. While it may be tempting to become distracted by all the options in choosing a venue, it’s wise to identify 3-5 main features that you can’t do without and go from there. An employee event may require a location closest to public transportation, while a charity event may not. Perfect lighting is necessary for an art gala, while the typical business conference may get by with CFL’s. If there are “must-haves” for your event, clarify these early on, and leave the other amenities as a bargaining tool, alone.

3. Smart-Size

While no one is suggesting that you always swap out bisque for burgers, there are opportunities to scale back on even the finest of cuisines. One option is to slightly reduce portion sizes, giving you an opportunity to make major cuts to food costs. Will anyone ever notice that you went with the 6 oz. filet instead of the 8 oz.? Probably not. And with many catering services willing to put the focus on the presentation, instead of the quantity, you may come out ahead in terms of your reputation. Ask to see dishes in various sizes before you book, giving you a chance to do a side-by-side comparison.

You may also want to inquire about the dessert menu. Kathleen Willcox, of Indiana Market and Catering, offers her customers a number of small but original after-dinner options.

Very few people want a huge, formal dessert offering in this day and age. We’ve found that offering passed desserts like homemade milkshake shooters with bite-size beignets or molten brownie bites not only cut down on costs, but are much more popular with our clients who find them innovative, fun, and not to mention delicious — even at large, formal galas.

4. Specialize

The days of a full bar may be over, but that doesn’t mean you have to leave out the spirit experience. Signature drinks are an effective way to offer one or two alcoholic beverages with little overhead, and they don’t require that your bar staff be trained in anything but creating those particular recipes. As an added benefit, signature drinks can easily reflect the personality or mission of a company. (One recent event hosted by Energizer featured Bunni-tini’s and were served alongside delicious treats designed to keep partygoers going through the night.) If the drinks are memorable, attractive, and most of all, taste delicious, your guests won’t miss the usual bevy of beverages.

Expert Event Planning Pointers

In addition to these more general guidelines for savings, we picked up a few extra pointers from the experts themselves:

  • Avoid shrimp at all costs. It seems to vaporize as soon as it hits the buffet table. And stay away from salty foods, as they will make your diners thirstier. (This can be a budget breaker for your open bar.) — Ginny Cooper, The Cooper Group
  • Consider combining two events into one to avoid duplicate costs. You could include an annual awards evening event with an afternoon quarterly update, for example. Another popular choice is to hold an end of year meeting followed by a small holiday reception, so you can still have a seasonal celebration for employees, but not incur the cost of two separate meetings. — Sandra Rios, Longwood Events
  • If it’s a dinner, make the attire business casual. When more formal attire is required, guests are often expecting a more high-end meal (and high-end meals increase the overall costs). — Greg Jenkins, Bravo Productions
  • Have the speaker do more than one session rather than hiring a different speaker. Most speakers charge only a fraction of their normal fee for a second session done on the same day. Even if you are paying travel expenses, you'll only be paying one set. — Barry Maher, Speaker
  • Don’t do a binder or printed material — offer everything on a jump drive or the company’s web site. (This will save the cost of printing and shipping.) — Lynn Bjostad, Premier Meeting and Event Management

What are your tips for event planning on a budget?

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