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Events are not just about growing brand awareness, networking, and knowledge sharing. They are about creating experiences, fostering connections, and shaping the future. Although COVID-19 caused a shift to virtual events, it also highlighted the irreplaceable value of in-person conferences, conventions, and other crucial meetings. In fact, 75.9% of organizers believe in-person events will become increasingly critical to their organization’s future success. Both organizers and attendees understand the unique benefits of in-person events, but there is no denying that things have gotten exponentially more expensive in recent years.

Inflation has affected all aspects of life for individuals and businesses. Business operational costs have risen, and as a result, so have the costs of running and attending events. Since 2020, the average daily cost per attendee for an in-person event was $160. In 2024, that cost is projected to be $174 per attendee per day. While that difference might not seem high, it adds up. In conjunction with rising costs, the budget for events has shrunk. 47% of planners report that event budgets are a struggle, and nearly all planners are facing 2024 projects with 2019 budgets. There are numerous ways to minimize costs and maximize your return on investment (ROI), and we are here to give you tips and develop a strategy that is relevant in 2024.

Setting Clear Goals and Objectives

The first step in effectively planning a successful event is to clearly define your goals and objectives. For example, do you hope to increase brand awareness or boost sales? Is this a networking event to nurture relationships and acquire new clients? Defining what your goals are helps you decide where to allocate your event budget so that every dollar spent goes towards achieving your desired outcome. To give you an idea, here are some specific goals and how to best use your event budgeting to achieve them:

  • Education: The focus should be on quality content and speakers, but the way this materializes can be in the form of educational material, live demonstrations and hand-on experiences, and workshops and facilitators.
  • Increase Sales: Boost sales by focusing on promotional materials and marketing that is specific to your industry. You need to understand your audience so you can design a program and script your talks in a way that will stick with your audience. Think of immersive ways your audience can actually see your brand personified and associate the product with your name.
  • Networking: Ensure you have an appealing venue and planned activities that incentivize people to attend as well as mingle. You also want to have proper marketing to boost your attendance so attendees can form beneficial connections.
  •  Fundraising:  Effective fundraising starts with a compelling narrative that connects with potential donors on an emotional level. Clearly communicate your mission and the impact of your work, using stories and data to illustrate the difference their contributions can make.
  •  Brand Awareness:  Building brand awareness involves consistently communicating your brand’s values and identity across all platforms. Participating in industry events and partnerships can also enhance your visibility and strengthen your brand’s reputation. Consistency and authenticity are key to making your brand recognizable and trusted.
  •  Internal Alignment:  Start by clearly communicating your vision, mission, and strategic objectives to all team members. This sounds easy, but make sure you’re working with talented scriptwriters who can help you break down complex concepts and ideas into a digestible narrative.
  •  Changemaking / Social Impact:  Communicate the importance of your work through storytelling and data, showcasing the tangible benefits of your initiatives. Engage your community and supporters by providing ways for them to get involved and contribute to the cause.

Event Budget team meeting with notes

Identify Key Expenses

Each event has unique expenses, but some are universal. It is essential to identify and plan for all details of an event and how much they will cost. Some common expenses include:

  • Venue fees
  • Catering
  • Marketing including promotional items and advertising
  • Audio-visual equipment
  • Event staffing
  • Event Insurance
  • Post-event marketing and feedback
  • Collateral
  • Wayfinding/Branding/Signage
  • Creative Investments

Allocating Funds Strategically

The best strategy is to set aside the money for your priorities first, then work towards lowering your other expenses. Remember that you should align your funds with your goals, not the other way around. Make sure you’re spending in the right places– this means evaluating your key expenses to determine if they are really necessary.

  • Plan in advance to get the best deals on venues. Many venues will compete and negotiate rates if you plan far enough ahead. Planning ahead also gives you time to tour different venues and compare prices.
  • When possible, be flexible with your event dates. Some dates will be more affordable than others.
  • Depending on your event, sponsors are a fantastic way to offset some costs while building beneficial relationships.

Maximizing ROI

When planning an event, your ultimate goal is to have a high ROI(return on investment.) Understanding your ROI helps you analyze the success of your event and plan more efficiently in the future. There are a few categories to consider when determining your overall ROI.

  • ROI for Each Part of Your Event Budget: When deciding how to spend your money or how successful the use of your money is, analyze how much each item factored into your overall revenue or final goal. You may decide that measuring retention is more important than new sales or that social impressions outweigh in-person engagement, but be clear and set goals for everything you want to measure.
  • Track and Analyze ROI Metrics: Each event has different goals and objectives so ROI varies, but determining if you reached your goals is often the most practical way to calculate the event’s success. For example, if your goal was to acquire more customers, calculate how many new leads and clients the event created. If your goal was to create revenue, calculate how much the event made after costs.
  • Adjust Budget Based on ROI: It is critical when planning events to analyze how previous ones went. Keeping track of ROI metrics can help you create a better budget for future events and attract even more attendees.
  • Contingency Plans and Adapting to Changes: It is critical to allow flexibility in your planning and budget. Plan for any unexpected costs or disruptions that might occur by placing some money aside. Generally, 5-10% of your event budget should be set aside for unforeseen circumstances. This allows you to have some flexibility in your decision-making if you want to upgrade your AV or content.
  • Balance Event Budget and Attendee Satisfaction: While staying in budget and conserving money when possible is important, it is equally important to factor in attendee satisfaction. Satisfied attendees form better connections, spread positive feedback to others, and attend future events. Growing events will ensure your business flourishes over time. To balance your budget while maintaining high attendee satisfaction, make sure your cost-saving techniques do not hinder the experience. For example, cutting costs on food by going buffet-style is often a better choice than choosing lower-cost food. If you do not know how to best allocate your budge, talking to a professional about appropriate budget use is a great way to make sure your event goes smoothly and helps you prepare for future events.

Final Thoughts

In-person events are critical to business success. They inspire, build connections, and form connections that could never be replicated by virtual events. They are however becoming more expensive and planner’s budgets are shrinking. Luckily, with proper planning and strategy you can conduct a successful conference with any budget.
Planning in advance, prioritizing expenses that accomplish your goals, and adjusting your strategy are the keys to event success. To gain more insight and help planning an event, consider hiring a production company like SFG Productions. We’re skilled at creating impactful events on any budget. To learn more about how to pull off the ultimate event, contact us today.

We Look Forward to Keeping in Touch!