It’s an understatement to say that the overhead cost of hosting an event is cost prohibitive.  Nevertheless, the high cost can be somewhat mitigated without sacrificing on the quality of the event, or at least not to an extent that would be noticeable to the attendees.

With a little smart budgeting, you can scale back on needless expenses.

Negotiate the Rental Price of the Facility

Venue rental will be the most expensive overhead cost. Even renting out a high school gymnasium for a single weekend can easily run in the five digit range. Speak with the head of the facility to see if they’re willing to budge on the rental price. Also be willing to scout out other venues for a price comparison.

Keep in mind that rental prices are not stagnant and often fluctuate depending on demand and time of year. If possible, try to schedule your event during a month when rentals are slow. Rentals are usually at its highest during the end-of-the-year months like October, November, and especially December. Summer and spring months are usually the time of year where you’ll get the best deal.

Cut Back on Speaker Fees

Bigger name speakers are known to charge exorbitant fees. Of course, the name recognition may also result in a higher turnout. You can, however, cut back on other areas. Keep in mind that aside from the speaker’s service fees, you’ll also have to foot his or her traveling and lodging expenses.

When scouting for available speakers, see if there is one who is already booked close to the same time and close to your area. This way, the speaker’s traveling and lodging costs are already covered or partially covered. Likewise, you can also look for a speaker that is native to the area.

Don’t Go to Crazy on the catering

Yes, the quality and quantity of food greatly influences the attendees’ overall perception of the event. However, this is one area where you can afford to scale back on. Do you really need a buffet complete with a lavish bar where expensive cocktails are served? If you feel you do, then reserve it for VIP attendees. Catering can be a single course meal with the option for people to return for seconds if there are any leftovers. As for beverages, skip the bottled drinks; use a water dispenser with plastic cups.

If your event will be serving light refreshments at the start of the event or just before it comes to a close, keep it minimal. There’s no need to serve shrimp, oysters, truffles, or pig in a blanket as appetizers. Much more affordable options include your common snack foods, such as peanuts, cookies, veggie trays, and carbonated water.

Don’t Overdo It With the Freebies

Yes, people like free stuff, and having promotional items to give away is definitely a good way to form a positive impression. However, there’s no need to hand out gear that costs an arm and a leg to produce in mass quantities. With respects to promotional gear, limit it to small knickknacks, such as pens, coasters, magnets, and carabiners.

If you do use more expensive promotional gear, such as t-shirts, tote bags, and thermoses, then save them for attendees willing to give you something in return. You can, for example, hand these out to those who perform some form of favorable action, such as signing up for a trial service or submitting their email so you can send them promotional offers.

Make Your Event Tech-Friendly

Higher overhead costs are often assumed when technology is involved. While it’s true that the initial costs may be higher, technology can be reused, thus saving you money in the long-term. There are many ways technology can be implemented. Two of these will be discussed: event apps and digital signage.

Event Apps

Roughly half the population these days owns a smartphone, so you can use an event app to cut down on printing costs. The event schedule, for instance can be uploaded into the app, so every attendee has it on their mobile. This prevents you from having to print paper versions, though you should still print them in limited quantities for those who lack a smartphone.

Digital Signage

Just as event apps saves on printing costs associated with event schedules and flyers, digital signage does the same for large banners and posters. Rather than printing out vinyl banners, just create a digital version and show it on a signage screen. Since ads can be rotated out at regular intervals, you can show multiple ads from a single screen.

If you need to make small changes to the ads, such as changing a date, then just log into the system and make the modification. Compare this to having to reprint a whole stack of flyers or posters because the date was wrong or there was a typo.

Secure Help From Interns

Planning an event is a lot of work and may be more than what your staff is able to handle. Instead of hiring extra people or paying your employees overtime, use a site like Craigslist to acquire help from students and recent grads.

Make it an intern program where students can gain valuable experience working for your company. In return, the hired help will have a valuable reference for their resume or acquire a letter of recommendation from you.

Higher Costs Do NOT Equal a Better Event

Big spending does not automatically guarantee a successful event. If you need to cut back on expenses, then by all means do so. Really, it will hardly be apparent from the attendees’ perspective, so no need to go spend-crazy in a desperate attempt to make your event the hottest thing since sliced bread.

This is a guest contribution by Dan McCarthy, Event Manager at Venueseeker, a comprehensive online venue guide based in the UK. Dan has 5 years of event project management under his belt. He has worked on many successful events and currently he shares his knowledge by writing on the company blog. Follow him on Twitter @DanCarthy2.

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