Clever Carly: Best Budgeting Practices
Don’t let a small budget limit your event
Amid another week of planning, I can’t help but think about money. As planners, we’re the liaisons who usher our clients’ goals and imaginative ideas from dreams to reality. But we need one thing in order to do this: money. And it’s the very same thing that is often hard to find.
Every planner, including myself, wants to put on an event that hits all the marks—but it can be a challenge to do so on a small budget. And for the 55 percent of planners who are working with budgets that are either flat or lower than in 2017, it can seem nearly impossible.
Of course, we want to be creative and deliver unique experiences to each and every one of our clients. But because few budgets are limitless, it’s important for us planners to have a realistic grasp on the financials. How you budget will depend on the client and event, but there are a few things you can do to maximize a meeting with limited funds.
You can’t accurately plan and stay close to budget if you don’t have one. So in order to stay on track with your planning schedule and keep within budget, establish early on what you are able to spend. Think realistically: What is feasible for what your client is trying to accomplish? How have planners for similar events handled their budgets? Be thorough, yet plan for the unexpected—having a buffer will grant a little leeway if you’re faced with unforeseen challenges, and will provide a little extra money if all goes smoothly. Developing an understanding of money limits early with clients, and with your own team, will ensure that everyone is on the same page moving forward.
Choose Quality Over Quantity
Everyone wants incredible, A-list food, décor and entertainment at their event, but it’s not often that the organizations and clients you’ll work with will have a budget to match. Presented with this situation, maybe your inclination is to opt for lower-cost items across the board. But forsaking quality in the name of a small budget won’t impress the client and will leave guests with the taste of mediocrity—and your planning skills deserve much better than that.
Instead, focus on one or a few really amazing items that bring your meeting purpose to the forefront. For example, if you’re hosting a networking event, splurge on a stellar beverage experience that will help give attendees that extra push to get out there and make the authentic professional connections they came for. And because guests are there to focus on each other and not necessarily the setup, you can worry less about outstanding décor, and then allocate those saved funds to the bar budget.
Find Items That Play Double Duty
There are many facets to a stellar event, and with a small budget, it’s possible you might not have enough money to buy every little thing to make your meeting shine. But instead of picking and choosing what is most important, select items that can play more than one role. For example, in lieu of centerpieces, find decorative ways to serve or plate food and let those designs take center stage. Or use innovative lighting techniques to project different messages or colors throughout the event space to create the perfect atmosphere rather than expensive decorations.
Small budgets aren’t always easy to work with, but they can be manageable. As long as you, the client and your team are all aware of where you stand on the financials and how to spend them appropriately, there should be nothing in your way of putting on a fabulous meeting.