How to Plan an Awesome Event on a Tight Budget

Jul 15, 2021News

Midyear finds us at the height of the summer season, hope in the air. With COVID-19 restrictions across the US lifting earlier than expected, people are eager to get back together for in-person gatherings and events. 

This increased interest in social reconnection leaves the businesses and organizations responsible for planning events in a precarious position. They must determine what kind of events are appropriate in a newly post-COVID world—and how to execute those events on a tight budget. 

The reality is that many companies were hit hard by the pandemic and have had to scale back operations considerably. Although the economy appears to be taking a positive turn, budgets remain conservative. Businesses and organizations are left wondering how they can spend less on events than in previous years while still getting a good return on investment. 

If you find yourself in this position, I’m here to assure you that yes, it’s absolutely possible to plan a successful event on a budget—with some strategic concessions and a lot of creativity! 

Make Concessions Where You Can

It’s important to understand that scaled back events don’t necessarily have to be cheap. If your target audience has come to associate high-end experiences with your brand, you can’t just go from an A-level event to a C-level event and expect them to be satisfied. But there are ways to make strategic concessions while still meeting attendees’ expectations. 

Start by identifying what really matters to the people who will be attending your event, then determine where you can cut costs. If your last event had a multi-course sit-down meal, maybe you can scale back to offer classy passed hors d’oeuvres and light snacks instead. You can cut back without compromising on quality.

When in doubt, ask your audience what they want. You may be surprised to learn what attendees do and don’t value from your events. For example, if you find out that your audience doesn’t particularly care about gift bags, redirect a portion of that money to something they do care about, like live entertainment. 

Be strategic about how you outsource event planning—and to whom. Rely on the experts for the areas where they’ll make the biggest impact. My advice is if you normally work with an event planner but don’t have the same spend available, talk to them first before taking the job on yourself. They are experts in their field for a reason and can probably help you brainstorm ways to deliver a meaningful event while cutting costs. 

Adding event planning tasks to staff members who already have a full plate  can cause stress and resentment. You’ve heard the term, “work smarter, not harder”? Break down all the tasks you need completed and assign them to the best person for the job. For example, if you want to contract celebrities for your event, it might make sense to hire someone who has the right connections to get the job done  rather than face a series of unanswered phone calls.  

Another area to consider trimming is event decor—decorators, florists, and other creative professionals—especially if you have a person on your team with impressive DIY skills. One event that I helped plan had a rustic, country theme. So we skipped the florist and decorated the tables with wildflowers and tiny pumpkins instead. Everyone loved it—and it was a huge money saver for my client!  

Apply Creative Thinking to Event Planning

In addition to making strategic concessions, planning a successful event on a budget requires creative thinking about the event itself, and how you’ll pay for it. 

Think outside the box to determine how you can secure additional sources of funding. Are there co-sponsors who could help defray the cost of the event? Instead of having just one title sponsor, you might seek out multiple sponsors who can contribute. 

You could also incorporate a fundraising element into your event, such as an auction or an art exhibit. 

And when it comes to the type of event you’re planning, don’t underestimate the power of novelty! Take risks and plan something really different that will set your brand apart and create a memorable experience. Another perk of planning a one-of-a-kind event is that you won’t be competing with other events because you’ll have created something truly unique.

One of my clients had planned an expensive gala that was canceled twice during the pandemic. This time around, they opted for an outdoor event for families. Not only was the event more in line with the client’s brand, but it also took into account the lingering concerns people have about attending crowded indoor events. It was the perfect opportunity to take advantage of the beautiful weather and people’s desire to spend time outdoors where they feel safer.

Don’t let a tight budget stop you from planning a five-star event! Rather than getting hung up on what you aren’t providing, lean into what you can offer and create an experience people won’t forget.

If you’d like help planning, publicizing, and managing your event, I’m here to lead the way. Get in touch and let’s plan something special.