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How To Host Live Events On A Virtual Event Budget

During the pandemic, many businesses switched to a virtual-first model for their events. Now that in-person events are coming back in so many cities, event planners are left with a problem: your boss assigned you the same budget you had when you were doing virtual events. 

The average price to host a virtual event in 2020 was $254. That’s incredibly cheap, and if you’re trying to do an in-person event, you’re going to burn through that budget in the blink of an eye. 

So, until you get more funding, you must create extraordinary in-person events on a shoestring budget. Try these eight budgeting tips to put on an exciting in-person event on a modest budget.

1. Track your expenses in a spreadsheet

The average cost to plan a corporate event in 2022 ranges from $700 to $40,000. That’s a big range, and many factors affect your total event budget. But regardless of how much you have to spend, you need to be a good steward of those funds. 

The best way to stay on top of an event budget is to track everything in a spreadsheet. Consider different expense categories like: 

  • Catering
  • Cleanup 
  • Decorations
  • Entertainment
  • Security
  • Transportation
  • Venue 
  • Swag bags
  • Marketing
  • Insurance or permits

Start with your total budget and work backward. For example, if you have $2,000 to put on the event, assign either a dollar amount or a percentage of your budget to each category. Maybe 50% goes to your venue while 20% goes to catering, for example. 

You might have to compromise or cut out certain line items if you are limited. But by understanding how much you have to spend in every category, you can plan a fantastic event that won’t break the bank.

2. Ask for deals

At this point, you know how much you have to spend in each category. As you collect quotes from vendors, ask them if they can cut you a deal. 

This is common when you book a venue that also includes food, entertainment, and decor all in one. If you ask nicely, sometimes a company will offer a discount, free services, or other perks. 

The worst thing they can say is “no,” so what do you have to lose? 

3. Digitize where you can

Do you really need to print fancy paper menus or in-depth event itineraries? These additions make your event appear more high-end, but printing can be pricey. 

Digitize wherever you can. This will save you more money and give attendees the convenience of not carting around a piece of paper during the event. 

Plus, if you go to the effort of building a digital schedule, you can reuse that infrastructure for future events. Since attendees are still accustomed to virtual events, it should be a pretty short learning curve, too.

4. Offer hybrid options

Eighty-eight percent of event planners say that their events will have some kind of in-person component this year. But many attendees remain uncomfortable with the idea of in-person events, so it’s a good idea to offer hybrid options. This not only gives attendees another way to attend but also allows you to book a smaller venue and cut down on other costs, like catering. 

Make sure you ask your venue about their hybrid event setup. You’ll need microphones, internet connectivity, and cameras at a minimum to give hybrid attendees a great experience.

5. Rethink food and drink

Catering is essential to being a gracious host, but let’s be honest: it’s expensive. If it makes sense for your event, go for light refreshments instead of a meal. That might mean finger sandwiches, fruit, cheese, crackers, and other snacks that will keep people full on a budget. 

If you want to do a full meal for your guests, opt for a buffet. Everyone can choose what they want to eat, and there’s no need to hire tons of waiters to serve your guests. Plus, you don’t have to worry about tracking who ordered chicken and who wanted steak. 

In terms of alcoholic beverages, these can be expensive—and a liability. If you’re trying to manage on a small budget, 86 the alcohol. You can always offer a cash bar if your attendees want libations.

6. Optimize your swag bags

When you want to continue the conversation after the event, remember to curate clever promotional products. 

For events on a budget, it’s a good idea to simplify your swag offerings. Instead of doing full goodie bags, opt for one really cool piece of branded merchandise that gets everyone’s attention.

7. Shop around

You’ve got to make the most of a limited budget, which means you need to get the best deals possible. Never go with the first quote you get from a vendor. Always source multiple quotes and compare your options. 

Be sure to check the line items, too. One venue might be more expensive, but if it throws in free furniture or take-down service, that could make it a better deal for your budget than a cheaper, more limited quote.

8. Partner with sponsors

Sponsors aren’t always an appropriate addition to corporate events, but if it makes sense, seek out sponsors to reduce your event costs. Sometimes sponsors can even take on part of the event planning responsibilities, saving you time and money. 

You do have to be OK with sharing the limelight with another company, so don’t source sponsors for things like brand activations or product launches. But for conferences? Go nuts!

Do more with less

If you’re planning an in-person event on a shoestring budget, you’re a miracle worker. Anything can happen with event planning, and packing your big ideas into a small budget can be stressful. Follow these eight tips to make the most of your budget while doing more with less. 

If you’re trying to make the numbers add up, partner with Boundless’s promotional professionals. See how we help you make the most of a modest budget so you can Create Brand Love™ moments that won’t break the bank.

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