Juggling Rising Expectations Amid Shrinking Budgets

Author: Kim Benjamin       


Repurposing materials you might otherwise throw away — like turning wooden pallets into colorful backdrops — is one way planners can stay within their event budget.

Sam Lay

Shrinking budgets and rising expectations often go hand in hand. So how can event planners achieve more for less? A small budget doesn’t necessarily mean a planner has to compromise on event objectives or the attendee experience. Rather, said Sam Lay, senior director, Asia Pacific, at CWT Meetings & Events, it means being more creative and resourceful, and engaging stakeholders closely with options and alternatives.

“Start the planning process well in advance, as there is a lot of cost pressure associated with short lead times,” he advised.

A later start, he said, “means planners will have fewer options and less negotiating power in securing travel arrangements, meeting spaces, accommodation, AV, and logistics.”

One common pitfall is when planners don’t listen to recommendations from their service partners such as hotels and meeting venues, transport and logistic providers, AV and equipment providers, and DMCs, event strategists say.

“They should engage their partners to collaboratively explore cost-saving alternatives and options that will help them meet their event objective while staying within their budget,” Lay added.

Joycelyn Hoh

Joycelyn Hoh, director of event solutions and design at BCD Meetings & Events, recommends going back to basics to ensure that clients — as they increasingly say they want — get what she describes as “the right fit” for their event.

“Looking at ‘the right fit’ in terms of the destination and the venue is an advantage,” she said. “Understanding seasonality — and looking at secondary cities as alternatives — provides options that clients may not have thought of, and allows for doing more with less,” she said. “Push to have the right conversations to understand … expectations and provide multiple solutions to choose from.”

Zoe Cheng

Zoe Cheng, business development director at X2 Creative, suggests bringing production services like photography and videography in-house. This not only allows the agency to manage content creation more closely, but also reduces costs.

“Align expectations right at the beginning of the project to ensure you can deliver a seamless service,” she said. “As an agency, we strive to deliver top-notch creative at all times, but with shrinking budgets we have to adapt our processes to ensure we provide consistent quality whilst balancing our own books.

“Key to this,” she said, “is hiring a diverse group of multitalented people. For example, our client service team will frequently strategise and copy write for our clients, which saves the client the cost of outsourcing this.”

Kristina McCoobery, co-founder and COO at Invnt, suggests that if the costs of a large venue are too high, scaling the event back is one consideration.

Kristina McCoobery

“This can create an air of exclusivity and encourage people to sign up sooner rather than later due to a fear of missing out,” she explained. “We’ll then increase the audience size by looking to platforms like social media to livestream the event and share key highlights in real time.”

Other tips include reusing materials from previous events, or materials that would otherwise go to a landfill — recycled wooden pallets, for example, can be used to create backdrops and seating options with character.

“This will keep costs down while also upping the event’s sustainability credentials,” added McCoobery. “If you do need to use new materials, consider ways these could be used for events you’re delivering for the client in the future.”

McCoobery also suggests that partnerships, such as seeking out an independent local coffee supplier or an up-and-coming caterer that produces Instagram-worthy food can work wonders, too. You’ll be uncovering a potential new supplier, while also helping them build their profile.

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