Tips for Scaling Event Budgets in Uncertain Times

Author: Curt Wagner       

Todd Schwartz

Todd Schwartz, CMP, said budgeting for events is not a mission impossible during his July 9 EduCon session, “Setting and Scaling Budget in an Uncertain Landscape.”

Budgeting for events in a rapidly changing landscape, whether for a digital or in-person event or a hybrid of the two, “might seem like it’s ‘Mission Impossible,’” said Todd Schwartz, CMP, during his PCMA EduCon 2021 session, “Setting and Scaling Budget in an Uncertain Landscape.” It’s a challenge, he agreed — but it’s one that can be successfully met.

Three keys to budgeting success, he said, are to remain agile; to create plans that are flexible enough to incorporate changes; and to anticipate challenges. As the pandemic stretches on, those planning in-person events need one or more backup plans, he said, including preparing strategies for shifting meetings to virtual or hybrid events.

Schwartz emphasized the importance of prioritizing meeting elements by their potential to deliver value to attendees and other stakeholders. Planners should understand the goals and objectives of the event they are budgeting for, and then examine their previous meetings and budgets in order to see where money might be shifted between areas to meet those objectives, he said.

“If you really need more money for success in a certain area, then ask for more, or move some from another area, or come up with one more creative sponsorship offering,” he said.

Schwartz also shared ways that planners can lower their costs in specific areas. Here are some of his suggestions:


  • Live-streaming discounts: Seek out monthly, yearly, multi-event, or group discounts for services — whatever serves your budget best.
  • Equipment: Invest in your own equipment, such as printers, power strips, and more.
  • Rates: Negotiate for better terms with in-house AV suppliers. For example, hourly rates might be a better deal than daily rates.
  • Providers: Find AV production providers who will be flexible if your event changes.
  • Labor: A1 and L1 techs are higher-paid managers, while A2 and L2 techs assist. Higher-level techs don’t always need to be involved in every session of an event.


Hire speakers to present remotely rather than cover the travel, lodging, and other costs associated with presenting in person. To ensure good video and audio quality, work with your service provider to send remote speakers kits with ring lights, cameras and stands, headsets, plus a coaching session.

Hotels, Venues, and Contracts

  • Flexible” F&B minimums: Ask the venue to charge a percentage of the difference between the price of actual and contracted food and beverage.
  • Rebooking clause: Ask for 100 percent rebooking within a year, with no limits.
  • Audit clause: An audit clause asks the hotel to credit meeting attendees who stay in the host hotel, but book outside the block, toward final numbers.

EduCon 2021 took place July 7-9 at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge in Phoenix and online. If you are a registered attendee, you can view sessions on demand at the EduCon website.

Curt Wagner is digital editor at Convene.

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