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How to maximise your event budget in 2021

In 2021 and beyond, optimising your event budgets has never been so important.

After the most challenging period the events industry has ever experienced, event budgets are tighter than ever, meanwhile expectations around what events need to deliver remain largely the same – or even higher.

In this article, we’ll outline how you can get the most out of your event budget in 2021 without scrimping on its content or value. From virtual and hybrid event budgets to small tricks you can do to make your in-person event more affordable, we look at everything you can do to maximise your event budget.

Event budget planning – get clear about your event goals

The first step to maximising your event budget is to focus on what your event goals are. While this might seem obvious, it’s easy to lose control of your budget if your goals aren’t always at the forefront of all your decisions.

For example, if your objective is to get as many people to your event as possible, allocating more budget on marketing or impressive speakers may be your priority.

In contrast, your goal might be to encourage interaction and networking between your attendees. If this is the case, high quality virtual event software or an events venue may be the best use of your budget.

Getting these goals crystal clear and referring back to the throughout the planning process will help you use your budget in the most effective way.

Plan your event meticulously

Maximising an event budget and meticulous event planning go hand in hand.

Detailed event planning will show you where you can afford to spend your budget, and what return you can expect from it. Poorly planned events often end up with unexpected costs that can eat away at your profits or take you over budget all together.

Planning really couldn’t be more important when it comes to making your event budget go further. However, the event world has changed dramatically over recent months. In 2021, there are many new areas you need to consider when allocating your event budget. These include:

The event venue

While many events will remain online in the foreseeable future, in-person and hybrid events look set to play a bigger role as the year develops. This means venues are back on the cards when allocating event budgets.

These in-person events won’t be the same as before covid. Now you’ll need to take into consideration lots of extra factors when booking the venue and considering how much you’ll spend on it. For example, you’ll need to make sure that the event venue:

  • Is the right size 
    You may not require as big of an event space compared with previous events. That’s because you’ll likely have fewer physical guests or there’ll be a hybrid element to your event meaning many of your guests will attend online. Despite this, you’ll still need a venue with enough space to allow for social distancing. All of this needs to be considered in the cost of the venue rental.
  • Is COVID-19 safe 
    Your event venue must have a proven track record of managing events during the pandemic, including reduced capacities and increased hygiene measures. Your guests will only attend a physical event if they feel it’s safe to do so.
  • Has easy and safe transport links 
    The event venue needs to be easy to get to by local transport, and also have options for people to arrive in their cars too. With the pandemic still in force, many attendees will prefer to travel alone to events, so venues with nearby parking options (or free parking) will be in high demand.
  • Has good internet connection and integration
    Connectivity is more crucial than ever. Your event venue must be set up with fast and robust internet access throughout the whole space to enhance any hybrid elements of your event.

Once you have found a venue that meets this new criteria, you can talk to them about the costs and what’s included in the hire. You can shave some extra costs off by finding a venue that offers free audiovisual rentals and technicians, or provides refreshments. Other event venues may offer discounted rates during the week and evenings which can help with overall costs.

At 20 Bedford Way, we offer a range of different event spaces at affordable prices. Our event venues are thoroughly cleaned to COVID-secure standards. Being in central London it benefits from exceptional public transport links and parking is available at the Brunswick Centre.

Budgeting for event speakers

Event speakers often take up a sizable part of event budgets.his has not changed since hybrid and virtual events have moved centre stage.

In fact, hosting an online event actually gives you access to speakers from all over the world. This allows you to book more enticing content from notable speakers that you otherwise wouldn’t have had access to.

This is good news from a budgeting point of view, too. The fact that these speakers aren’t attending in person to present shouldn’t impact how much you pay them, but they should still come cheaper overall. That’s because you don’t need to pay for their travel or accommodation. This means you can access a wider pool of prominent speakers without needing as much money set aside as you would have pre-COVID.

For hybrid and in-person events, be aware that some speakers may request higher fees for attending events during the pandemic. You also need to factor in the extra costs involved in travel and accommodation.

Budgeting for online event software

For hybrid and virtual events, you’ll need to consider how much to invest in your event software.

Luckily, there’s a number of options to choose from. Since the coronavirus pandemic, virtual event software has developed at light-speed, so you really are spoilt for choice. We talk about what options there are in our planning a virtual event guide.

Most event software is now paid for, even Zoom. Paid event software is crucial from a security point of view, and also provides you with crucial extra software features, such as:

  • Virtual lobbies
  • Public and private chats
  • User polls
  • Sponsor areas and ads
  • Reporting on user engagement metrics

When selecting your event software, you’ll need to provide details about how many guests you’re planning to have. The more guests you have, the more the platform will cost. need to consider how many guests you can support within your budget.

To get the most out of your investment, estimate the number of guests you expect to host. You can do this based on your target audience and previous event attendance. Ask yourself:

  • How many people attended this sort of event in the past?
  • Are there new ways of acquiring more attendees since the pandemic (non-local attendees etc)
  • How effective is your marketing activity?
  • How niche is your target audience?

Once you’ve come up with a projected number of guests, agree this with the software hosts and include this cost in your budgeting. If it’s a paid event, you’ll then have a defined cost to help you calculate what you need to achieve a return on investment.

Budgeting for your event marketing

Marketing is crucial to get people to attend your events. From a budgeting point of view, these costs shouldn’t be scrimped on. However, there are lots of ways to maximise your marketing spend without it eating all of your budget. For example, using AI tools to help you plan your event.

We’ve written guides about how to market your event online. These explain how you can use various digital marketing channels (Pay Per Click advertising, social media, content marketing, etc) to market your event successfully and clearly track the return.

This way of marketing lets you see, more or less real time, what ticket sales or sign ups you have achieved for your investment. It allows you to control your budget and pull back and increase based on the results it’s generating.

Budgeting for  event extras

Depending on what type of event you’re running, there will always be extras to consider in your budget. For more traditional events, these might include food, beverages, audiovisual equipment, parking and personnel. Giveaways like goody bags are also included as an extra.

These extras are still important for hybrid and in-person events, so you’ll need to plan how much of these you can cover with your budget. There are lots of ways to do this:

  • Choose an event venue with ample free parking or excellent transport connections
  • Avoid providing full meals and just provide snacks such as biscuits or cakes
  • Offer basic hot drinks like tea and coffee instead of alcohol
  • Find interns or volunteers to help run your event
  • Get sponsors to provide freebies for the goody bags

But even virtual events need extras – whether that’s free access to popular software, or money off relevant products. You can work with sponsors to send attendees goody bags when they sign up to the event. Such gestures go a long way in making your virtual event a memorable one.

Whatever type of event you’re running, the key is to think about what event extras offer the attendees the most value without investing too much of your event budget.

Forecast your event budget

Once you’ve considered all the areas that you’ll need to invest in, you can start to be creative with how you manage your event budget. Before you do that, you need to split your costs into those that  are fixed and those that are variable.

Fixed and variable event costs

When planning events, your variable costs will be easier to scale back on if you’re struggling to control your budget. Fixed costs are those that won’t change no matter what, and therefore can’t be manipulated or changed as the event planning progresses. Fixed costs could include:

  • Event venue hire
  • Audiovisual equipment hire
  • Event content / speakers

Variable costs are more flexible and can include:

  • Virtual event hosting software (which can scale depending on the amount of guests you have)
  • Food and refreshments
  • Marketing

Being flexible about these variable costs as the planning project moves along will help you duck and dip to maximise your event budget as best as possible.

Let’s talk about how we can do that.

Flexible event budgets

A good way to engineer budget flexibility without the risk is to plan monthly, two week, one week and on-the-day forecasts.

These types of budget forecasts allow you to keep track of your budget as the event planning unfolds. They help you flag any dips in revenues, along with any unanticipated costs or unforeseen issues. You can then adjust your variable costs as needed to help you stay within your budget, or optimise it as best as possible.

It works by allowing you a certain amount to spend in a fixed period of time. Over a month your total budget might be £5000. But in two weeks it’s £2500, and in one week it’s £1250. Having these limits to spend during specific time frames paces your spending, and means flexible and variable costs can be ramped up or pulled back depending on how the planning is performing.

This allows you the freedom to spot opportunities to optimise your event budget during the event planning stage – not just at the start of it.

Events at 20 Bedford Way

2021 will continue to challenge the events industry, but there are still ways we can help you get the most out of limited budgets and resources.

To find out how you can make your 2021 event a success, the event planning experts at 20 Bedford Way would love to help you. Our team can help you make the most of your budget, and help you transition any event to an online or hybrid format, affordably and within your budget.

And, when the world’s ready to start having in-person events again, our central London venue will be ready waiting for you. For more information, call us today on 020 7612 614.


Main image: Athletes at Overbrook, Pa., The Library of Congress via Flickr

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