Sometimes you’ve got big dreams for an experience and only a few dollars to implement an event. Without the big bucks you can still be intentional about creating the environment that sets the appropriate tone for those attending your event.
Stretch that dollar: Know thy budget. Set a budget for your event. Always. Get bids, proposals and estimates from vendors, give allowances in other line items then stick to it (don’t forget to include taxes and gratuities). Something may cost a bit more here or there and when you have a budget you can make adjustments in other areas to make up the difference. If you read no farther and stick this in your to-dos for your next events, you will be better off.
Research your venue. In our region, venue staff are excited to show off what they can do and what they can provide within budget. Leverage the venue amenities to the advantage of your budget.
Often there are free resources available to you at the venue. Ask lots of questions and stretch your imagination. Lighting can set the mood for learning, for an intimate setting, for something surprising. If it’s as simple as flipping a switch, use it to your advantage. Does the venue have pipe and drape to guide people into a room, staging to set people apart, furniture to rearrange for a small group setting? Is classroom or theater style layout appropriate for the event?
Intentionally use space. Room layout is always important to your event from each perspective of the sponsors, partners, exhibitors and the intended audience. With zero or little dollars spent, you can encourage or inhibit collaboration with the intentional layout of tables, chairs, drink stations, buffets, AV equipment, etc. Gather people in small groups where they sit face-to-face to generate buzz and collaboration; seat few people in a large space, side-by-side so they cannot make eye-contact to discourage interaction. Plan and control the lanes and gateways within exhibitors to shape the where people come together and, in part, shape their interactions.
Intentionally use time. If you have a limited budget, consider the length, duration and time of day you’ll host your program. You can certainly make some savings by controlling the time of the event. Limit your content to a 3-4 hour event and keep costs down by hosting in the morning when you can provide a very reasonably priced morning meal or snack, or get by on the cheap, by not serving food.
Spread your dollars across many events. If you have a reoccurring event or similar events that can use similar materials, stretch your dollar by using or creating materials that you can use over and over. Branded signs don’t have to be specific to the each event occurrence. While signs may change from event to event, you can showcase the brand by selecting an element to represent that brand: use fabric, paint a single color and repeat on signs, podiums and tables. If you can’t pay for as many elements as you want at once, include a few in each budget, just make sure they have an appropriate shelf life.
Get Creative! You may be surprised what you can provide towards a great experience for your intended audience on a limited budget.