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Skimp or Splurge? What to Get When Planning a Corporate Event

January 18, 2016

Putting together the perfect event isn’t easy. You want to give your attendees a good time, provide valuable information and whet their appetites for future meetings and conferences. In addition, you need to do it all within the restrictions of your budget. When you’re planning a corporate event, conference or workshop you need to deliver high quality without breaking the bank. To help you identify what’s worth the money — and which items you can skip — here’s our “Skimp or Splurge?” guide to pulling off an event that keeps them coming back year after year.

Skimp: Venue

Drape-Fabric-and-Hardware-squareThis one may seem shocking but if you take proper care of other important details like content, atmosphere and networking opportunities, the venue need be nothing more than a backdrop. Rather than blowing your entire conference budget on a suite of spendy ballrooms, get creative. Depending on the size of your event a gallery, library, school, restaurant, theater or museum may be the perfect, affordable solution.

Booking an affordable venue frees up funds to snag an impressive speaker or offer conference scholarships for qualified attendees, either of which will give you far more industry buzz than the same, old boring ballroom setting that drains your budget.

When considering alternative venue options think about the kind of business you’re in. A tech startup will be right at home in an open industrial space like a gallery loft or souped-up warehouse. Don’t be afraid to make a bold, edgy statement with your choice of venue.

Splurge: Lighting

Creating the right atmosphere is crucial — and one of the best ways to make a creative venue choice work. If the lighting in your venue reminds attendees of a run-down public school or washes everything out with its flickering, fluorescent glare, then they will be less engaged and get the impression that the whole event may be subpar.

Proper lighting can camouflage trouble spots like older windows, drab paint and shabby ballroom drapes. It also lets you highlight the most important items like the speaker or the centerpieces during a networking mixer.

It is well worth the money to consult a corporate event planner that can help you select the best lights to rent and show you how to use them to transform any venue into a warm, welcoming space that will impress even the most picky conference-goers.

Splurge: A/V Setup

Audio_Visual-squareWhether your conference features a lineup of keynote speakers, a round of workshops or celebration that call for a DJ, you need to make sure your technology is up-to-date and working properly. Bringing in an A/V expert is a smart choice. Nothing’s worse than getting ready to kick off your keynote address only to discover that the speaker’s prepared visuals aren’t compatible with your equipment.

Save yourself from ruining the mood of your event with faulty or outdated sound systems, LCD projectors, or computers. A professional A/V setup — and a qualified person to run it — can be worth their weight in gold. If you’re already looking at renting lights, see if you can get your A/V setup from the same company. Many corporate event planning firms can provide everything you need from a soundboard to a disco ball. Equipment that works smoothly and a tech expert on hand if something does need attention will impress your attendees and your speakers, which makes everyone more excited to participate again.

Skimp: Printed Materials

Printed programs, schedules and speaker notes are so last century. In fact, savvy event coordinators are skipping the printer all together. Make materials available for download or give out jump drives with all the information. This saves you the expense and hassle of printing out (and keeping track of) agendas and speaker support materials, and it sends a message that your organization is environmentally conscious and smart enough about technology to use it judiciously.

Skimp and Splurge: Food and Beverage

This one can be tricky. You want to make sure that whatever you offer as refreshment is top quality, but you don’t need to serve a five-course dinner to do that. Instead of putting on an expensive dinner, opt for lunch or networking mixers instead. And don’t over-promise. If you advertise a wine-and-cheese social don’t throw out boxes of wine and a pre-packaged cheese plate from the market down the street.

Consult with a professional caterer recommended by your event planner to put together a tasteful, impressive spread that won’t demolish your budget. If you offer a bar, provide drink tickets to control costs. Select appetizers that are tasty and easy to handle while mixing and mingling.

Earmark some of your food budget for service personnel. If you have great servers keeping drinks full and plates picked up, it won’t matter that you didn’t provide a gourmet meal.

Skimp: Favors

RF 2011 41You’re putting on an industry conference not a kid’s birthday party. While it’s true that people like to get free things, a cheap water bottle or stress ball won’t blow anyone away. Instead of focusing on a gift or goody bag look for ways to give your attendees concrete take-aways that they can apply in their work and lives after they leave the event. This could be a weekly email reminder of key principles with tips on how to implement them or a post-conference Twitter contest encouraging attendees to share best practices they’ve used since attending the event.

If you can’t stand to let people leave without something in their hands, look for things that will keep the message of the event in their minds. Use something that symbolizes the core messages or a useful gadget they’ll reach for often that will remind them of you. Go outside the box and look for affordable items that represent your industry instead of opting for tired tote bags and faulty pens.

It is possible to pull of the event of the year no matter what your budget. You just have to get creative and make smart choices about where your money should be spent. The best way to ensure your funds stretch as far as you need them to is to plan in advance and embrace the advice of tried-and-true corporate event professionals who can guide you to the get the biggest bang for your buck.

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