Working on a fixed, oftentimes minimal budget, we all know what it takes to stretch a buck while planning an event. These four tips work equally well across the spectrum of events on campus, whether you’re planning a lunch meeting for eight guests or a fundraising event for 200 guests.
Work with internal resources, if possible
Georgia Tech has a variety of available event spaces. Planning an event on campus, instead of utilizing an off-campus venue, lends an opportunity to analyze the existing partners on campus and collaborate with other planners.
Could you use flowers from an event the night before? Does the space you plan to use already have highboys available so you don’t have to rent them? Don’t be afraid to ask questions, especially “How can we do something a little differently?” As planners sometimes it’s far easier for us to say, “I’m just going to take what they have and deal with it.”
Additionally, consider the audiovisual resources on campus. For example, at a recent event I planned, the venue quoted a $1,000 price tag for a piece of audiovisual equipment needed for a meeting. I asked other departments on campus and was able to borrow the equipment from a student group, for free!
Consider skipping the swag
We all know a college kid loves a free T-shirt, but is it really important to your event? Really analyze what you’re giving people to walk away with. Can it be sponsored?
Some gifts need a lot of staff and time to assemble; if you’re spending a lot of time and resources to manage the gift, is it really necessary?
Leverage vendor loyalty and promotional opportunities
Are you bringing a vendor consistent business? Does an event attendee have a potential sponsorship connection you can leverage? Don’t be afraid to ask a vendor for discounts, especially on off-peak times and delivery fees.
Or, if you’re planning three events in one month, ask a caterer for a discount if you use them for all three events. You never know, they might say yes!
Control catering portions
Whenever you allow guests to serve themselves, you lose control of portions and spend more money. Consider passed items and a plated meal versus stations or a buffet. Additionally, forgoing traditional cuts of meat (i.e., filet mignon) to a more farm-to-table menu that involves braised meats (i.e., short ribs) could cut catering costs (and would follow current dining trends).
Keeping your events relaxed could curtail costs, as well; cut down your cocktail reception to a self-serve beer and wine bar for half an hour instead of an hour. Set out a big bucket of beers and have a make-your-own-sangria station instead of having a full liquor bar.
Also, be smart about your venue selection if you’re planning a catered affair. If your venue does not have kitchen equipment, it may cost more to bring in items like water, generators, ovens, etc.
Three Things to Do at Every Event
When planning and executing an event, it is easy to overlook some of the simpler items. Here a few simple actions that event planners should make a habit at all of their events.
Floor plan diagrams and memory only go so far when it comes to remembering a previous setup. By taking pictures of your event, you can instantly show a vendor what you do (or do not) want your space to look like. I often reference pictures during a setup to keep a consistent look and remember what collateral was used in a space.
Many of us remember to write down notes and impressions after an event, but those notes should not be your first. As things happen or you receive feedback from the crowd, make a note! Not only will it help you with your post-event survey, it can also show you how many bumps occurred during the event.
Watch the Clock
Timing is everything and events are no exception. Try to keep track during the event of how long things took from speeches to moving the crowd. It’s easy to make up numbers in our head but it’s no substitute for real data.
By making these three simple actions a habit, an event planner can build a solid knowledge base for planning future events.