How to budget in a post-pandemic world

Doing more with less is nothing new to event planners. But with so many mitigating factors leading to uncertainty until the big day, the cost of doing business is not going to go down, even if your budget did.

The world is reopening but the inhabitants are not the same as before the pandemic. Travel is new again, but working from home has become an expectation rather than an advantage. Results also show that working remotely doesn’t limit productivity, which is music to the CEO’s ears, but also makes CFOs frown when a worker requests permission to attend a conference or trade show in person.

“We have changed our lives in many ways and we got used to all these new habits,” said Eric Holmen, recently promoted from Chief Revenue Officer to CEO of Splash. “It’s a lot to give up when asking an attendee to step out of this cute model of being home just for the risk of your event being worth it. “

Just as attendees and exhibitors will question costs, associations and businesses will not fully recover from last year’s shutdown. The technological event platform Bizzabo reports that 66% of event organizers anticipate budget cuts for their hybrid and virtual events in 2021. predicted “Costs will increase, even double in the case of technology.” Oh, and as a kicker your income will go down, warns Bizzabo.

Somehow, the person in the middle of this – the planner – has to thread the needle to create a mind-blowing factor for attendees while staying on budget and maintaining safety protocols that aren’t likely. to roll back for the foreseeable future.

Here’s how to make the most of what’s to come:

Trust your instincts

Would you believe a used car salesman if he said that a 1999 Buick drove better than a 2021 Prius? Just as you should be careful in this situation, the buyer should be wary of event technology and security protocols. The market has never been better for companies in both areas, and they are not about to let the moment pass.

Planners should interview any vendor who tells them what security tactics to implement, especially if they’re expensive, ”warned Ryan Costello, co-founder of Event farm and director of strategy for MemberSuite. “Through strategic planning and execution, planners can safely organize events while maintaining a budget that is expected to be no more than 30% of pre-pandemic rates. “

Be smart about security

Unless your event admits only vaccinated attendees, you will need a layered approach to guard against a COVID-19 outbreak that will not only endanger the health of your group, but also disrupt your event. and could harm the value of your brand. Costello advised sticking to two or three security measures and sticking to them. Pay them by charging participants a fee that you think will be covered by sponsorships, fees, and other forms of income (membership dues, for example).

Rethinking the journey

Airline tickets and hotel rooms are some of the biggest tickets in the end. Holmen’s solution is to present the events to participants through a series of roadshows, coupled with digital events to broaden audience and awareness. “We are approaching [events] now like six week periods, ”he said. “Start with the virtual first, go, hit the road for four weeks, visit key cities where you can locate and make strong connections. And then sum up at the end with something virtual.

Small worlds

Typically, Splash Leadership advocates as few participants as possible. The idea is that the audience will benefit much more from the event when the group is of an intimate size. As an added bonus, this is another way to cut the travel budget while still having room to splurge on those you host. It also takes some pressure off your still hesitant target audience to jump on a plan. “The highest ROI events we see are around 50 to 55 attendees,” Holmen said. “If you go over that, and you see the return on your investment dropping very, very sharply. This was true even before the pandemic. “

Don’t skimp on digital

We all love face-to-face meetings, but poor production and / or boring content will make your organization look bad. More importantly, a bad impression tarnishes the brand, which has long-term consequences. That’s why Brad Nierenberg, creator of the virtual, non-gaming engagement platform Poker 501 and CEO of RedPeg Marketing, said going all-in will pay off right down the line. “The investment is to bring the digital participant to a physical participant next year,” he said. “It’s essential to have a ‘wow’ moment that brings people back next year or takes them from digital to physical. “

What are the sponsors for …

What if you don’t offset some of the costs? It’s in a sponsor’s best interest to develop an activation that will energize your audience, and not just for the duration of a physical event. With the virtual, this brand recognition has the potential to last much longer. This long-term membership provides benefits for your event and your client. Holmen said: “It’s about driving a pipeline, at the end of the day, and your partners are looking for that just as much as you do. “

Save for a rainy day

With so many unknowns when it comes to variations, job status, and other unpredictable factors, allocating every last dime too early in the game could cost you more later. Ben Anthonisz, head of customer training at Bizzabo recommends keeping a 20% contingency budget to cover last minute expenses.

Start with a plan

Rumor has it that you are a planner. So this is where you play with your strengths. Knowing where to start starts with mapping your entire event, recommends Bizzabo. Put a number on what you need for site sourcing, technology, marketing, catering, etc. Highlight the variables and get to work. Good luck!

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