Money, money, money – allocating the budget

Almost everyone’s first question when planning an event is “what’s the budget?”. In the Middle East there are some events with enormous budgets, but most are run as tightly as possible, as an event planner you need to make sure that you are making the money you have been allocated work hard for the client.

Firstly, when it comes to money you have to make sure that everyone understands the concept of a budget. Seems obvious? You’d be surprised. I had a colleague once who had been assigned a budget of £300 to purchase a digital camera as a prize, after several days she advised it was impossible, there were cameras for £275 and some for £350 but none for exactly £300. It made me smile too, but it actually highlighted that not everyone understands a budget and what is expected if you are tasked to find items in the event remit within that budget.

For my events clients have two ways of working; firstly those that want you to cost the event based on the brief and come back to them with price so they can then assign a budget; or those that have a budget assigned and require a breakdown of where I think this money will be spent, for example, venue costs, F&B, audio visual, marketing collateral, decoration, entertainment, registration, etc etc.

In both cases the most costly item is almost always the venue, but it is so crucial you chose the right location for the event, this is justified. I would always give the client a minimum of three venue options, at different price points, showing how the venue costs affect the money left for the other items required. Once the a decision on the venue has been made you will know what budget you have left for everything else.

Quite often clients will need guidance on assigning budget to certain items, they may decide that they want to allocate most of the money on entertainment, or branding at the event, but then leave too little for other items which could have a detrimental affect on the event. For example, my husband attended a large corporate event earlier this year which had clearly assigned a large portion of the budget to entertainment at the Gala Dinner. However, there were so many different acts that the guests didn’t get to eat until almost 11pm after a long day in the conference, and most left before dessert. Could this have been managed more efficiently? Perhaps instead of booking several different acts the money could have been spent on one or two “show-stoppers” one in between the starter and main, and the other between main and dessert, then perhaps have some performers mingling around the tables. I think my point here is to not get overly excited when you have budget to spend, and make sure you spend it wisely – in the best interest of the client and the guests.

My next tip is don’t be afraid to negotiate, I doubt if any suppliers come in with their final/best price on the initial quote. Look closely at the items and breakdown the costs, are there savings to be made? For example don’t hire in a screen use the venues and get the A/V company to build a set around it, can you get the F&B costs down by cutting out a huge selection of cakes, pastries and all manor of calorific but delicious items on the coffee stations? The delegates will be having lunch and really don’t need much to eat at the 10:30am break, some cookies and fruit is perfectly adequate. Saving just a small amount per head might give you enough to hire additional staff for the registration desk, or allow you to upgrade the wine at the cocktail.

My final point would be to always build in a contingency, something will inevitably cost more than quoted, or an item will be missed off the initial budget, and it makes life a whole lot easier if you have some money set aside from the start rather than having to go back to client for more budget, or cutting costs off other items.

Next week I’ll talk about venue selection, so until then have a great week.





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