After two tumultuous years, the events industry is finally making a comeback. Gathering face-to-face and in large groups is becoming commonplace again. But as Covid concerns wane, new challenges are emerging. Chief among them is inflation, which is causing event costs to rise across the board — from staffing and supplies to menus and meeting décor.
Planning a meeting with higher-than-usual costs can make an already difficult task all the more discouraging. But don't stress: With proper preparation and a little creativity, event organisers can pull off a successful event and keep their budgets in check despite inflation. Here are some tips to consider.
With expenses rapidly rising, it is important to save in any area possible. One way to reduce the cost of your event is to minimise your footprint.
Consider the event goals and intended audience, then make the guest list accordingly. Add a cap on registered attendance if possible, so you don't have to contract a larger space for your meeting. Less mouths to feed and less space to reserve will leave more room in the budget for other expenses.
Be flexible on dates
Ever try booking a flight or hotel room during peak times? You'll likely pay considerably more for the exact same service. It's no different when booking event venues.
Consider holding your event during off-peak times if possible. This applies to not only the time of year, but also the day of the week. Weekends tend to be more expensive, as does booking in season. Although, it's important to note that peak seasons can vary greatly from location to location.
For example, the busy season for Saratoga Springs, New York, is during the summer when horse racing is in full stride. Meanwhile, Florida's peak season is during the winter and spring months when the snowbirds are in town. It's all about timing.
Delete the fluff
Focus the meeting presentations on the event purpose, education and key sponsors. If you have guest speakers, give them a time limit. Speaking of guest speakers, do you need that A-lister? Consider partnering with the local destination management companies as they likely have access to a list of amazing local speakers that can offer presentations of similar value, but without the sticker shock.
Another area where you can cut costs is giveaways, gifts and swag. What may seem like a kind gesture can eat away at the budget quick, so it's best to limit, avoid or simplify such things if possible.
While plated, sit-down meals are nice, you will fast find out that they might not be the most cost-effective choice anymore. Instead, explore other options like passed appetisers, side stations or creative grab-and-go options. Rather than offering up everything under the sun, go with a quality over quantity approach — with an eye on meal options that are tasty, creative and affordable.
Working closely with the venue's catering team is key. Pick their brain on what they have done for other events that has been successful. Be upfront about budget restraints and let them help you create a menu that works for all sides. Being flexible and allowing your catering partners to have some level of control will help your bottom line.
Double down on sponsors
All sides of the table are currently battling inflation and trimming their budgets accordingly, including sponsors. They too must carefully evaluate how their dollars are spent and whether the ROI is justifiable.
Instead of defaulting to traditional sponsorship models for your meeting, look for new ways to offer mutually beneficial partnership packages that will be hard to pass up. Talk to your sponsors, brainstorm new ideas and reevaluate existing packages to better meet their needs/wants. It's best to offer a wide variety of prices, as well as ask the sponsors what their budgets look like and try to work within what they have.
This is a much better approach than setting fixed prices and having sponsors decline. After all, some might want to participate but on a smaller level.
The bottom line
The hospitality world has changed, and you will need to change with it. Once you're on solid footing and can build your budget back up, you can start to add back more flare to your meetings. But in the meantime, creativity, communication, advanced planning and flexibility are the keys to beating the inflation game. After all, less is sometimes more.
Shannon Licygiewicz is the general manager of the Albany Capital Center, which offers more than 2,044sqm of exhibit space in in the capital of New York state.
Source: Northstar Meetings Group