The current economic climate is forcing all businesses to spend more conservatively, even if they have the money to spend. There is talk of an economic rebound, but I think it would serve the event industry well to assume conservative spending is here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future.
This means event planners face two challenges: The first is being hired and the second is finding ways to stretch your client's dollars to produce a classy and memorable event.
The easiest way to cut costs is to remove big-ticket items from the budget. This is not the smartest way to cut costs, but it is the easiest. More often than not, event coordinators are considered a big-ticket item, a luxury expense. However, we save clients money, spare them stress and our fees are well worth the cost. Now is the time to educate the consumer and redefine ourselves as a service that cannot be done without.
If your services do not already include budget development, add it. This should be the first step in planning any event. With more competition and fewer dollars, budget development should be discussed in the interview process and used as a selling point. I secure many events by creating a sample budget for a nominal fee that is waived if the client retains my services. It is a win-win situation. The client has a guideline, an insurance policy if you will, and I have a new client. If the client decides against an event coordinator, I have earned some compensation for pitching my services, something I would otherwise do for free.
Now that you have been hired, the real work begins. Use the economy to your advantage. Spending is down, and everyone is ready to make a deal. You have spent years building relationships and now it's time to cash in-don't be afraid to ask for a discount. Most vendors are willing to cut costs in some area, and a little from each vendor can translate to big savings for your client. More often than not, these savings will cover the cost of your fees, which is an invaluable point to make to your client.
So, you've trimmed the fat, now cut the fluff. Again, use today's trends and buzzwords to your advantage. Skip the loads of promotional materials, which largely ends up in the trash, and hand out a reusable bag instead. Do this because you are making an effort to be green. Spend less on fancy décor and offer five-minute chair massages during work sessions. Attendees will remember this midafternoon treat far more than fancy florals, plus there's no waste! Shorten the guest list and offer more to those that do attend. Do this because your event is "exclusive."
I'm not telling you anything you don't already know. I am reminding you of things you may have forgotten. Think outside of the box. Less is more. Every event is a promotional opportunity for your client, so make sure you properly assist them in putting their best foot forward. On event day, you may not have shaved dollars from the original budget, but you will have delivered on your promise to stay within budget. And, you will have done the seeming impossible: Combined champagne taste with a Budweiser budget.
Rachael Gardner established Crested Butte Events in 2003. She currently serves as president of the Gunnison-Crested Butte Wedding Council and is on the board of the Gunnison-Crested Butte Tourism Association.
Crested Butte Events // 970.596.6844 / www.crestedbutteevents.com