Plan your coronavirus event budget and save money

Saving money is important in times of COVID

For many businesses, it’s time to tighten their belts and reduce spending. So what does this mean if you are organising an event? Read on for our tips, to help you plan your coronavirus event budget and save money.

Event planning: are events worth it in times of coronavirus?

Measuring the value of an event is notoriously tricky. Still, live events have impact and add real value to any business. Whether it’s about networking, brand promotion, team building, or celebrating a special milestone, these can all be achieved on a budget.

At the end of the day, your goal is to bring people together and give them a shared ‘we’ feeling. This is more precious than ever, now that colleagues and clients have been deprived of face-to-face contact by coronavirus lockdown. Giving your guests a special moment to share is extremely important.

So even if you are on a tight budget, we have plenty of creative, money-saving tips to help plan your event. If you’re a professional planner or not, these tips will help you make every penny count – for an unforgettable, coronavirus-safe event that doesn’t break the bank.

Get out your calculator

Know your coronavirus event budget

First things first: plan your coronavirus event budget. You will have to adapt your event to comply with coronavirus safety regulations. So it is essential to calculate how coronavirus safety measures impact your overall spending. Here are some factors to keep in mind:

  • Venue size – You will need a larger space than usual. Conform with social distancing rules and give your guests enough room to circulate.
  • Attendee numbers – Keep numbers lower than usual. This might help reduce costs but fewer guests means you cannot take advantage of economies of scale or receive as many discounts from suppliers.
  • Catering – Cheaper options like open buffets are currently a no-go, due to the risk of cross-contamination. This could push up the price of providing food for guests.
  • Hygiene – Essential supplies like hand sanitisers, tissues, and hand towels should be provided by the venue. These (and cleaning costs) might have an extra charge though.
  • Cancellation – Some venues will charge more for flexible cancellation policies. Depending how far in advance your event is planned, you might want to pay this.

For more information from the WHO on planning a large-scale event, click here.

Making your event budget go further – 16 money-saving tips

Now you know your COVID budget, you can plan a successful event! Here are some of our best money-saving tips for COVID event planning on a budget.

#1 Budget allocation

Plan your spending and decide how much money you need for the different aspects of your event. If you can, check your budget from a previous event and think about where you could make some cutbacks. Common expenses include: venue hire, catering, A/V equipment, decoration, signage and event branding, programming (e.g. paid speakers), attendee experiences (e.g. interactive workshops), marketing and promotion.

#2 Identify a goal for your coronavirus budget

What is the single most important outcome of the event for you? Do you want strangers to network or do you want colleagues to have a good time together? Do you want new customers to get a feel for a brand or do you want an audience to learn special skills? By identifying your goal, you can prioritise your budget accordingly. Pay for what gets you to your goal and cut the rest.

#3 Try a new venue

Look out for new venues you might not have considered before. Frame this to your guests as the chance to discover somewhere new! This might mean an event location outside the city centre, or a venue in a different part of town with extra travel time. Don’t limit your options – you might also find an unusual space which has potential you can unlock, especially as you need large floorspace. Discuss your ideas with the venue and find out how you could transform the space. 

#4 Be the early bird

Book venues and suppliers well in advance – even if that means planning your Christmas party in the hot summer months. Last-minute bookings are more expensive, less flexible, and offer less room to negotiate discounts.

#5 Book off-peak times

Think about holding your event in a quieter time of the year or during the week. This might mean changing a Christmas party to a ‚winter‘ event in January or February. You could also try less popular days of the week. These will give you lower prices and also more access to suppliers.

#6 Re-use decorations

Go for a rummage in that store cupboard and you’re sure to find materials (lighting, branded posters, decorations) leftover from previous parties. These can be given a new lease of life at the new venue – so get creative!

#7 In-kind sponsorship

To reduce costs, invite a supplier to cover your event for free or at discounted rate in exchange for the publicity they will receive and exposure to your guests. Many will be happy to collaborate – don’t be afraid to explore these options. 

#8 Limit drink options

A free bar with bespoke cocktails carries a hefty price tag. Instead, offer a limited range of drinks: beer, wine, and a soft drink option should cover your needs. You could also provide guests with tokens, limiting them to one free drink each, after which they must pay for more.

#9 Cut back on catering

Food can be a significant expense, and tricky due to coronavirus safety, so ask yourself: How important is the food? Do you want to serve dinner or will something less elaborate like finger snacks cover it? Could you remove catering altogether, such as by making the event in the afternoon (with simple coffee break)? This helps your event budget and fits with safety concerns about coronavirus.

#10 Replace the speaker

Rather than pay an external speaker, think of alternative ways to give your guests valuable programming. This could be a personal and unusual keynote from the CEO, or you could use your network to source someone with an interesting experience to share. Otherwise, you could make the main event an interactive session, such as a town hall discussion or a team building activity.

#11 Scratch the DJ

Although professional DJs add a wealth of skills and knowledge, as well as their equipment, their fees add to the event budget. You might be able to cover the music yourself  in times of need. If you’re not sure about your music taste, you could invite guests to add to a playlist for a more interactive dancefloor experience.

#12 Give up the giveaways

Everyone likes getting something for free but are branded freebies worth it on your budget? Ask yourself how much value they will truly add to the event and whether any of your guests will notice if they are missing. Chances are, unless you give them something spectacular (and expensive), the freebies will be forgotten. 

#13 Invite selectively

Reduce the number of people coming to your event. This is a necessity, due to coronavirus safety, but also keeps down costs. Be clear if guests cannot bring a ‘+1’.  You could focus on the exclusiveness of the event or find a format which lends itself well to smaller, intimate groups that helps your event budget.

#14 Manage expectations

There are advantages to being honest with your guests about your reduced coronavirus event budget. Though they might be sad about the lack of free champagne, it can be a way to bring a group even more tightly together. Invite guests to share experiences about how coronavirus has affected their budgets, and remind them about the value of getting together through a crisis.

#15 Reframe as sustainability

Make ‚reduce/ reuse/ recycle‘ the motto of your event, as a way to reframe your money-saving measures. You could hold a discussion about sustainability in your industry, as a way to reflect on coronavirus budgets. Involve guests by asking them to bring their oldest and most-used possession, to take part in a show-and-tell in smaller groups. You could also organise a team building game in which they construct models from leftover office supplies, plastic bottles and other ‚rubbish‘.

#16 Ask for help

Save money on staffing by asking your colleagues or friends to help out. They could manage the bar, help with the entertainment, or assist with the clean-up. Many hands make light work and can also build team spirit.