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The Complete Guide to Planning an Event on a Budget

04th September 2018
Macmillan hall at Senate House event hall

Even with a generous budget, event planning can be a challenge. So, if you’re faced with the task of pulling off a perfect event on a shoestring, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

But don’t panic! In this guide, we’ll highlight how even an event on the tiniest budget can meet your goals and impress your attendees. All you need to do is get creative, make smart choices and plan, plan, plan.

How to enhance events on a budget

1.Calculate your event’s budget from the outset

Before you do anything: write up your budget in an excel sheet. This is crucial when it comes to planning events on a budget. This way you can consider every potential cost and divide your total budget to cover each area of your event. You should assign a sub budget to each part of the event. For example:

  • venue
  • food
  • marketing
  • entertainment

Completing this process will help you see how you can allocate your budget to best suit your event priorities.

2.What event model will you run?

Your budget will be impacted significantly by the event model you go for. Will your event be free? Or will your attendees need to pay to attend the event? Maybe it will be sponsorship funded - or a combination of all of these?

Depending on this, your priorities will change. You may want to put more money into marketing, entertainment, food and drink or facilities for sponsors. Either way, your budget will need to be adjusted depending on your event model and in order meet your goals.  

3.Highlight your event’s primary goals and purposes

So, what is the main goal of your event? Every event needs a clear goal or purpose. For example, the purpose of an award ceremony may be to generate a profit, while the goal of an exhibition may be a combination of profit through sponsors and lead generation. These will differ to events such as corporate dinner dances and parties where the goal may be to entertain invited guests or generate a profit from paying guests.

Whatever your goals, if you’re planning an event on a low budget, it’s crucial that they’re clear. You need to know exactly why you’re holding your event, and have goals that are clearly outlined and realistically achievable.

Examples of an event’s goal may be:

  • Generating profit
    • How will you make sure your event is profitable?
  • Enjoyment/entertainment
    • How can you make sure your guests get the VIP feeling on a low budget?
  • Brand awareness
    • For corporate events on a budget, how will you measure the success of an awareness goal? An uplift in social media engagement / following? More sign ups to your service? More website visits?
  • Generating leads
    • How will you measure which leads came from your event? Will you have a goal of how many you want to generate?

4.Learn from your past event’s mistakes

If you’ve run events before, you have the benefit of examining your past events and learning from them.

Ask yourself:

  • Which parts of the event cost the most money?
  • If you went over budget, what caused this?
  • Where there any costs that you didn’t account for?
  • What were the biggest challenges you faced? How expensive were they to overcome?

This reflection can help you predict where you should allocate more money to your low budget event, and where you’re likely to need a buffer. This will keep you on budget and avoid any overspend.

Even if you’re new to event planning, the same process can be incredibly useful in helping you avoid obvious budgeting mistakes. Get in touch with an expert event planner about their experience with managing and planning smaller budget events.

5.Get the event venue planned ASAP

The event venue will almost certainly use the most of your event budget. For small event budgets, it’s vital you get this booked as soon as possible to avoid paying more than needed. It also prevents you from overspending in other areas and leaving you short for the venue itself.

There are lots of ways of securing high quality event venues at lower prices. Education venues such as universities and schools often double up as event spaces and make for great, easy access venues with a lot of character. At University Venues of London, we offer a huge number of event rooms at various prices to suit all types of events and budgets. You can take a look at our event rooms here.

6.Pinpoint your attendees and market intelligently

When planning an event on a budget, you’ll have limited resources to put into marketing. That’s why the marketing that you are able to do should be extremely targeted and very well planned.

Firstly, it’s important to know exactly who your desired attendees are ahead of the marketing campaign. This will help you avoid wasting marketing efforts on people who are less likely to attend your event. To do this, create a detailed profile of the people you want to attract. Ask yourself:

  • Where do they work?
  • Where do they spend time online?
  • How old are they?
  • What will they gain from your event?

Once you have this outlined, create a plan of how you’re going to attract these people within your marketing budget. Online marketing can be a cheaper and far more measurable way to advertise your event than traditional offline marketing. Campaigns using email marketing, webinars, social media campaigns, social media influencers and paid search marketing allow you to pin point your audience and have visibility into how they respond to your ads. Find out how you can utilise Facebook for your event marketing. 

By choosing the marketing channels that make most sense for your target audience, you can keep waste to a minimum and the return on investment healthy. This will save a huge amount of money while also attracting exactly the right people.

Identify your audience clearly and choose marketing channels where wastage is minimal. This way, your return on investment will be easy to measure, saving you money whilst attracting exactly the right people.

7.Keep everything digital

Nowadays, digitalisation is the norm in the event industry. This means E tickets, emails, drink tokens and any event information can be delivered 100% digitally. This is great news for low budget event managers, as costs in paper and printing are automatically reduced. Equally, having everything digitalised can also help you to keep track of how people interact with your event’s marketing, providing you with valuable data for future events.

8.Don’t be afraid to negotiate and compromise

Getting the best price for an event venue, your entertainment or even food and drink will go a long way when working with a limited event budget. So, don’t be afraid to ask for discounts on quotes given to you. You’ll be surprised how often simply asking can result in paying less.

If negotiating on the price isn’t fruitful, compromise in other ways in order to save money. Consider the following:

  • Hosting your event midweek instead of the weekend, or in the evening instead of during the day
  • Choosing a cheaper venue and using any extra resources to decorate it in a creative way.
  • Providing a limited number of (digital) drink tickets instead of providing a free bar
  • Choosing sharing menus such as buffets or tapas, instead of plates per person
  • Installing a few water dispensers instead of serving bottled water

In addition to this, event venues will often provide you with certain equipment so you won’t have to rent it separately. This can include stages, podiums, microphones, stationery, projectors etc, and can be especially helpful for company events on a budget. However, if this isn’t mentioned at the point of sale, make sure you ask. Extras like these are things often thrown in to seal the deal.

9.Don’t be afraid to DIY

Table décor, design, stand design, marketing literature – there’s a lot to think about when it comes to creating event resources and decorating a venue. However, it’s amazing what a bit of DIY bunting, a projector, some big balloons and a good understanding of Canva can do.

If you’re wondering how to enhance your event on a budget, utilise the most creative person in your event planning team and put them to work with a small decoration and design budget. With a bit of imagination and a good creative eye, low budget décor and design can have the same impact as a big budget event.

10.Recruit volunteers to help you run your event

A good set of volunteers can be the making of a low budget event. If you’re able to, pull together a team of well-motivated people who are prepared to help with the running of your event for free or in exchange for a service, discount or a work reference. This way you’ll be able to allocate more of your funds into making sure the event’s content is the best it can be.

There are plenty of places where hard working volunteers can be found. Local students and volunteering websites or organisations are great place to start. Often, if your event has a charitable aspect it can be easier to find volunteers willing to help, however local students looking for experience can also provide an excellent and reliable resource during events.

11.Fundraise to find extra funds

If you find yourself with a budget that is simply too small to reach your events goals, it might be worth raising some more money in order to give yourself a bit more room.There are lots of ways to do this. For example, you could launch a campaign on a fundraising website, run small local fundraisers or do a cake sale or a car boot sale. Think simple! 

Failing that, talk to local businesses who may be interested in sponsoring your event. There’s always a way to make it work – but make sure you give yourself enough time to raise more capital way ahead of the event date. Fin dout more about trac

Events at Senate House

At University of London Venues, we work with event planners with all types of budgets and help them plan a huge range of events. With a collection of rooms, from large conference halls to smaller meeting spaces in the heart of London, our event venues are sure to have something for you.

Find out more about our London event venues today by emailing, making an online enquiry or calling us on 020 7862 8127.


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