Visions of snow cone stations, balloon animal artists, and full-color, high-gloss printed programs have been dancing in your head for weeks. However, you just got budget sign-off for your next corporate event, and it’s not as generous as you would have liked it to be. If you’re caught working with a tight budget for your company event, don’t despair. There are plenty of ways to keep an event high-energy and your participants engaged without spending a ton of money. Here are four strategies to use when you’re working with a tight budget that will ensure your event still makes a big impact:
1. Determine event goals to drive spending.
It’s important to clarify the goals and expected outcomes of your corporate event before you start planning, especially when you’re working with a tight budget. Understanding your goals will help you prioritize how your budget is spent—because you’ll want to focus your spending on the elements of your event that most directly support your goals. For example, if the main goal of your event is to build employee skills, you may be able to skimp on some event “extras”—like a photographer—that don’t directly affect your goal. An event planning template can help you keep track of your goals, budget, and measurement tactics for your event.
2. Get creative with ways to build excitement.
No matter the goal of your corporate event, creating an exciting atmosphere will go a long way toward ensuring all of your participants remain enthusiastic and attentive throughout the event. However, when your budget prevents you from relying on traditional tactics for building excitement—like an entertainment act or impressive decor—look to alternative strategies to keep energy high.
Instead of building excitement through cool decorations, try building excitement through engagement. Get your participants up and moving and interacting with one another through fun, immersive activities or games. From icebreakers to experiential learning activities, exercises that get your participants out of their seats can help banish a stuffy, staid event atmosphere. You can also try getting your participants—or at least the leadership team—involved by dressing up according to the event’s theme. Going for a Wild West vibe? Encourage cowboy hats, boots, and bandannas! Not only will your participants get excited about ditching regular office attire, but they’ll actually be contributing to the theme’s decorations—without you having to spend another penny.
Also, as you’re planning your corporate event, look to past events to see what worked and what didn’t. For instance, at your last event, did you get a ton of great feedback from participants about the photo booth you set up? Did you hear mum about the impressive (or so you thought!) lighting effects for the main stage? Focus on the event elements that are proven to increase excitement and cut the rest out when you’re working with a limited budget.
3. Cut down on costs with digital tools.
Depending on the size of your event, the cost of brochures and other printed materials can add up quickly. Instead of going the printed route, try sending out digital files before the event that your participants can access with their phones (that way, no one will lose their brochures and handouts during the event). Make sure you’re harnessing the power of social media to promote your event and interact with participants. For example, you can create a special hashtag for your event and encourage participants to post photos from the event on Instagram or Twitter using the hashtag. Participants will enjoy scrolling through all of the tagged photos, and you’ve just found a way to increase engagement and excitement without stretching the budget one bit.
4. Focus on maximizing retention.
You can plan the ritziest, most over-the-top corporate event ever—but if your participants remember more of the decor than the actual content of your event, that’s just wasted time and money. When you’re working with a tight budget, focus your efforts on strategies that will maximize learning retention. For example, if you’re trying to impart new skills on your participants, consider using experiential learning exercises. Experiential learning immerses participants in a hands-on themed situation that parallels common workplace scenarios that participants find themselves in. Thanks to the “learning by doing” nature of experiential learning, it’s a training approach that leads to much higher rates of learning retention. Be sure to save some of your budget for post-event retention tools, like online games or periodic webinars that reinforce your event’s key messages.
Have you planned an event on a tight budget before? What strategies did you use to cut costs while keeping learning effective and long-lasting?