Delivering Personalized Event Experiences on a Budget

Stephanie Finnegan
Stephanie Finnegan

Doing more with less. It’s an adage many are familiar with, and event planners are no exception. So just how do we go about it? The first step is to review your program goals and objectives. Then we prioritize by honing in on what really matters—how to get the most bang for your buck. Add in a little creative planning and some out-of-the-box thinking, and we can deliver memorable, engaging events on any budget. 

Maximizing Your Program Budget:

  • Host your program during a local event, festival or concert. This helps build buzz and promote your program. It also provides built-in activity and entertainment options at little to no extra cost.
  • Utilize a stand-out venue. Create jaw-dropping experiences by selecting unique, high-impact locations for key events. If the venue speaks for itself, you can often save money on décor or entertainment. Guests are sure to be impressed by dining on the Royal Yacht Britannia in Edinburgh or having a cocktail reception at a private Orange County mansion.
  • Create a sense of place. Infuse the destination or hotel into the program by offering behind-the-scenes historical or cultural tours. Have a local genealogist research guests’ family history and share any regional ties. In Scotland and Ireland, authentic family tartans or crests are a personal and memorable amenity to include. 
  • Incorporate branding and customization. Reiterating brand messaging or recognizing guests on site can make a big impact! Work with the hotel to reserve an in-house TV channel for your group, showing photo montages of attendees or messages from various executives and hosts. Privatize a bar or lounge for an evening of entertainment worthy of a VIP club. Display the program or company name prominently on electronic signs, boards or banners around the hotel to make guests feel special—like the place is all theirs.
  • Get creative with centerpieces and décor. Incorporate unexpected items that play into the industry or program theme. For instance, at an automotive event, display vintage motor parts for a unique conversation starter that can be used over again—driving further value. 
  • Keep it local. Use area speakers, musicians and other entertainment to cut down on travel costs and room and board. Or source local amenities to save on shipping expenses. Either way, guests will benefit from an authentic representation of the destination.
  • Make it personal. Speak to guests on an individual level to increase engagement with the event. Send out a final mailing with a hand-written postcard from the program hosts to each guest, or crowd source attendee input during registration and reflect it in the program design.

Other Ways to Save a Buck:

  • Consider using low-cost air carriers where available. In some markets, depending on group size, destination and time of year, the savings can be substantial. While ticketing on low-cost carriers can lower the budget, it can also leave some guests with a lukewarm start, and finish, to the program. Travelers who are familiar with low-cost carriers will know what to expect, but others could be put off by a lack of in-flight services. It’s always a good idea to discuss expectations with the client and booking agent to make sure this is a good option.
  • Shift dates. Being flexible to off-peak days of the week or off-season times of the year can translate to significant savings. Sometimes simply changing the arrival day pattern can make a substantial difference in cost. 
  • Set them free! We often hear from guests that they value their leisure time on site. Instead of scheduling non-stop hosted activities, consider giving guests one free day to do as they please. Provide city maps or a shuttle to a nearby shopping district, and let them explore on their own. This frees up budget dollars and lets guests tailor the day to their interests. 
  • Leverage preferred suppliers. Consider the full range of savings supplier partners can provide. In certain situations, multi-year or multi-program discounts with hotel chains can lead to long-term savings. Other times, a DMC may be able to suggest ways to cut costs by ordering items such as florals or linens direct. 

Creativity and innovative thinking goes a long way in delivering an event on target and on budget!