With decades of combined experience conceptualizing, designing and supervising every key aspect of an event, whether the occasion is a business meeting, red-carpet premiere, or a trade show exhibit, we know that the single greatest error or omission made by event planners is their disregard to intensive planning and anticipation.
Whether you are organizing an intimate product launch or a large corporate gala, having a meaningful, thought out budget early on is critical as it is all too easy for your expenses to spiral out of control. So, how do I budget my event? We have come up with an easy-to-understand and easy-to-follow event budgeting guide that will help you create an accurate working budget for your next event.
The early bird catches the worm
It does not make any sense of setting up your event budget when you have already overspent on key items. So, you should consider starting early with a top-down approach. With an early start, you can put good spending practices in the place for the remainder of your event planning process. But how do you establish a baseline? Well, if you have managed a similar event(s) in the past, borrowing templates and figures from those is a great solution. The basic framework for your budget does not need to be generous on details either; you only need to keep it as architecturally intact as possible and include ample room for all probable scenarios.
Budget for the basics
Most planners tend to be oblivious to little details that can present themselves as major challenges on the day of the event. If you want to avoid getting to grips with anything you did not plan for on the day of your event, you must figure out each aspect/item of your event that could possibly incur a considerable cost. What are the bare-bones basics to begin with? We like to put buckets of money aside in each department. I know I am gonna need a venue, f&b, staff, valet parking, etc. Next, we add in the extras. The florals, the furniture rentals, the custom fabricated set pieces, etc. By doing so, you will be able to put together a more realistic budget. This is an early course of action that you can continue to fine-tune along the way.
Here are some big-ticket items that could end up devouring your budget if you do not account for them on the front end:
AV: One of the surprises for many event planners is the sometimes outrageous charges for the hotel provided audio-visual (AV) needs. We have seen surprised planners think they were so clever negotiating that they got a free microphone for their event, only to discover that the free inclusion was only for the microphone, and did not include hooking it up to the venue’s system or the inescapable labour charges. Not so clever after all. So instead of relying only on your negotiation skills, you should map out all your audio-visual costs ahead of time, and include true and meaningful concessions into your contract negotiations. If you fail to do this, you may get hit with a surprise of tens of thousands of dollars in overhead expenses.
Food and Beverage: What are you offering your event attendees? We have observed planners whose budgets were unexpectedly imploded when they provided coffee, only to discover that the costs at many venues end up being in the vicinity of $100 (after tax and service charges) per gallon. Merely substituting Iced Tea or Lemonade for the coffee, for example, often saves approximately $65 per gallon, and that can often amount to a thousand or more dollars in savings. In regards to food, perhaps a buffet will be less costly than a plated meal? Could that money provide greater perceived value if used elsewhere? In any case, you must budget properly for these costs.
Music and entertainment: Music and entertainment typically make up a sizable chunk of many event budgets. What are the true needs, and when and how can these funds be best utilized? You need to know upfront what you are willing and able to spend for these costs. Make sure you have a pro look over the artist production rider. They may require LED Walls or special efx like nitrogen blasts or i-mag. That all needs to be accounted for before you make a binding offer to any artist.
And don’t forget to travel! This should be pre-negotiated. Sometimes you can ask the artist to take care of their own travel and bundle it within their fee.
All of the above items will find their way into your event budget, so they are worth considering.
Padding in case of emergency
Even when every single aspect of your big day has been mapped out meticulously, things can go wrong. So, when organizing an event, it is always a smart idea to budget for the unexpected (try to build in 10 – 15% of the overall costs just in case.)
Note that you must exercise your backup reserve for emergencies only. It might be tempting to wield your safety net to add some luxury and opulence to your décor with even more florals or upgraded, padded chairs. But, reaching into your rainy-day funds for premium choices may leave you in a scramble if a real crisis unfolds.
Properly prepared budgeting avoids many hassles that can and should be avoided. Unfortunately, many event planners continue to lack a consistent planning and budgeting procedure, and consistently overpay and under-receive, because of their lack of proper and comprehensive planning and preparation. Are they to be blamed? Well, not really. Preparing a budget involves listing, categorizing and tracking all possible expenses. Sure, some sort of prophetic ability is needed to prepare an effective event budget, but the budgeting process is more about experience and expertise than simply guesswork. This is precisely where our TOAST team of seasoned project managers can help you organize a carefully planned and flawlessly executed event at a budget that you are comfortable with.