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If only “No Budget” meant “Infinite budget” instead of meaning “A tiny budget”. Having a tight budget is a consistently recurring challenge and an issue for meeting and event planners that many of us simply expect to do more with less at the onset of planning any event.

In the current Malaysian economic climate, it is not unusual for conferences to be being cancelled, meetings dramatically cut back and staff training put on hold, and clients and promoters have generally taken a more judicious and measured approach to event budgeting and spending.

Being the resourceful people we are, event pros have been adept at finding inventive solutions to event budget limitations because flexibility and problem-solving are two essential traits for succeeding in this business (and we have those traits in spades).

With that said, here are some ways to make the most of your event budget and even expand it with some nifty strategies.

1. Craft a unique event theme and name
Nothing does more to grow your event budget than more attendees and more paid registrations (well, other sponsors with bottomless pockets). And the first and possibly most important step in generating the awareness and interest you need is coming up with an event theme and name that turns heads.

“If you make the headline for your event sound more compelling, you can get more attendance by having the event be shared more and have a higher click-through rate on social media,” says author and event guru Alex Genadinik. “Cool sounding events can also get orders of magnitude more traffic from local event websites, which look for cool events to feature.”

The best place to start here is to survey your target audience for the timely topics that interest or even frighten them (negative headlines actually pull better than positive ones). Find out what they want to learn the most and where they fear they have gaps in their knowledge. Know their style and how they like to be entertained. And then serve it up with a title that will compel them to learn more.

2. Book vendors and venues for multiple events

You could develop a deep relationship with a particular vendor and commit to them as your first choice, earning not only their loyalty but also a standing discount. Best Events tends to use the same set of vendors not only because they know how important good service is, they are able to give constantly good rates.

3. Piggyback onto another event
In theory this is a great idea and it can save you thousands if executed properly. Yes, if two simultaneous events use the same venue and share catering/hospitality staff, the venue and/or catering vendors probably will realize cost savings that they can pass on to the event promoters/planners.

4. Focus on quality over quantity
Every business, organization or client wants a memorable event that makes attendees ooh and ahh and provides a premium experience across all variables (food, content, design, venue, etc.). However, many times you have clients with caviar tastes on a Kopitiam budget, and there simply isn’t the money for a plated dinner, world-class keynote speaker and Yuna performing her hits.

The answer isn’t to try to do it all with mediocrity (obviously). Instead, focus on doing a few things extremely well.

5. Negotiate contracts with ferocity
Cost savings are in the details, but if you don’t have a thorough understanding of what can be negotiated and how much, you are already playing from behind.

Look at food and beverage minimums, attrition, room rates, concessions, deadlines, storage fees, cancellation policies, contract clauses and much more. Best Events advises clients on dates, times, locations that will save the client money based on our knowledge of those areas where vendors and venues tend to be more flexible.”

This does require you to be well versed in reading and deciphering contracts as well as knowing the pain points of vendors in your local market.

6. Use sweat equity to get free labor
Sweat equity is usually associated with startups that can’t afford to pay developers full salaries (or in some cases any salary) and so they offer company shares or ownership in exchange for labor.

However, events are like startups in many ways (don’t get me started), so why not offer people who can’t afford to attend a ticket in exchange for their labor at the event.

As Alex Genadinik explains, “One of the best ways to get free staff for your events is to exchange labor with people who can’t afford to pay for a ticket. There are always people who ask for free tickets, so instead of rejecting them outright, you can have them do a job in exchange for attendance, which will immediately provide a free workforce. These jobs can be collecting tickets, manning booths or other simple tasks for which you would have otherwise had to pay someone.”

You may want to draw up a short independent contractor agreement outlining the terms of hire for these free laborers and have them sign it so that there are no misunderstandings.

7. Reuse expensive materials or fixtures
We are in a reuse/repurpose/recycle age, so applying this strategy to event budgets and cost savings aligns perfectly with this trend. However, as event managers, we are often fixated on the event at hand and sometimes too busy to think about how the items we are buying for next month’s event can be reused/repurposed/recycled for next year’s event (or the next client’s event).

8. Using non-traditional venues
If the traditional venues are expensive and you don’t have as much money to lay out on your space, go to a secondary market where the demand is lower, which would be the non-traditional venue market. Museums, theaters, municipal buildings, libraries, zoos, parks, mansions/estates, historical buildings, gardens and ships all fit this category, as do some restaurants and bars.

9. Make items do double duty in a clever way
So let’s say you’ve booked that alternative, non-traditional venue but now have to decorate it and don’t have a budget for lots of backdrops, wall hangings, centerpieces, banners, drapes, etc.

Now is the time to get really creative with what you do have and make it do double-duty as decor. Use innovative lighting to flood walls and areas with color. Use food as centerpieces (like colorful fruit displays or bread towers). There are thousands of possibilities here … all it takes is some boundary-breaking thinking.

10. Sell something unique during registration and at the venue
Tickets, registrations and donations aren’t the only way to generate revenues from attendees. You can also develop a unique product to sell to people when they register or when they are on-site.

An example of this done effectively is the concert T-shirt. Sure, now they are ubiquitous and the idea seems like a total no-brainer. But at one time this idea was new, and they caught on because they are the perfect event product for two reasons: 1) they are of value to the audience (who wants a souvenir to show off their fan status) and 2) the price point and size are perfect for the occasion.

The key here is creating something of value to your audience, and it can be quite different from a t-shirt. “It can be food or other helpful items that people might need at the event,” says Alex Genadinik. “You can even do something innovative. For example, if people are looking to meet with certain types of professionals at the events, have a way for attendees to pay for access to those people.”

Event budgets will always be a source of contention and hand-wringing, but as long as you give yourself enough time to brainstorm and implement creative alternatives, you can overcome event the stiffest event budget cuts.

Original story written by Jeff Kear for