With all the implications on corporate event budgets coming out of the pandemic, what does 2023 have in store? It’s a question on the minds of many event organizers and brand marketers as they navigate the ever-changing landscape of budgeting for corporate meetings and events. With so many factors at play, it can be difficult to know where to start when it comes to preparing this year and beyond.
While we are seeing things like airfare, food costs and logistical challenges level off, costs will continue to remain elevated. Strategic planning that starts with key objectives, prioritizes where you can make the most impact, and rethinking legacy tactics can all help manage your budget while maximizing your experiential impact.
1. Start With Strategic Event Goals (and prioritize them)
What’s most important? For your attendees, customers, executives, your brand? This is the paramount question that must always be considered before any decisions are made, and be the key strategy driver. To create an experience that engages your audience, and is memorable and actionable, begin with clearly defined event goals. This roadmap will help prioritize various budget elements of the experience itself. Sounds like a no-brainer, but many brands are guilty of falling into the same rhythm year over year, and there’s no better time than now to take a hard look at your overall strategy.
A key part of guiding your event goals is listening to your audience. What do they value? Which, for some brands, has shifted significantly in the last 2-3 years. Once an overall strategic direction is established, you can then begin to design the experience, map out the attendee journey, and how it all fits into your event budget to lay a foundation for success.
2. Determine What Financial Success Looks Like
Financial success for corporate meetings and events comes in all shapes and sizes, and requires careful strategic planning. Many brands have long-established goals for what that looks like, but as we all know, things change. Developing a framework for metrics to track, goals to achieve, P&L, survey results, all contribute to not just financial success, but oftentimes how that translates to the success of the team organizing the experience.
What’s most important also means what’s most important financially. Increasing brand recognition, strengthening employee culture, improving reputation, or driving business growth are just a few key areas that determine where resources are allocated accordingly and expectations are set realistically. This holds especially true with shifting economic dynamics, including a recent merger or acquisition, new leadership or ownership, and how it all aligns with your event strategy.
3. Plan for the Unexpected
Meeting planners and event organizers have long been adept at change (can I get an amen?). But even more so in today’s environment, corporate event design requires a high level of flexibility and preparedness when it comes to unexpected disruptions and budget obstacles.
Strategic goals become more important than ever when adapting to changes that the post-pandemic landscape has brought. Force majeure and attrition clauses have taken on far more complex language to protect venues, as well as a laundry list of fees popping up in the last 18-24 months at venues that didn’t exist pre-pandemic. Additionally, we’re seeing more weather related events that have not been planned for in the past, all of which affects your budget.
It has become more critical than before for planners and brand marketers to work closely with their partners and vendors to ensure they have accurate information regarding staffing resources in place. Contingency budgets are a great way to cover costs that may arise due to unforeseen circumstances, such as onsite venue charges, flight delays or cancellations.
Additionally, having an understanding of best and worst case scenarios can help minimize risk associated with your event and ultimately increase its success.
4. Rethink Your Agenda (and everything else)
Does it really need to be five nights? Do you have to have breakout sessions on Tuesday? Maybe not. Many areas of your event agenda affect cost. It can be a challenge to design an entirely new format, but making small adjustments that offer efficiencies without compromising your goals is the best place to start.
The current environment offers an opportunity to embrace bold ideas with innovative approaches that keep attendees engaged while staying within budget. To maximize value without going over budget, lean on your agencies and partners to design experiences that are high-impact and not necessarily high-cost.
5. Manage Expectations
Expectation management across the board is critical to achieving your financial goals and managing towards your event budget. Getting partners and internal stakeholders involved early and often can make all the difference when it comes to preparing an event budget that is 20-30% higher.
This also includes reorienting the long-held thinking that’s what we’ve always done. There’s no better time to challenge your partners and your internal stakeholders to maximize your overall event’s output, while also maximizing your budget. Openly discussing options that set up your experience for success can open lines of communication for how to get creative and strategically design towards your budget.
6. Event Sponsorship Strategy
For many brands, developing an effective corporate event sponsorship strategy is essential to creating engaging and successful experiences for both sponsors and attendees – and your budget. To build a meaningful, mutually beneficial relationship with sponsors, it is important to first find out what the sponsor wants to achieve with their investment before developing opportunities. By listening to the goals of the sponsors, you can craft experiences that reach beyond traditional tactics.
Additionally, utilizing new technologies can help create unique opportunities that not only benefit sponsors but also provide advanced engagement campaigns for attendees. Developing creative, meaningful corporate event sponsorship opportunities should always focus on quality over quantity – delivering value for all involved stakeholders.
7. Measuring Your Event ROI
One of the most challenging tasks for event organizers is demonstrating their event return on investment. A consistent approach to measuring event metrics year over year can allow you to forecast future budgets, hit your goals and maximize the amount of value your events offer. One of the best ways to measure ROI involves approaching it from two different angles – traditional methods such as surveys, as well as more unorthodox methodologies that allow you to reach deeper into areas like satisfaction and brand impact.
New technologies are becoming more ubiquitous that involve onsite beacons, wearable tech, near-field communication (NFC) and even facial recognition data, which track heat maps within a venue receiving the most traffic, and measures sentiment and attitudinal responses. Utilizing methods like this go beyond the traditional survey and allow you to demonstrate ROI more accurately.
Ultimately, your team must decide what the best metrics to measure to demonstrate ROI. We work with many brands who measure metrics like emotional sentiment and connection to the brand, while others look to more tactical metrics as a gauge of success. Work with your partners to develop a strategy that fits your event goals, your culture and is aligned with your brand and organizational goals.