10 Tips for Building Your 2022 Event Budget
Event budgets and the rules that govern them are changing. Stay ahead of the curve for 2022 with these tips.
After over a year of “we’re making it work” mode, some event organizers continue to expect budget cuts going into 2022. But for those who have found new ways to engage audiences through the power of virtual and hybrid event models, advocating for more budget is the obvious choice.
No matter what budget you’re given, there are ways to make it work in this new era of events—you just need to know who to ask. Katie Bohrer, Founder and CEO of Onwardly and Jackie White, Director of Events at America’s SAP User Group, both spoke recently at Bizzabo’s event, Agents of Hybrid, about the new event budgeting roadmap.
Here are 10 tips from the experts on event budgeting for your future hybrid strategies—from how to plan with budget in mind, to where to spend and where to save.
1. Design Around Your Goals
Before you can draw up a budget you need to have your goals in place.
No matter what you’re advocating for, having a clear framework will help everyone get on board (not to mention it’ll keep your event on track and under budget). “Be willing to start with your goals and objectives and design from the ground up,” says Katie. “Go back to the rules of event design. You still start with goals and objectives first, and you design from there. Technology, virtual, how you approach different attendee types—those are just tools in the toolbox.”
2. Try Outcome-Based Budgeting
It may be tempting to lump all like-costs into one section and present it in the budget, but it will be a lot harder for stakeholders to understand the value. “Attach the dollar line item to an outcome,” says Katie. “Start to educate about what it accomplished.”
For example, instead of simply noting the cost for all your tech, pull items out and connect them to the outcomes you determined in your design phase. Now it’s not just $10,000 towards miscellaneous platform costs, but $10,000 dedicated to connecting your virtual and in-person audiences via a chat application.
3. Anchor First, Spend Later
Event marketing might seem like the time to spend without thinking about what’s coming in, but accounts receivable is just as important a player as accounts payable. “If we’re not anchoring to a solid foundation with our accounts receivable, then everything on the accounts payable side is way off,” says Jackie.
This is an opportunity to tighten up your ARR to ensure what’s going out is coming right back in. “It will save a lot of time and energy.” Pro tip: use the data to your advantage to determine where to allocate your cash most productively.
4. Hybrid Events Need Two Budgets
While the very definition of hybrid is a seamless in-person and virtual experience, the reality of two different audience experiences might require you to consider two different budgets—even if only on paper.
“The same way if I did a regional meeting where I had two different locations, I would budget those separately,” says Katie. “I think that that’s what makes it cleanest for me.” It’s not as easy to budget per person when attendees will be having different experiences, so split some of the items up to ensure each group is getting what they need. (And that you’re not wasting budget on something an online audience won’t use, and vice versa.)
5. Choose Your Tech Wisely
Production can make or break a hybrid event. What you need to be clear on is just which parts of the tech you need to really shine, and which can be simply serviceable.
“The best production company you work with will educate you in the art of the possible, and present you with good, better, and best budget options,” says Katie. While you definitely want your stream to be top of the line, maybe you don’t need the most advanced polling features in order to engage your audience. “You need to know if you need a Ferrari or a Honda Civic.”
6. Check Your Policies
As always, you’ll be signing contracts and purchasing insurance for your events—but buyer beware. Consistent COVID policies don’t yet exist and, with regulations still fluctuating, you’ll want to make sure you’re covered.
“Insurance still matters,” says Jackie. “We all know that the supply chain has been challenging lately, to say the least. Making sure that we are fully insured on the elements that we can’t live without—that’s one of the areas that I want to underscore, is still one of the most critical.”
Don’t be shy: ask what your policy covers so there are no surprises.
7. Help Sponsors Think Differently
Event sponsorships have been challenging as everyone settles into new roles, but different can be exciting. This is an opportunity to step into some creative thinking that benefits you, your sponsors, and your attendees.
Jackie and her team have started doing whiskey tastings as an executive treat for the audience, and the results are fun for everyone. “It is creating a really great experience on the front end, but we’re also really excited to see what that does for membership renewals,” says Jackie. “Yes, it hits my accounts payable line items, but it might also be serving a greater good.”
Sponsorships are such a great way to balance out your costs, so considering new ways to keep sponsors engaged will go a long way to keeping you on budget (and maybe even make money from your events).
8. Reinvest in Speakers
While there are some costs that have gone way up, there are certainly areas where you’ll need to spend less; what you do with that money can ultimately bring in larger numbers, and drive you closer to your outcomes.
Big ticket speakers are one of those line items to invest in—perhaps with some of the money saved on travel and accommodation.
Because hybrid enables you to cast such a wide net, the possibility of audience size is infinite. But because so much is virtual or hybrid now, you’re competing for eyeballs in a way you never were when events were strictly in-person. “I can stretch my keynote dollars so much further right now,” says Jackie. “It is democratizing our ability to get some really exceptional speakers that otherwise would be far beyond our price point.”
Compelling speakers are nearly always the primary draw for any great event.
9. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
The silver lining of hybrid events is the high-quality production you’re left with when the event is over. Being able to repurpose content from your events for free (or through a tiered pricing model) is one way to continue generating revenue long after the event is over.
The key here, though, is to consider exactly how to distribute all that you capture. Meet your attendees where they’re at and you’ll see your engagement go up and your money better spent.
“We’ve got this great content, they’re craving this information—how can we think about reimagining that virtual experience?” asks Jackie. “Perhaps it’s on-demand, perhaps it’s a podcast and we release it weekly. Fine tuning the way that we distribute that information can really have a lot to do with how we look at our budget and where we’re allocating those dollars.”
As always, follow the data to see which approach works best, then pivot your budget to reflect the trends.
10. Keep it Simple
As you get started in hybrid, go back to basics and budgeting will be a snap. “Take your event down to the studs,” says Katie. “Start the budget from scratch and build from the ground up.” Just because the models are new doesn’t mean the same logic can’t apply. “Trust the fact that you are a seasoned event professional and you know what you’re looking for,” says Jackie. “You’ve got this.”
That’s it for this list of event budget tips. For more information, check out the full on-demand discussion for Agents of Hybrid.