Every event you plan creates an opportunity to show your brand in its best light, connect with clients, and/or celebrate your team. The last thing you want is to have your budget get in the way of hitting your goals. Your first step in planning a great meeting or conference should be to understand the costs you may encounter. From the venue rental fee to deciding between wired and wireless microphones for your speakers, it's important to understand how different venues and vendors structure their rates. Here are six of the most important items to focus on when planning your meeting or conference event budget.
1. Rental Start and End Times Make sure to be aware of the venue’s official start and end times for the event (often called ‘load-out’ or ‘load-in’). The start time is important because you and your vendors need time to set up, which will include everything from installing signage to testing presentations to setting up décor in the space. If you are bringing a number of items for your event, you may want to ask the venue if there are any fees for having items shipped to the venue or having them stored there the day before. Often, additional fees may be worth it if it means a less stressful set up period for your staff and more time to prepare to ensure your event goes flawlessly. Most venues will suggest a certain amount of time for your setup, this may be a good guide for your event. Your venue may also have a fee for guests staying past the end time. Know what costs you face just in case the event runs late.
2. Setup and Breakdown Needs Depending on your agenda and venue setup, you may want to plan for a shorter or longer setup and breakdown. Make sure you have enough staff on-hand to handle the task as well. Going over your setup or breakdown times will affect the start time of your event and may incur additional overtime costs if your end time is later as a result. The venue will have experience in what has worked for clients in the past and will have recommended or required setup and breakdown times to guide you. You may want to consider how to reduce setup times at the venue if it means additional rental or staff costs (and less stress!). For example, consider putting together event materials like gift bags or packets at your office instead of at the venue.
3. Packages vs. à la Carte Comprehensive packages have the potential to provide substantial value and savings over à la Carte options. Don’t let a big price tag scare you off; adding up the total costs for gathering everything separately will likely show that the package makes things less expensive and less time consuming for you.
Make sure to ask the venue salesperson what the package includes and make sure it's everything you need and nothing you don’t. Note that some venues may not show everything they provide, estimates may include more than you realize. Work with the venue and suppliers to come up with a plan that suits your meeting or conference while providing some flexibility to customize as you see fit.
4. Rentals You have a number of options for renting items like furniture, a/v equipment, and catering-related items. If you're coordinating rentals on your own, make sure to factor in rental costs as well as delivery and setup fees. Find out about whether these items can in be included in your venue rental or service package and if you have basic and premium options. Often venues may own some or all of these items which may enable them to provide more competitive rates. If you're looking for items the venue can't provide, ask them for a recommended vendor. Typically venues will be able to recommend vendors who provide excellent service and who fit specific budgets. Lastly, if the venue provides rentals, consider using their furniture and then adding accents like flowers, linens, ties, candles, etc., to increase the wow factor of the room setup.
5. Rental Drop-off and Pick-up Having items such as furniture or event materials or decorations stored at the venue before or after the event may incur storage fees, depending on the venue and availability. Consider rental companies that are able to drop-off and pick-up items the day of your event and can work within smaller delivery windows.
6. Tech and A/V Amenities If your meeting or conference requires significant A/V needs like live streaming, extra-fast internet, or numerous microphones, remember to include tech costs in your meeting budget. Ask the venue about what they have available and if there will be a technician present during the event. Technicians can be costly but it’s worth having a dedicated tech on hand to quickly resolve issues which otherwise could cause significant disruptions. The success of speeches and projections or displays will make a big impact on how guests remember not just the event but also your content and brand.