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9 Steps to Organising a BIG Event on a SMALL Budget


Ambition is good. Ambition is great. You want your event to blow the competition right out of the water. But there’s the little problem of purse strings, right?


Thing is, throwing money at an event isn’t the thing that makes it unmissable. People don’t turn up at an industry conference year after year because of the quality of the canapés: they take the trouble because the knowledge, insights and contacts are invaluable.


Style matters, sure. But a really successful event has substance in spades.


That doesn’t mean that organising a top event on a tiny budget is easy. Far from it. But if you follow these 9 steps, you’ll be able to do something really special, without the price tag to match.


1.       Figure Out Your Niche

“Everyone” is not a target market! The more precise and defined you can be about who you want to attract, the better you’ll hone in on the things that really matter. Picture your ideal attendee: what do they want to learn? Who do they want to meet? What one problem would they most like to solve to drive forward their business goals?

Then consider how to tailor every part of your event to add value and offer solutions that make a ticket irresistible. What are the must-haves, as opposed to the nice-to-haves? The more successfully you tackle this step, the more you avoid splashing cash on frills with limited impact on your target market.


2.       Clarify Your Theme, Concept and Agenda

Sum up in a sentence why your ideal attendee should come to your event. What will they get out of it? What problem will it help them solve? Once again, a clear idea of what your event aims to achieve will streamline your planning, helping you to identify speakers, workshops and other features that seriously sell tickets.


3.       Clock Up Those Eco-Points

Things that are good for your wallet are often great for the environment, so make this a feature. Push for zero waste by avoiding printed materials and sticking to online and email-based advertising. Consider paperless ticketing options. Focus on how to reduce energy waste on the day. Taken together, these elements will boost your bottom line and your sustainability credentials.


4.       Develop Your Event in Line with Your Venue Options

The biggest cost of your event will likely be your venue, so a good deal is vital. List everything you’re hoping to do there (e.g. networking drinks, seminars, large-scale presentations, smaller workshops, one-to-one drop ins), but be flexible. How might you use an unusual/smaller space for the same purpose? Do you have to rent a costly exhibition centre, where add-ons will skyrocket, or could a more “edgy”, intimate space give you a better deal in a central location? Think creatively, and keep an open mind.


5.       Create Top In-Kind Benefits for Collaborators

Is money the only thing that could tempt a speaker or workshop leader to take part in your event? Or could participation be exciting enough to get them on board? Don’t just mumble something nondescript about exposure: being asked to work for free is almost always irritating. Instead, cultivate collaborative relationships that are genuinely beneficial. How can you promote them beyond the event itself? Could you work together on reputation-boosting content marketing? Could you create video interviews, podcasts, Twitter Q&As;? Focus on what they’re getting out of the deal.


6.       Seek Out Great Contras

This also goes for other types of partners, be they caterers, film teams or anyone who might be persuaded to provide a service for other than cash. Think about how to make this person or company a stakeholder, incorporating their ideas into your planning. Choose businesses who are itching to gain access to the audience you’re assembling. The happier they are to work with you, the more productive the relationship will be.


7.       Court Sponsors in Creative Ways

Sponsorship is the holy grail, but “your logo will be prominently displayed!” is not a particularly exciting or innovative sell. What more can you offer?

Perhaps you have a strategy worked out that will help turn attendees into leads? Perhaps they’ll be judging a competition that grants priority access to new ideas, innovations or graduates? Establish their business goals and make sponsorship of your event the perfect vehicle to achieve them.


8.       Focus on “Free” Marketing

Instead of spending a fortune on your website, consider making use of tools like WordPress, Wix or Muse to build something slick and functional. Focus your energies on social media marketing and building relationships with thought leaders. Get your speakers, partners and sponsors on board to generate buzz.

Where does your target market hang out online? What professional LinkedIn Groups are they part of? What business publications do they read that might let you guest post? Speaking directly to your ideal audience is far more effective than buying an ad – and it’s free.


9.       Team Up With a Top Event Partner

Doing everything yourself can be a false economy: the best laid plans go awry when something crops up that you didn’t know to prepare for. Inexperience can be expensive, so it’s often wiser to team up with an event management company that knows how to apply your budget in the most efficient, effective way possible. A safe hand is an invaluable investment.


Have any top tips of your own for running a great event on a minimal budget? Share your insights in the comments section below.