Smart Ways to Save Money on Your Corporate Event

 Planning a corporate event can be difficult no matter how much you’re able to spend, but doing so on a small budget is another challenge altogether. Find out how to save money on your corporate event with these ten money-saving ideas.

1. Find a Venue With an Open Catering Policy

Some corporate event venues require you to use specific caterers. If this is the case, you could be forced to meet a food and beverage minimum that exceeds your needs (and budget), or to serve food that is not what you had imagined for your event. 

Choose a corporate event venue with an open catering policy so you can find the perfect caterer for your event — one that fits your budget, will provide only as much food and beverages as you need, and offers food that appeals to you and your guests.

To further reduce your catering costs, consider going with a buffet or family-style dinner instead of having a full sit-down menu, as it’s cheaper and doesn’t require as much service staff. 

Food trucks are also a great option, both to lower your catering costs and to give guests more personalized meal options. Companies such as Roaming Hunger make it easy to find the right cuisine and negotiate the best rate for your event.

2. Provide Your Own Alcohol

Some full-service corporate event venues provide the alcohol as part of their vendor contracts. If this is the case, you’ll likely end up spending much more on alcohol than if you were to provide it yourself.

Look for a corporate event venue that allows you to supply the alcohol for your event and, ideally, one that doesn’t charge a corkage fee (a per-bottle fee that helps cover the service, risk of broken glasses, and lost revenue from not providing the alcohol itself). 

Reduce alcohol costs even more by proving a limited bar instead of an open bar, meaning beer, wine, and soda but no mixed drinks. This simple drink calculator will help you determine how much of each type of drink you need so that you don’t overestimate and spend more than necessary. Remember to stock at least two of everything: one red wine and one white wine; one light beer and one dark beer.

3. Go Light On Decorations

You will want your corporate event venue to look both nice and professional for your event, but you shouldn’t have to spend a fortune to make that happen. 

The best way to minimize decoration costs is to choose a venue that already looks nice on its own without much additional decor. Corporate event venues with outdoor spaces, and especially rooftop venues with nice views, are great options, as the beauty of their natural surroundings may be all the decor you need. 

Look for unique venues for corporate events as well. The more interesting the location, the less you’ll have to decorate it.

4. Find In-Kind Sponsors

Many cost-effective corporate events utilize in-kind sponsors to reduce costs. In-kind sponsors are sponsors that donate goods or services instead of cash to support a cause or organization.

While cash sponsors are obviously welcome as well, finding willing in-kind sponsors tends to be easier. Most businesses are usually tight on cash, whereas they may have large product inventories that they need to move soon anyway. Sponsoring your event also allows in-kind sponsors to increase their brand awareness, both through advertising at the event and all of the attendees’ exposure to their product or service. 

You can find an in-kind sponsor for any type of good or service if you put enough effort in, but focus on the elements that are absolutely necessary to your event, such as catering, furniture rentals, and so on. The big-ticket items are obviously ideal targets, but the smaller expenses can add up as well, so don’t overlook them. 

5. Use Compostable Products

Glassware, silverware, and linen napkins go a long way toward creating a formal environment for your corporate event. However, they also make a considerable dent in your budget.

Plan to spend at least $5 per guest if you want to use these products, and factor in the possibility of additional rental fees if any of the plates or glasses are broken. As you can imagine, these costs add up quickly.

Compostable plates, cutlery, cups, and napkins, on the other hand, are usually only $1.50 per guest, allowing you to reduce your dinnerware budget by 70% or more. Breaking these products won’t be an issue, and many compostable products now come in more formal options, so you can maintain the look you want for your event.

6. Book Off-Peak Days, Times, and/or Seasons 

Seattle corporate event venues charge more during peak days, times, and seasons because of the higher demand for their services. For example, hosting your office holiday party on the first Friday in December will be much more expensive than hosting it on a Thursday evening or a Friday in January. If you have a remote sales team, January is a great option because you can combine your holiday party with the annual sales kickoff meetings. Not only will you get an off-peak rate, but you’ll be able to include your employees who work in your remote offices. 

Whether you’re looking for ideas to throw an office holiday party on a budget, cost-effective off-sites, or inexpensive team-building events, booking during off-peak times will make finding an affordable event space much easier. Don’t book anything on or near a major holiday and consider booking on a weekday instead of during the weekend. You may also be more likely to find inexpensive event venues if you schedule your event before 4 p.m. rather than in the evening.

7. Reduce Your Speaker Fees

A guest speaker can be a great addition to your corporate event, but if you want a popular, in-demand speaker, you should be prepared to pay a high price.

Fortunately, it is possible to reduce your speaker fees while also booking a great speaker.

First, book well in advance to avoid high last-minute fees, as many speakers raise their fees as their calendars fill up. You could also consider offering an in-kind trade, where you pay the speaker with a good or service instead of cash. For example, if your business owns a technology company, the speaker may be willing to speak in exchange for one of the latest versions of your product. 

Keep in mind that you will likely be responsible for your speaker’s transportation and lodging costs. One way to avoid these expenses altogether is to have the speaker present to your guests virtually. If this isn’t an option, you can minimize the transportation and lodging costs by looking for a speaker who will already be in the area for another performance. Perhaps you and the other event host can split the expenses.

One last idea is to book your speaker for multiple engagements during your event. If you are already paying the speaker to give a keynote speech, for example, ask them to lead a breakout session later in the day to avoid having to hire additional speakers for this purpose.

8. Keep Your Branding Generic

Branded materials such as banners, signs, and giveaways can help add a sense of your company’s culture to your event and even increase your brand awareness if your partners and/or customers will be in attendance.

Your branded material needs will likely be more or less the same from one event to the next, so reusing these materials is an ideal way to save money. To ensure that you can reuse all of your signs and other materials, don’t make them event-specific. This way, the expense of creating these materials is a one-time cost that you can remove from budgets for future events.

9. Watch Out for Hidden Venue Costs

Hidden venue costs can push you over your budget if you don’t plan for them.

Many corporate event venues require you to pay additional fees associated with furniture, built-in bars, commercial ice machines, cleaning, garbage, and so on. Review your contract carefully before signing to ensure you’re not being charged for things you hadn’t previously discussed. 

Your contract may specify a specific amount of hours for which you can occupy the space. If this is the case, ask if the venue will charge you extra if you need more time to set up or tear down, or if rental drop-offs or pickups aren’t on the same day as your event.

10. Get an Accurate Headcount

Most of the expenses for your corporate event will depend on the amount of attendees you expect. When it comes to the size of the venue, the amount of food and drinks, and the number of giveaways, the more guests you invite, the higher your costs.

While you may not be able to reduce the amount of people you invite, you can reduce costs by getting an accurate headcount of those who are actually planning on attending. Ticket sales should give you a good idea for paid events, but for free events, the drop-off rate could be as high as 50%. If you plan for 100 people and only 50 show up, you may have spent twice as much as you needed to on certain items.

Send out an RSVP request four to six weeks before the event, and then check in with guests who haven’t responded later on. Google Forms is also a simple way to get quick responses from invitees.

To play it safe, look for vendors that will allow you to return products that you don’t end up using. For example, if you are providing your own alcohol, you may be able to return any bottles of wine that haven’t been opened at the end of the event. Or, you can bring the alcohol back to the office and use it for a future event. 

Our last tip for how to plan a cost-effective corporate event: Go with First & Bell. We have an open catering policy, allow you to provide your own alcohol, and our fees include cleaning, WiFi, an ample amount of furniture, three built-in bars, and three parking spaces. Our customizable layout with three distinct spaces can accommodate up to 500 guests cocktail-style or 120 for sit-down dinners and presentations. 

We also understand the challenges of planning a cost-effective corporate event, and are happy to work with you to keep costs as low as possible. Give us a call for more information or to schedule a tour!

Featured image via Pxhere