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June 5, 2021
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10 Hybrid Event Budgeting Ideas to Reduce Costs and Boost Returns

10 Hybrid Event Budgeting Ideas to Reduce Costs and Boost Returns

If you’re coming out of quarantine feeling like everything has suddenly gotten way more expensive, you’re not the only one. The sticker shock is real, so don’t think your mind is playing tricks on you when you’re charged $15 for your next cup of coffee. The same can be said about event planning as we start the return to in-person events -- did they really cost this much before?!

With the tough year event professionals have been through, everyone’s looking to refill their coffers. Luckily, with hybrid events gaining traction, there are tons of ways to reduce the costs associated with on-site events while still reaching a wide audience through your virtual event strategy.

In this post, we share 10 tips for reducing your costs and increasing your returns when planning your next hybrid event.

1. Book venues early

When planning the in-person version of your hybrid event, it’s important to book your venues well in advance not only to get the best rates, but to make sure you secure a venue at all. With event organizers eager to solidify their 2021 dates now that in-person events can be held safely, it’ll be a competitive market, so allot enough time to search for and book a venue.

Check out Eventstant’s guide to planning a trade show as an example. For larger on-site experiences like trade shows, Eventstant recommends giving yourself a full year to plan and execute the event. This should give you an idea of how crucial it is to book your venue early. Plan accordingly and don’t leave it until the last minute; securing your venue early will save you time and money.

2. Negotiate your venue budget

Venues are a huge chunk of an event’s budget, and in a post-pandemic landscape, you may see prices go up to cover COVID safety measures. When searching for a venue, don’t be afraid to ask questions about promotions, discounts and lower rates. You never know what a venue might be willing to offer you, especially after a year when many venues likely didn’t see any business at all.

Some tips to help you get the most bang for your buck when negotiating venue fees:

  • Be flexible with your event schedule. “Off-season” or low-demand times of the year will likely be cheaper, as will booking alternative times of day.
  • Ask about rate reductions at the end of the month or quarter. Be strategic when signing your contract; venue managers are more likely to give discounts at the end of the month if they haven’t met their quotas.
  • Prove you know how to pull off a successful event. Use your event track record to show that you can draw a significant audience to the venue.

3. Invest in in-person ...

Virtual events are already primed to be less expensive and more far-reaching than in-person events, so keep your virtual event cheap and invest the bulk of your budget into your on-site experience.

You can get creative with hybrid event formats to cut costs while still reaching on-site and online audiences. Go for a hybrid event format that actively engages your in-person attendees while passively hosting those viewing from home, or record the content from your in-person event and make it available to watch online as part of your content library. You’ll still reach your vast virtual audience while providing an unforgettable experience for your on-site attendees.

4. ... or, budget for a mostly-virtual hybrid event

Alternatively, make the bulk of your hybrid event virtual while offering a VIP experience on-site. With most of your program hosted online (think panels via video conferencing, networking sessions, demos and other events), you can focus your budget on creating an awesome digital event and use the remainder to host a scaled-down in-person event.

With cheaper, more accessible online programming and a higher-cost on-site experience, you cut costs and get to focus on a unique in-person event instead of the usual trade show or conference we’ve all been to hundreds of times pre-pandemic. This is an opportunity to create a one-of-a-kind experience for those who are able to afford it and feel safe attending in-person events. Use this hybrid format to actively engage online viewers while keeping the costs associated with on-site events low.

5. Introduce new sponsorship opportunities

Hybrid events present so many opportunities for sponsorship. Between on-site and online event components, you’re no longer limited to the usual in-person sponsorship options. There are endless ways to get sponsors involved; come up with some creative ways to increase sponsor presence (check out some of our ideas here). You’ll benefit from the funding while they benefit from the exposure.

Introducing new sponsorship opportunities also gives you the chance to foster new relationships with smaller corporate sponsors by getting them in on the virtual level. Reserving smaller-scale virtual sponsorship spots for new corporate sponsors keeps your budget balanced while creating partnerships that could come at a profit to you event after event.

6. Invest in an all-in-one event platform

We firmly believe that an all-in-one hybrid event management platform is key to running a great hybrid event -- and it can help you cut down on event costs.

Why leave attendee engagement, ticketing, programming and analytics to different tools? When you use one product to run registration, another to publish your event schedule and another to handle sponsorships, for example, you might run into issues with compatibility and struggle to unite both the in-person and online versions of your event. An all-in-one platform like PheedLoop means you only pay for one platform and have complete control over both sides of your hybrid event through one centralized data hub. Limit your tech tools to keep logistics simple and costs low.  

7. Create volunteer opportunities for in-person events

Human hours, from venue personnel, third-party staffing or your own team, can really add up. To reduce costs when it comes to event staff, consider creating volunteer opportunities for the on-site version of your hybrid event.

Treat your event’s volunteer program as a value trade. In exchange for volunteer hours, you can offer volunteers free tickets to the event or a specific VIP-level experience, access to networking opportunities or even school credit if you can reach students interested in your industry. When your prospective volunteers are interested in the event you’re putting on, it makes it easier to recruit help and lower staffing costs.

8. Form mutually beneficial partnerships

With event professionals now planning on incorporating hybrid events into their strategy beyond the pandemic, venues, A/V companies and tech providers are looking for ways to build a portfolio of hybrid event successes. As with tip #2, don’t be afraid to offer useful insights or sponsorship in exchange for, or as partial payment for, event services. If you can give event providers access to sponsorship, valuable attendee data or case studies to build their brand, you can negotiate a lower rate for their services. Another win-win!

9. Increase ticket prices

Raising ticket prices is one of the last things event organizers want to do when it comes to saving money. The fear is that expensive tickets could reduce attendance and shrink your reach, but the benefit of hybrid events is that you can still draw an audience with your online offerings while changing your in-person ticket pricing.

It’s hard to raise prices for attendees, but raising on-site ticket prices will help you reduce costs and bring in increased returns. It’s a domino effect: you raise entry costs, fewer people RSVP for the in-person side of your event, you cut down on venue, technology and other on-site costs, all while keeping your virtual presence strong. Increasing ticket prices may be a last resort when looking at your budget, but with a hybrid format you can feel comfortable knowing that you still have options to reach your target audience.

10. Stay virtual for another year

We’re all ready to get back into the hustle and bustle of in-person events, but that might not be a financial reality after the past year. If your company has suffered losses due to the pandemic but you’re still determined to host your yearly conference, trade show or meeting in 2021, the smartest budgetary move might be to stay virtual.

It’s a hard pill to swallow, but if the numbers aren’t adding up, hosting another year of online events will drastically reduce your event costs. Reallocate your budget from venue costs, PPE and event staff towards something like a high-powered event management platform like PheedLoop to boost your online presence on all fronts. Take the time to regroup and come back strong in 2022!

Conclusion

The return to in-person events can be intimidating, especially financially. But with a hybrid event format, you can make your budget work for you. The best way to go is to minimize on-site costs while still offering an engaging experience for online attendees. Negotiate where you can, strengthen your virtual event strategy and know that in-person events will be waiting for you when your budget allows.

Looking for an all-in-one event management platform to fit into your budget? Check out PheedLoop.

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PheedLoop is an all-in-one event management platform for live, virtual and hybrid events. Our platform powers events for associations, corporations, agencies, educational institutions and governments worldwide including Shopify, Government of Canada, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, IBM and more. We commit ourselves to being a highly product focused company, and are dedicated to releasing new features and product updates every week since our founding in 2015. We post regular updates like this one to our blog.

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