Tips for budgeting a corporate event

Tips for budgeting a corporate event

Talking about budgets can be quite challenging, as at first sight it may seem something too technical and lacking excitement. That's why, and to prevent this article from looking like instructions for a toaster, we've talked to Aida Fernández, our Operations Manager from Barcelona, who has a vast experience in all types of events. Together, we've tried to come up with some tips for budgeting a corporate event. Tips that would go beyond the basic information offered in any tutorial and provide a slightly deeper insight.

You aren't likely to know about budgeting at the very start of your career. But neither you know about event organization. What was your learning process?

I started working in art galleries, preparing catalogues. And also, helping with event management, organizing opening nights, workshops, and so on. That was the time when I first started working with suppliers and had my first experience in price negotiation. After that, I joined an architecture and interior design studio where I learned about materials. Later on, this helped me a lot to correctly break down my first budgets, as I already knew what elements made up a structure and what materials I would need.

However, no matter what your professional path is, you need to have a lot of patience when it comes to budgets. And my recommendation is to sketch. For me, it's the best way to visualize a space. You sketch it first, and then fill it with details. This is how you the parts it consists of, what materials you need, etc.

There are many types of corporate events. From a convention to a roadshow, from an experiential activation to a workshop... For such a variety of types, what would be the most basic and indispensable items in a budget?

I think the most important basics, that we often overlook, are the fixed expenses. In any type of event, there will always be costs related to transportation and personnel. For example, in the case of a photocall, it's not just about producing it, but also transporting, setting up, and dismantling it. Something that we don't realize, but that is always there.

Aida Fernández, Operations Manager at 4foreverything

And when it comes to tenders…. For more than a decade we’ve been living a situation where overspending is not welcome. Therefore, it’s essential to provide a competitive budget to win a tender. How can we achieve this balance between quality and price?

Well, there are tenders of two types. For the first one, you only need to budget. Here everything is clear. However, for the second, you also need to design. And in this case, it is crucial to start working well in advance in order to give the creative team enough time to provide the best solution. The one that neither skyrockets the costs, nor is too conservative.

Another thing to bear in mind is the company's strategy. There are tenders where you know you can spend more to be more creative. And there are others that are more strategic, when you have to make a great effort to cut down as much as possible, because the project is of strategic importance for your brand. Obviously, like any company, we must be economically profitable, but we also must consider the intangible benefits that such a project can bring. Maybe optimizing the budget is a good investment into future benefits. It's something that goes beyond our topic of tips for budgeting a corporate event, but I think it's important to mention it as well.

One of the things that makes a winning proposal is creativity. However, often the decision is made based on costs. Is being creative really that expensive?

The designer's biggest challenge is achieving more with less. That's the key to success.  Besides, there are endless ways of being creative, and you can go really crazy creating something cool. Therefore, it’s important to scale things down trying to make something visually attractive without going overboard.

For example, here we have been organizing 4YFN for years. As you know, it’s a tradeshow with quite a tight budget. And year after year, we manage to create visually stunning spaces without spending too much. And besides, at 4foreverything, we have wonderful designers who know very well how to achieve this balance.

It’s a very good thing to have a portfolio of trusted suppliers. It will always give you lower costs. Negotiating with new suppliers also helps because they are usually open to proposals. And always following trends in our industry. Searching on Pinterest, news, and blogs to get new inspiration.

Work in progress

How do sustainable policies influence budgeting? Does reusing elements help to reduce costs? Do clients notice it?

Well, here what I want to make the stress on is that sustainability is about social responsibility rather than about economic value. It’s about preserving the environment, and there is nothing more important than that. However, I must also say that it’s a very multifaceted phenomenon.  

Obviously, reusing furniture enables cost-saving. However, storing and repairing it for another use, if necessary, also implies costs that must be taken into account. Despite being a company of a very high production capacity, we always try to prioritize rental of some elements. In these terms, we are definitely sustainable, which enables cost-saving for clients, but in a moderate way.   

Speaking about tips for budgeting a corporate event or any other event, it’s important to mention handy tools. Which software would you recommend?    

I would recommend using whatever tool you’re comfortable with. I often use just a pen and a piece of paper. Though Excel, of course, is a great solution for avoidng mistakes in complex calculations. And then, also Odoo or any other ERP system. It’s essential using this type of management tools to save time when budgeting.   

And to wrap it up, mistakes. We all make them, it’s ok. So, maybe you have any juicy story of a budgeting mistake that brought consequences?

Oh yes, I do… Once I made a mistake with a comma. A comma in the square meters of material needed. Let's say, I needed 10.86 square meters. So, well, I budgeted for 108.6 sq. m., and the cost doubled. And it was all because of the calculator. I don’t like them. I think paper, pen, and an Excel with formulas are much better. We fixed it later, but you see what can happen. You have to be very careful with numbers.

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