You want to promote your small business with an event but don’t know how much you can spend on it? You want to bring people together around your idea but don’t think you can do it on a zero budget? Sometimes even promotional clothing isn’t an option!
Think again. Companies can sink tons of cash in an event and still have it fail, and on the other hand, it’s also absolutely possible to organise a conference, seminar, job fair or panel discussion on a small budget and make it a success.
Yes, it takes organisation, planning, determination and patience to host your own event, but if you follow and strictly coordinate your steps, the fear of having to budget will no longer hold you back from getting started on your project! Here are some ideas:
What’s Low Cost Event Creation?
From idea to concept
You have an idea for your event, right? Great. Now, stay flexible. Develop your idea, modify it, circulate it. After it’s final, the next step is to come up with a concept. While your idea doesn’t have to be new or revolutionary to succeed, the concept can help you stand out from the competition. Think about collaboration, partners, design, technology, location, and sustainability. An eco-friendly concept, for example, can help attract volunteer work and discern your event from most. By creating your concept, you are designing your audience experience.
Know your audience
Who will attend your event? You need a crystal clear answer to this, because if you cannot determine your audience, how will you find fitting sponsors and partners? To know your audience, start asking questions: Who do you want to come to your event? Who is likely to show up? Is the event niche, mainstream, high profile? Think of the event speakers you might have in mind, and look at the audience they attract. How will attendees be influenced by pricing, location, and timing? Eventbrite lets you host events for free and can also help determine proper pricing for it.
Next step is your event’s agenda. Will it be just a couple of hours, an all-day workshop, or even stretching across several days? Shorter events obviously help keeping costs down as accommodation does not factor into play, but plan your agenda carefully to not rush speakers and attendees. Determine panelists or speakers to invite so you can schedule. There are free event planning tools to help you with this. A good thought out agenda, can help you map the size of your event.
You need to find a venue that supports your type of event: workshop attendees need space for close collaboration, a conference requires a congress centre or similar setup, a panel discussion, an auditorium. When you have identified possible venues, prepare proposals for a partnership. List common interests and leverage the concept of your event for negotiation. Highlight benefits for the venue and aim at using it for free. It’s possible, so be persistent!
How much should you budget for speakers? Zero. Instead, develop your event concept into a detailed plan that shows your vision, inspiration and passion for your idea. From there you work out what speakers are to gain from attending. Approach each speaker individually with custom benefits and highlight the opportunity to popularise their own brand among your target audience and advertise their product. Don’t bargain, but send out more proposals than you need lecturers.
To round out your event, you’ll also need to provide things such as catering, drinks, printed material, shuttle service or parking to attendees and speakers. Think back on your event concept, then come up with possible partners that can relate to it. Often, niche can work to your advantage as other small businesses will be open to partnerships.
Even on a zero budget, you will have to spend funds on your event at some point. Consider your possible sponsors carefully so you can outline for them the benefits your event offers them. This is where knowing your audience pays off as it will greatly help your pitch. Sponsors need to know the exposure their brand is getting, and to what other brands they can connect. An entirely different option is to crowdfund your event. Raising money for an event on a crowdfunding platform can work well if you know your interest group well and can offer perks to backers.
Marketing and media
We know, we know, planning marketing on a low budget already makes you cringe, so how can you incorporate cost effective marketing into your event? Come up with a detailed plan and be persistent in your efforts. Always define good reasons why people should attend, and what they will learn. Use social media to promote: a twitter hashtag, a low budget but highly shareable video, a Facebook event, a free hosting website – know where your audience is and meet them there. Contact journalists, involve local bloggers and leverage your event speakers to market the event. Enter your event on listing sites, and make it easy for attendees to register online, using a platform like Meetup. Give early bird incentives so people don’t wait until the last minute to jump on.
Examples of low budget events
Focused on the future of blogging and media, this international food blogger conferences can show you how great choices in partnerships and sponsors go a long way in realising your event. By partnering with Pinterest, the conference has already integrated a great marketing resource. At the same time, they chose Action Against Hunger as a partner, an organisation fighting malnutrition and food poverty. Through raising social awareness, Food Blogger Connect can stand out from similar events.
This day-long event is centred on nothing less but the belief that ideas can change the world. The organisers focus on twitter to keep the conversation going post event, but what really unites the event coordinators is the passion for their project. Any proceeds after the cost of the event are donated to the speakers. Event sponsors focus on sustainability and social responsibility, which in turn attracts local talent to volunteer or contribute.
This music festival in Edinburgh and Cardiff is a great example of event organisers levering social media to grow ticket sales and followers at a low cost. Their trick is to foster engagement with incentives. Social media games around the performing acts spiked interest and offered a chance to earn discounts on tickets. Followers were also invited to sell tickets to friends and earn free ones for themselves.
Aimed at the small business market in the US, these annual awards honor companies, organisations, vendors, apps and people who have made a significant impact. Produced by Small Business Trends and Small Biz Technology, the team organising the Influencer Awards uses the same strategies, tools and technology they recommend to small business owners to keep costs down.
The annual Atlanta Film Festival relies on the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter to raise funds for the event. The organisers value the opportunity to connect directly to their fans by asking for their support in something they believe in. Crowdfunding enables the event to increase their budget for visiting filmmakers, and everyone benefits.
It pays off to invest your time and effort before you go live with your event, but to keep costs down during the sign-up stage, you need to be prepared as well. Anticipate common questions around your event and have template replies ready. Track your attendee registration results and adjust your strategy accordingly. See also more tips on how to get your event budget planning right.
Have more ideas on how to prepare a low-cost event? Please let us know in the comments below or through any of our social media outlets. In the mean time, keep reading the Printsome Blog for more awesome content.
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