As planners know all too well, the event budget serves as the roadmap for event planning. It sets the guardrails and provides transparency so you can make sound financial decisions. With a good event budget, you’ll know how much you spent on every last detail — down to the penny.

Event budgets are also a cause for anxiety. One study found more than half of event planners say shrinking budgets are a top concern.

Inevitably, your event budget will be sliced and diced a hundred different ways, so the challenge becomes figuring out how to spend those dollars in a way that meets objectives, wows attendees, and demonstrates ROI. If you’re looking for ways to stretch your event budget further, consider these cost-saving tips.

1. Plan a virtual event

Think how much of your budget goes toward renting a venue, food and drink, and A/V services — it’s a sizable chunk. By pivoting to a virtual event, you can eliminate many of these costs from your event budget. Additionally, removing the travel barrier means more attendees can join your event, and with no limitations on attendee count, you can potentially increase your audience, and your revenue.

You’ll want to invest in a virtual event platform, and likely have to up your event tech budget. However, it should pale in comparison to what you’d spend on a venue, catering, etc.

2. Trade admission for volunteer help

If you’re worried about staffing costs taking up a large chunk of your event budget, offer free admission in exchange for a day’s work. For example, say your event runs for two days. Allow volunteers to work one day, and then grant them free admission to the next day. It’s truly a win-win for everybody. You save on staffing costs, and you’ll have an army of volunteers (who were already excited about your event) by your side.

3. Go paperless — Use an event app

Printing costs for agendas, maps, signage, and other event materials quickly add up. Before you know it, you’ve blown a disproportionate amount of the event budget on something that will ultimately end up in the trash. Instead, go paperless (and green) and use an event app. You can upload your agendas, speaker profiles, maps, and any other documents you were planning to distribute. With an event app, you can quickly make real-time updates too, which means you won’t have to reprint materials if a speaker cancels or room changes. 


4. Book the event venue during off-peak times

While you wouldn’t book a wedding on a Tuesday morning, nobody will think twice about a mid-week conference or event. Venues charge a premium on weekends and holidays, so avoiding those times should lower your rental costs. You’ll also have more flexibility as those times typically sell out far in advance. Remember, the venue takes up a large portion of your event budget, so anything you can do to lower costs will allow you to stretch your budget further.

5. Get creative with event sponsorship

Think of ways to boost your sponsorship revenue beyond the traditional options. Your sponsors want to maximize their exposure (and justify their ROI), so think of areas with high foot traffic where attendees tend to congregate. Sponsored charging stations, coffee bars, VIP lounges and restrooms are all possibilities. You can even make the Wi-Fi password a sponsor’s name.

If using an event app, you can use splash pages that link out to a sponsor’s website or landing page, sponsored updates or push notifications, or even in-app gamification that drives attendees to a sponsor booth or website.

For virtual event sponsorship, don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Some ideas include hosting a virtual marketplace where your sponsors can demo their products via a live stream, sponsoring a live stream or “commercial” break between sessions, and even sending food like coffee and bagels to an attendee’s home. For more virtual event sponsorship ideas, check out our Virtual Event Sponsorship Guidebook.