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 organize a conference, seminar, job fair or panel discussion on a small budget and make it a success.
Yes, it takes organization, 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:
From idea to concept
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? 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?
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!
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.
Marketing and media
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.