Planning Events in a Downturn


The start of 2023 heralded another year of events to plan and deliver. But there’s a distinct aura of trepidation. It feels like the post-pandemic event-scape has only just re–ignited when a raft of entirely new challenges has emerged.

Are you ready for a depressing list? There’s governmental instability. Off the radar energy prices. Snowballing inflation rates. Looming recession. The ongoing Brexit saga. Continued war against Ukraine. Increased supply chain issues. Mix them up and between them they’ve given rise to a cost-of-living crisis that’s once again forcing us to re-frame our approach to corporate events.

Edward Low, Head of Growth at events agency OrangeDoor, summarised the dilemma in his recent micebook article, How the cost-of-living crisis will affect your B2B event strategy in 2023:

“When it comes to inflation on energy prices and other daily necessities, there’s the sense that we’re all in it together with an “us against them” mentality”, he said. “It’s also important to realise that we all need to take that same attitude into the B2B events sector in 2023, especially if you want to achieve your objectives while sticking to your budget”.

So, how can you survive the cost-of-living crisis with a compelling event schedule intact?

We’ve been there, seen that during the financial crisis of 2008 and the subsequent economic turmoil so here are just a few considerations for confidently and competently navigating the trials and tribulations of the year ahead.

Take a Collaborative Approach

When budgets and event plans aren’t in harmony, it’s not unusual to have to make some tough, even radical decisions. But, none of us is smarter than all of us. So, don’t feel like you’re on your own. Build a campfire instead.

Find out what’s important to your clients about the event – it should be the objectives rather than the format so use this time to challenge the norms or ‘what we’ve always done’

Their collective intelligence is invaluable for helping you navigate difficult but unavoidable questions around your event plans. For example:

  • Re-Imagined Event Components – What can you do differently to keep costs under control? Is a gala dinner non-negotiable? Or, might your delegates equally enjoy a casual and relaxed networking session in a reserved section of a bar, with a couple of pre-paid drinks tokens? (Your chosen event location might be home to some hidden gems you’d never have thought about using till now. Whilst you might be understandably way, something fresh might be welcomed with open arms by your delegates.)
  • Compressed Event Duration – Can you cut costs and reduce delegate hesitancy by condensing a super–charged event programme on rocket fuel in to two days (or even less) rather than three?
  • Quality Over Quantity – Would a smaller but highly targeted event work? Besides costing less, intimate events can be highly effective for securing more wallet share from existing clients, or enticing highly engaged prospects who are further down your sales funnel.
  • Less Events More Impact – Could fewer events with be a better option for you than smaller ones, e.g. the same levels of attendance, but quarterly rather than bi-monthly?
  • Different Event Format – Might you be able to save money by going hybrid or virtual rather than fully in-person?

Consult not only with your internal stakeholders, but also your trusted suppliers. Remember, they’re on your side. It’s in their best interest to help you get the green light! Plus, many of them have already got first–hand experience of the most cost effective ways to use their services / space.

Once you’ve got your head around the fundamentals, you can drill down even more deeply into individual layers, to comprehensively attune your plans and purse. This might involve some or all of the following considerations.

Live, Hybrid or Virtual?

Your event format has many potential implications beyond checks and balances. So, ensure you’re equipped to reach the best conclusions by giving detailed thought to factors including:

  • Target Audience –Switching to hybrid, virtual or hub-and-spoke events (that connect multiple venues in different locations) can introduce the added benefits of higher delegate capacity and extended reach. Do these benefits align with your event strategy and overall business objectives?
  • Cost-Effectiveness – Don’t assume that hybrid, virtual or hub-and-spoke events are the ‘no frills’ options. They can be equally costly as live events, or even more expensive to deliver impressively, depending on your specific needs. Are the cost savings significant enough to warrant a switch from live events?
  • Price Sensitivity – Is cost consciousness a key driver amongst your target audiences, due perhaps to the level of seniority of your attendees or your sector? In short, will live events attract less attendance? On the other hand, will hybrid, virtual or hub-and-spoke events attract similar or more attendance?

Location! Location! Location!

Get more tactical about the locations your choose. It’s a surefire way to control costs for your business and your delegates. Dig deeper into potential event destinations to get an overview on factors such as:

  • Accessibility – When budgets are squeezed, one of the first to be taken off the table is businesses travel. This, combined with the focus on carbon impact means that the easier you make it for people to attend, the better. The most local or central destinations and / or venues might not be the most exciting ones. But, they’re worth every penny if they get bums on seats.
  • Affordability – The cost differences to you and your delegates can be phenomenal across different destinations. So, you need to keep a close eye on your bottom line and your target audience’s tighter purse strings, too.

Most Bangs Per Buck

You can eke out event budgets in similar ways that you might be seeking ways to make your money stretch further in your personal life. So, get proactive and adopt simple yet effective tactics such as:

  • Multiple Use of Suppliers – Booking a series of events in multiple locations, or regular events in the same location? It’s an ideal opportunity to dangle the carrot and negotiate the best achievable rates with potential hotels, venues and other event suppliers. They’re often keen to offer bargain prices for guaranteed bulk business.
  • Repeat Use of Branding and Assets – Re-use and re-purpose your uniforms / signage and branding until they’re no longer up to the job. It helps to save money – and the planet. Additionally, a ‘make do and mend’ approach might leave you with a few extra pounds in the pot to use for enhancing other parts of your event.
  • Flexible contracting – Focus on negotiating cancellation and attrition terms that fit your event schedule to make sure you don’t end up paying for services you don’t need. Always push for an extra and final attrition allowance as close to the event date as you can.

At Brightspace Events, we’ve got the experience of working on many and varied event scenarios for rafts of different clients. So don’t be shy! Go ahead and pick our brains about the strategic allocation of your budget. We’re expert at coming up with innovative event solutions during challenging economic times – or at any time!

Get in touch if you need help, from a straightforward venue finding job, to the delivery of a powerful event strategy that aligns with your budget and your business objectives.