July 05, 2021
By Mike Fletcher

One of the myths about staging hybrid events is that they require a lot of additional investment. 

With overall marketing budgets slow to recover and allocated event spend redirected into platforms, technology and the expertise that was required to go fully digital during this past year, rebalancing event budgets to return to live whilst keeping the extended reach provided by virtual, is a key challenge coming ove the horizon for planners. 

Hybrid however doesn’t have to equate to twice the price. Here’s five strategies that will help you to reduce costs, find savings and future-proof your events programme. 

1) Analyse historic costs and data

Analyse historic costs to see what worked and what didn't

What did the event cost the last time it was staged in-person? Use the previous budget to establish a baseline but ensure that inflation, your renewed requirements and your evolving virtual needs are all taken into consideration. 

Data from past events can be great indicators of what has worked, and what didn’t. Use it to decide where savings can be made, what elements to prioritise for virtual-only, and to forecast required spend associated with those factors altered by the pandemic, such as reduced room capacities, venue size, food and beverage, transport and collateral such as badges etc. 

2) Align spend with objectives 

Align spend with event objectives

A key purpose of an event budget should be to guide the planner to properly allocate funds to the most valuable elements. For hybrid formats, these elements will be dictated by the event’s objectives. 

For example, if the overall event objective is learning and development, can savings be made by delivering more of the content online and using the in-person event for role-playing exercises and more practical applications? 

As we emerge cautiously from lockdown and prioritise instilling confidence back into in-person attendees, do you really need theming, printed collateral or that giant ice sculpture in the foyer to achieve the objective of success?

If you provide a Covid-safe five-star service in a three-star hotel or training facility, would anyone really complain that it wasn’t five-star surroundings?

3) Integrate technology and procurement into SMM programmes

Integrate tech into SMM to avoid penalties

Many meetings programmes loose money yearly in venue cancellation and attrition fees.

To avoid harsh penalties, establish reasonable fees and include them in a core set of company contract clauses. Standardise concessions too. Then, set these clauses and concessions to auto-populate on every eRFP your system creates.

Set a requirement for at least three hotels or venues per RFP to ensure competitive bidding. You’ll ratchet up both savings and compliance effortlessly. 

Features of the Cvent Supplier Network®, which when added to Strategic Meetings Management (SMM) programmes, act as vital requirements for consistent company-wide strategic planning and will also help to save costs. 

For example, the Source Safely venue sourcingTM hub has both an indoor and outdoor meeting space calculator to help planners understand their new space requirements, either with social distancing in mind or for reduced capacities due to digital add-ons. 

It also allows planners to track cancelled space credits from other divisions or areas of the business to ensure they don’t go unused in order to mitigate financial risk.

Preferred suppliers can be highlighted for multiple users to find more easily and a consistent RFP process will provide company-wide confidence that, not only are you getting the best rates, but you’ve also got oversight on the entire venue sourcing or hotel booking process, in order to analyse trends, savings, safety standards and supplier relationships. 

4) Communicate with suppliers

Communicate with your suppliers from the outset

The activities of your preferred suppliers pre-pandemic may not be the same post-pandemic.

For example, an AV supplier or production agency may now also provide green-screen virtual studio space, digital show-callers, pre-recording and streaming capabilities, plus virtual project managers.

Pre-Covid, equipment and technical suppliers charged on a line-by-line item hire basis.

Post Covid, these same suppliers have now adapted to offer hybrid packages and project fees, which may provide additional value for specialist expertise.

Negotiating with your in-room suppliers about what they now offer for digital events should be part of your budget setting from the outset.

5) Provide greater sponsor value

Provide sponsor value across both live and virtual

Generate additional income with sponsor-branded directories, pre-recorded content, live-streamed sessions, web pages, online networking events, blog posts, downloadable product brochures, chat lobbies and more. 

Ensure sponsor visibility beyond the duration of the event with additional podcasts, webinar series’, digital display advertising and social media takeovers.

Facilitate one-on-one virtual meetings between suppliers and attendees via online scheduling tools.

Invite sponsors to send push notifications through your mobile event app and give them the tools to drive interest in their product or service, with pre-session pre-roll video, gamification and dedicated online networking areas. 

For more guidance on event spend and workflow, check out Cvent's Planning Solutions hub

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Mike Fletcher

Mike has been writing about the meetings and events industry for almost 20 years as a former editor at Haymarket Media Group, and then as a freelance writer and editor. He currently runs his own content agency, Slippy Media, catering for a wide-range of client requirements, including social strategy, long-form, event photography, event videography, reports, blogs and ghost-written material.
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