Over the last 18 months, how we deliver events has shifted dramatically. Event organizers have had to throw out their budgeting plans and sort out new ways of understanding the costs and benefits of their event spend.
We’ve seen a lot of change and have helped our clients navigate this shift over the last two years. As we look to the future, change is not going to subside. Understanding how to budget new formats and content delivery will go a long way to make sure you deliver great events for your teams and stakeholders while making sure you are not wasting spend on anything that doesn’t support you message.
WHAT TYPE OF BUYER ARE YOU?
First, understand what type of buyer you are. Although every event and audience are unique, understanding the main type of buyer you and your organization are will help shape how you approach an RFP or ask from your team of vendors and partners.
Generally speaking, there are two types of buyers. Those who know what they WANT, and those who know what they NEED. Both are great places to start from, but they differ in how they approach budgeting. In the NEED camp, are typically designers, technical experts and event producers. The way they approach a vendor is with an RFQ or request for quote. They have a specific list of items that they want to acquire, instrument lists and specifications. They can be focused more on line-item pricing, because they know what to do with the equipment and don’t need a lot of support to make it happen.
In the WANT group, made up mostly of planners, internal teams, and C-Suite stakeholders, are a group of people who don’t know, nor want to know how the sausage is made. They just know it needs to look amazing and focus on their objectives. How a WANT buyer should approach a vendor is to give them a general budget and a set of objectives. This way, your production partner can use what they know about lights, video, audio and staging to build a solution that fits in your budget, rather than you trying to pick specific lights or video equipment.
KNOW THE TRUE COST OF THE RFP
You need to ask what your time is worth. Think of the time it takes to develop, review, approve and negotiate the RFP.
A few years back, I was in a conversation with an entrepreneur that was asking advice on some accounting and clerical tasks for his business. I immediately recommended that he hire a bookkeeper, a lawyer and a coach. Why? Because when he realized how much he was billing out, and that every hour he used on those tasks was a billable hour lost, he realized that paying those people $30-50/hr was much better than “spending” his time that was worth more to a potential client. Plus, that team could more efficiently accomplish those things, saving even more bandwidth and money, in the long run.
The same applies to your team. How many hours do you need to gather all the specific details you need for a quote? Your time is better spent working with your internal teams on the overall strategy rather than determining how many lights you can add to your event. Therefore, we always recommend talking about the event objectives and a general budget number to work towards. Leverage your partners to do what they do best.
FIT and FINISH
This may be a tired metaphor but let’s look at this like buying a car. If you need a vehicle with four wheels, an engine and a steering wheel to get you from point A to Point B, there are a lot of options out there. A Honda Civic is a very practical car that will last you for over 12 years if it is taken care of. However, it isn’t very flashy. If the team wants to be driving a Porsche, that is a very different price point. Both get you from one place to another, but the Porsche really makes an impact. You can get a wide variety of quotes from vendors when you are unclear on what the fit and finish will be for the event.
Be clear within your budgeting on how much you want to spend on the final look and feel.
KNOW THE MARKET
With the reality of the “The Great Resignation” and ongoing pandemic related supply chain issues, the reality is that some pricing is going to go up over the next few years. Staff will be harder to come by, supply of materials will be scarce for the foreseeable future and companies are going to have to find new and innovative ways to retool their budgets to meet this challenge.
You don’t have to spend all your time researching audio visual companies and their business projections for the future. You do need to keep in contact with your potential vendors, their sales teams, and other colleagues in the event industry to stay up to speed.
Scheduling a check in call with your partners every few months is a valuable way for you to keep up with what is really happening on the ground. Especially if you are in more of the “Know What I Want” column, this kind of market check in will allow you to pre-screen and get to know potential RFP respondents when your event budgeting is ready to get started.
If you want to get ahead of budgeting your next event, knowing how you buy, where to buy from and a good focus on your objectives first will set you up for success.
Matthew Byrne is founder and president of Byrne Production Services, which provides production services for hybrid, virtual and live events. The company offers a budgeting calculator that can help with your next event production.