Meetings

Smaller Meeting Budget or Fewer Resources? No Problem.

By / Aug 1, 2019 (bagi1998/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

A new report from American Express Meetings & Events says that planners can still deliver an excellent event experience, even if they lack the money or other resources they desire.

Think having a smaller budget or fewer resources for an event means that it won’t be as successful? Think again.

A new report from American Express Meetings & Events, called “In-Depth Look at the Event Experience: What Marketing Owners Want,” dives into how meeting planners can set objectives and design unique experiences while balancing the realities of logistics and budget. Among the suggestions in the report:

Know When to Test New Ideas

According to the report, groups typically run two “streams” of events. The first is programmatic. “These events are the mainstays of the organization’s effort to maintain a strong brand presence,” the report says. In the world of associations, this could be your annual meeting or other smaller meetings that you host on a regular basis.

The second stream consists of ad hoc events produced on demand to meet the immediate needs of an organization. They are often smaller and involve quick turnarounds.

The report recommends that organizations save experiments and other innovative elements for mainstay events that have more lead time and steady budget: “Consider identifying a few smaller programmatic events and using those to test news ideas on a small scale to see what works, then roll out the winning ideas to larger events.”

Plan Smaller Events to Boost Impact

To “do more with less,” the report suggests that organizations and event marketers should host smaller events because not only are they budget-friendly, but they also offer “new opportunities to connect in real and personal ways with their intended audience.”

Some associations have already adopted this strategy. For example, the American College of Prosthodontists has its Digital Dentistry Symposium, a two-day niche-topic meeting. While most associations are looking to get more people in seats, ACP intentionally capped attendance at 200 for its 2018 program.

“Our attendees and sponsors seem to like this meeting because it’s focused and much more intimate,” said Executive Director Linda Caradine-Poinsett. “Annual meetings or conferences are great for one-stop shopping, but if you’re looking for something more specific, a small meeting can work well.”

Have Plans to Manage Uncertainty

Things like weather and air travel can introduce uncertainty into an event. “The heart of this uncertainty, however, sits squarely on the variance between expected and actual event attendance,” the report says. “The best planned event can be sabotaged by attendance that is significantly lower, or higher, than anticipated.”

This means that planners, marketers, venues, and vendors need to be agile, creative, and able to accommodate attendance variance in real time, even if that means redesigning the meeting.

To more accurately predict attendance numbers, the report suggests that organizations should invest in “highly individualized attendee engagement prior to the event.” What does that look like? It could include making phone calls to prospects to present the meeting concept and extend a personal invite, gathering attendee input into meeting design and content, and developing personalized content and activities for attendees.

What’s one thing your association has done to make the most of a smaller event budget? Tell us about it in the comments.

Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editorial director of Associations Now. More »

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