How to Budget for Hybrid Events
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Event budgeting is a discipline that your either love or loathe. And it’s just become more complex with the emergence of hybrid events. These events are fast becoming the event of choice for many planners today and it’s important to understand the critical budgeting issues that can come about to keep things on track.
In this post, we look at some of the main issues organizers need to take into consideration when putting together budgets for their hybrid events.
Set the Scene
Before you start deliberations around your budget, it’s worth looking at what impact you want your event to have? What message do you want your attendees and stakeholders to take away?
To the novice, budgeting might simply be an exercise to reduce as many costs as possible, or to reduce the number of budget line items. And whilst this is part of budgeting, it is not the only driver. A savvy event professional understands that budgeting and brand impact are entwined. It’s a relationship that is always under scrutiny.
Remember that a rush to find the cheapest providers could have a detrimental effect on the impact of your event. Whilst it is a generalisation, cheap usually implies that something has needed to be left out. For example, with event tech, a low price could mean that the data protection is not as robust as it should be.
Related read: How to choose a virtual event platform
It’s super important therefore to look at the overall quality and value that comes from providers. It is too easy to head for the lowest price. Which is why most planners will carry out comparison exercises, even with trusted suppliers. All buyers want to feel that they have negotiated a good deal.
Decide What You Need
Budget for the products and services that will be needed by both virtual and on-site attendees. Many event planners will be familiar with budgeting for an in-person event so we will touch on the virtual element here.
To enable the content to be captured and then distributed to your virtual attendees, you will require web streaming technology. To operate the technology, you will need crew. This will be additional crew to the production team that are contracted for the room, sound and vision.
You should also budget for a virtual host or presenter. There will be times when your hybrid event will require someone to look after the virtual delegates and explain what is coming up. The value of a virtual host should not be underestimated. Some planners choose to use one of their company employees as a virtual host. However, a professional host provides a strong ROI and should be carefully considered. It is not just another budget line-item expense.
Related read: 5 reasons why your event needs a virtual host
It is stating the obvious, but duplication of budget line items needs to be avoided. Whilst you have two sets of attendees, you don’t need to incur double the expenses. Consider the expense items that are shared by both audiences.
Let’s take the example of a speaker. You contract a speaker for an agreed fee. Both sets of attendees get to see the speaker. In fact, the speaker is really good and there is a lot of interaction amongst all attendees. At the end of the session, you send your in-person attendees for a refreshment break. But in the spur of the moment, you decide that you would like your virtual attendees to hear more from the speaker and run a quick Q&A on the back of it. In hindsight, it would have been useful to have discussed this requirement before agreeing the speakers’ fee. Thinking in advance will help with all your budget negotiations.
Other potential duplication issues to consider include things such as audience interaction technology for voting, Q&A etc. Clearly, you’d be better off with a tech solution that works for both sets of attendees.
Mind the Gap
If you only focus on avoiding duplication, your run the risk that you might miss an item that is needed. It’s time to carry out a gap analysis. That’s why it is a good idea to have a checklist that shows two columns, one column for necessary items for in-person attendees and another one for virtual.
As well as attendees, you should also include columns for what is needed for your other stakeholders, such as speakers, sponsors, and exhibitors. As you go through what is needed, you will spot any gaps that need to be addressed.
For example, registration is a key item that can become unnecessarily expensive. It usually happens when an event planner decides that it would be good to add new ticket type to their existing event. Like adding a virtual attendee ticket to what was originally an in-person only event. With a registration system already in use, you’ll need to figure out if your system has the flexibility to add additional categories of attendees.
If it can, great. But if it cannot, then you are going to be using two separate registration systems which is at best messy. Plus, it means double the work for you as you will have to analyse data from separate tech stacks. It is much better to use a registration system that can be used for both in-person and virtual attendees.
Remember the User Experience
When budgeting for hybrid events, it’s always a good idea to keep the user experience top of mind. Every single decision you make when deciding on how much to allow for a budget, what to leave out and what is essential, will be reflected in the final quality of your hybrid event.
If you want a high-performance polished event, then it’ll unlikely that you will want to use free tech tools or engage speakers that are still learning their craft. So you should allow enough flexibility within your budget to spend more money as needed.
Don’t forget to include a line item for contingency spending. You never know what is likely to unexpectedly crop up. It’s best to give yourself some wiggle room with the finances.
Conclusion – Budgeting is Changing, Be Flexible
No one would argue that the impact of Covid has changed the events industry for good. What people need from events has changed. The way businesses communicate with their stakeholders has changed. And when it comes to budgets and how we approach them, well that needs to change too.
Before Covid, many felt the need to keep reducing the production spend. It’s hard to understand why as production spend has always been important. It’s especially the case now as we enter the world of hybrid events.
Our advice, make sure you have sufficient budget to realise the expectations of your hybrid event. The events market is becoming more competitive than ever before – doing things that help your events stand out will certainly help!
Considering hybrid events? Eventsforce offers a fully integrated technology platform that makes it easy for you to create engaging experiences for both on-site and virtual attendees – from registration and agenda management to audience engagement, live streaming, networking, contactless check-in and apps. Learn more.