Budgeting Tips, Guidelines, Pitfalls
By Christy Lamagna, CMP, CMM, CTSM, and James S. Rota
Have you heard people say they’re a right-brain or left-brain thinker? Right-brainers tend to be creative and instinctual, left-brainers analytical and logical. That’s how Beauty & the Brain was born. Ideally, James Rota’s creativity meshes with Christy Lamagna’s strategic thinking to bring a well-rounded approach to events and budgeting tips.
From the Brain
Creating a budget is a careful blend of experience and guesswork. As a strategic planner, guesswork — even when based on experience — makes me itchy. So I do all I can to minimize my exposure to the unknown. I’m especially cautious with budgets. Once a bottom line is established, it’s very difficult to receive more funding. Here, then, are my best tips for avoiding a cash shortfall even when you’re budgeting for an event that is a year or more away.
- Negotiate that the pricing of food, room rental, AV, etc., is guaranteed at the time of contract signing. If the hotel will not agree, cap how much it can go up for each year between signing and event date. Then put that “worst case” number in your budget. Don’t forget the tax and service charges. It’s a rookie mistake to not realize the prices quoted on menus are without the “++” and one that will strike fear in your heart if you realize it after your budget has been approved.
- Look to the past year’s budgets to predict this year’s numbers. For instance, if you go over on your bar tabs, consider going forward with a per-hour rate to avoid overages. Conversely, if your banquet check shows few folks drank, then save dollars with a per-drink pricing structure. Or stick with wine and beer if you find that attendees aren’t drinking hard alcohol, when you’ve offered a full bar.
- Buy what you don’t need to rent. If you rent Polycoms on-site, buy one. You’ll save dollars and you can take the rental portion of the charge out of all future budgets. The same holds true with extension cords and power strips. They’re easy to pack and cheap enough to buy on-site if you don’t want to carry or pack them. My team does the same with printers. We donate them at the end of the program, so it’s a windfall to the budget and someone in need.
From the Beauty
No one enjoys being blindsided, so keep your eyes open, your guard up and ask as many questions as you can during pre-planning.
It’s great to have beautiful décor and an outstanding band to keep an event alive, but often we overlook costs like power drops in ballrooms and venues. Without this budget line item, you won’t have the “electricity” you need for the lights and sound system.
Ask questions before signing your contract. The bottom line can suffer if you don’t do your due diligence. Always negotiate the cost of additional meeting space as “if needed,” so that both parties have an agreed upon cost that can be placed in a line item titled “contingency,” versus being at the mercy of the supply and-demand mentality the day you learn your needs have changed.
Discuss opportunities for the costs of room deliveries and drops. Often bundling them — for instance, tying together the zip-up jacket with the water bottle in one package — could save on the per-drop price tag. Investigate the venue’s shipping policies and be sure to negotiate those costs in advance. Some venues typically add on a percentage and call it an administrative fee to cover storage and an inventory of those items.
Ask and you shall receive and remember there is beauty in knowledge!
Want more ideas? Email Christy.Lamagna@strategic.events.
Tags: Budgeting Tips, Guidelines, Pitfalls, Budgets, Budgeting, Tips, Event Planning, Event Planners, Strategic Planners, Strategic Events, Plan Your Meetings