Executive Speakers Bureau: How to Make Your Event Look Like a Million Bucks (Even with a Limited Budget)

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Create an exciting and noteworthy experience for your audience regardless of budget constraints.

by Richard Schelp, Co-Owner, Executive Speakers Bureau

Creating an exciting and noteworthy experience for audiences is of primary importance to event planners, regardless of the budget available to them. While it does take a bit more creative planning when given a smaller budget, the opportunity to present something “big” is well within reach and consideration of a few key points in the planning process will strongly influence the final outcome. Based on both your previous experiences with them and their solid track record, you already know the keynote speaker you have booked for your event is going to deliver a moving presentation. Thus, your source of nervousness is neither the keynote speaker nor the keynote address but how to make sure that the overall event is stellar, despite your rather slim budget. It is a question Richard Schelp, president and co-owner of Executive Speakers Bureau, often gets and here he offers a few key pieces of advice on how to create a first-class event even with a limited budget:

Time Slot
Consider hosting your event on a weekday, during breakfast hours. You would be surprised at how many people create space on their busy calendars so they can be motivated and inspired before the start of a workday. cityCURRENT, a Memphis nonprofit with which Richard and ESB co-founder Angela Schelp often work in booking speakers, has its own Signature Breakfast series. These weekday events begin and end early enough (typically 7 to 9:30 a.m.) so as to allow business leaders and professionals the chance to attend without feeling as though they will “miss out” on things at the office. An early event also creates the opportunity to present a catered menu, if so desired, that can be fabulously filling at a fraction of the cost associated with a luncheon or evening presentation.

Catering Considerations
A limited buffet will be your best bet- and limited need not mean unappealing. On the contrary, a breakfast buffet can be filling enough to please the busy entrepreneur who wants to be satisfied but not stuffed and light enough that your budget will love you for going with this option. Food offerings such as croissants, pastries, fruit trays, fruit juices and coffee (don’t forget the decaf option!) will cost you far less than the same size event held at lunchtime requiring sandwiches, side items and soft drinks.

Manpower: Volunteers
It takes a team- and teamwork- to create an environment wherein everything progresses smoothly, even if behind the scenes there are numerous snags that have had to be addressed. When operating on a limited budget, consider bringing in a group of volunteers who will thoroughly enjoy being part of the event and have a vested interest in being there, perhaps because of the speaker and/or her keynote address. Volunteer organizations have made it easy for volunteers to be matched with upcoming events, at no cost to either the host/planner or the volunteers themselves. Be sure that your volunteers are easily identifiable by wearing visible badges, t-shirts, etc., indicating they are to help in any capacity needed.

Save money-and trees- by going digital. If you don’t already have a social media consultant, there are many who freelance and can be hired to cover just the event at hand. Most people, especially professionals to whom your event is geared, check their inboxes before they do their mailboxes. A skilled social media consultant can ensure that the details of your event reach your audience, provide reminders for your audience, and reel in those whom you may have missed yet would be a vital asset to your existing audience. Don’t underestimate the importance of having someone designated to getting the word out over mediums such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. We are fully ingrained in the age of technology and this is one area in which your expenditure might pale in comparison to your return.

There’s a reason shows such as American Idol and The Voice are so popular. We grasp the understanding that those “ordinary” people with whom we interact every day could very well have extraordinary talents. The only difference between them and the established or celebrity performer is the price tag. If you choose to have entertainment at your event, consider hiring a local band, school choir or vocalist on the verge of being discovered (you’ll get bragging rights following her big break!) Many will oblige for the exposure, experience and opportunity to do what they love to do, even if not paid a whole lot to do so. Remember, your audience members are there to be inspired and your “star” is your speaker- so take a chance a put someone on stage who will make you feel proud and save you pennies. Lots of them.

The Speaker
Be honest with both yourself and the speaker about the available budget. If there is a gap between the speaker’s usual fees and what the budget allows, consider partnering with another organization or selling a sponsorship for your event speaker. Giving sponsors the opportunity to introduce your speaker as well as additional marketing and publicity benefits are generally a great selling point, and they can cover your speaker’s budget!

If there is a speaker from whom your audience would greatly benefit but whose fee is just beyond your scope of reach, ask your speaker to consider leading a breakout session as part of the deal. Oftentimes, you may find that your keynote speaker budget is stand-alone from your remaining event budget (i.e. breakout sessions), which allows you to pull some extra resources and essentially get two events for the price of one.

Hopefully these tips have helped guide you in the direction of having a stellar event with the proper price tag. If not, our staff at Executive Speakers Bureau is always available to help you brainstorm on how to put on the perfect event without breaking the bank.

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Angela Schelp

Janna Herbison
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