How to Make Your 2019 Event Budget Work in 2023

By Marvin McTaw, CEO of Sched


Inflation is higher than it’s been in forty years. As costs dramatically increase, most event budgets seem stuck in 2019.

While inflation is hurting many consumers, the post-pandemic demand for in-person events and business travel is creating hyperinflation in the B2B event space. Travel, accommodation, and food have all been hit hard. Supply chains suffer from disruptions, and we’re facing new labor challenges.  

The result? There’s never been a more difficult time for event planners on a budget. By some estimates, event planners now require 45% more budget today than they needed in 2019.

As we move into 2023, how can event planners prioritize expenses and maximize limited budgets without scrimping on quality? There’s no magic way to fit a pre-pandemic budget into today’s cost structure without making hard choices. The strategies below will help you stretch your event budget, while keeping attendees happy.

  1. Extend Your Planning Cycle

Start planning twice as early. The earlier you start, the more leverage you’ll have down the line. Anticipate spending more time researching vendors and negotiating on price. The more competitive quotes you consider, the more options you’ll have to lower your costs.

  1. Stick with the Same Vendors

Are you organizing multiple events? Once you’ve researched potential competitors, increase your negotiating power by committing to that vendor over a longer period of time. You are likely to receive a bigger discount if you can increase the value of the relationship.

This same approach also improves the quality of the event, and makes life a little easier for the event planner.

  1. Double Down on Logistics

Put an iron-tight build-up and breakdown plan in place. By planning efficiently and minimizing your set-up, you could shave venue fees by avoiding additional set-up days. 

Most attendees are forgiving if you don’t use the latest technology. Skip the bells and whistles, and focus on a minimal set-up that delivers your event content. 

  1. Invest in Event Management Software 

Time is money. Investing in event planning software is a great way to control costs, while freeing up your time for planning. 

Event scheduling software can significantly reduce expenses such as printing and postage costs for invitations, surveys, name badges, session attendance lists, etc. 

Be careful not to overspend, though. It can be difficult to figure out the cost of these platforms, which range from a few dollars to $40 per attendee!

  1. Contact Hotels Directly for Reduced Rates  

Do you need to book accommodation for attendees, speakers, and team members?Ask for a reduced room rate if your event venue is a hotel. It’s common practice to receive a discount if your event takes place onsite. 

If you’re booking multiple rooms for a large group, you may be eligible for a group rate, too. Rather than booking online, contact the hotel’s sales team directly with an overview of your requirements.

  1. Rethink Your When & Where

Venue costs can burn a massive hole in any event budget. If you have the luxury of flexibility, two questions can massively reduce costs – when and where?

Rental rates fluctuate hugely depending on the time and day of the week. Where possible, avoid hosting your event during the weekend. Consider a weekday and skip the peak time price tag. 

Strategically select a venue that’s well-connected to public transportation hubs. You’ll minimize potential costs, such as taxis and shuttles. Aside from the cost reduction, your attendees and team will thank you for the convenience.

  1. Check What’s Included

Ask your vendors if their quote includes any extras.

For example, most professional event venues include AV and technical equipment within the rental fee. Some catering companies offer waiting staff and the rental of crockery. You may pay a premium for special requests, though. 

This can go the other way, too. If you’re happy to roll up your sleeves, some venues will drop their prices if you take on post-event cleaning. 

  1. Crunch Down on Catering Costs

Catering has a big impact on any event budget. However, food often ranks high on an attendee’s priority list. So don’t scrimp here. There are simple and effective ways to minimize catering costs, though. 

Consider limiting your menu to vegetarian options. It’s more budget-friendly than meat and fish, while being a better choice for the environment. 

How do you plan to serve and plate food? Seated dinners eat budgets fast. As well as food, you need to invest in staff, cutlery, furniture rental, etc. A buffet set-up is more economical. You’ll reduce costs and give attendees a chance to network and mingle. 

  1. Lean on Alternative Revenue Sources

Try charging a nominal fee, even if the event was free previously. If that doesn’t work, attendees can provide additional revenue streams beyond ticket sales. For example, you could sell:

  • Event merchandise
  • Drink tickets
  • Premium food options
  • Season passes for multiple events 
  • Ticket insurance
  • Advertising packages  
  • Upgraded seating options
  • Access to the attendee database
  • Exclusive networking sessions
  • Access to on-demand content after the event
  • Skip the queue option
  • VIP ticket packages that include a bundle of the above

Whatever you offer, it must be of value to your attendees. Ensure that the sale price is appropriate for the event and higher than the production cost.

  1. Go Hybrid

Add a hybrid component to your in-person meeting. Putting your event online gives it a life well after it’s taken place. You’ll potentially reach more people in the long run and generate interest for future events. Adding a hybrid component doesn’t have to cost more but creates an opportunity to extend the event’s connection to attendees.


Rising inflation in a post-pandemic world is hitting event budgets everywhere. To overcome the struggles of limited funds, remember the following when planning your 2023 event:

  • Smart budget allocation
  • Advance planning
  • Finding alternative revenue sources
  • Prioritizing customer-facing strategies
  • Streamlining when possible and appropriate 

Remember that negotiation is your key to success. Many event vendors face the same issues as event organizers. Approach them with the mentality of finding solutions together, and they’ll likely be empathic to restricted budgets.

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