When hosting an event of any kind, the style and execution are crucial, as you are communicating the organisation’s identity directly to its stakeholders. How the event is perceived will in turn influence the perception guests have of the organisation and ultimately impact its reputation.

So what happens when there is a limited budget with high expectations? 

Fhulufhelani Nekhavhambe, Account Manager at Reputation Matters (PRISA PRISM Award Winners and TopSEO for 2012) says it is possible to match high expectations with a small budget, especially with some creative thinking and clever collaboration.

“These days, budgets are being kept as low as possible, yet event organisers are still expected to produce an enjoyable experience for guests,” says Nekhavhambe.

Fhulufhelani shares eight tips for creating a successful event on a shoestring budget:

1. ESTABLISH YOUR BUDGET – Before you do anything else, it is important to establish a precise budget. “Shoestring” to some might seem like a fortune to others, so know exactly how much you have to work with.

2. DEFINE YOUR GOAL – Next, know what it is you would like to achieve with that money. What is your main objective? Do you simply want to introduce your new product to 50 moms? Do you want 1000 students to try your new soft drink and then tell their friends about it? Or do you merely want to give your top 20 clients a great experience, thank them for their support and brag a bit about your latest achievements? Define your exact objective in as few words as possible and keep it top of mind throughout the process.

3. GET CREATIVE – Now that you know what you are trying to achieve and how much money you have to work with, it’s time to get creative. Every problem has a solution, and with some brainpower and initiative – and a touch of luck, (and of course Reputation Matters by your side!) – you will be surprised how many fantastic solutions there are to your budget problem. Brainstorm all the main elements of your event (venue, catering, invitations, entertainment etc.), either in one go or in separate sessions. Involve as many people as possible and write down every single idea, without analysing or judging it. Do it separately, as it requires a different frame of mind.  The next tip (finding a venue) is a perfect opportunity to practise your creative problem-solving.

4. FIND A COST-EFFECTIVE (BUT UNIQUE) VENUE – Upmarket establishments that are frequently used as event venues tend to be expensive. Rather think of a unique venue that will add to the success of the event without breaking the bank. For instance, if your launch is related to gardening, why not host it at a beautiful nursery or botanical gardens? Depending on your objective and theme, you could consider anything, including clubhouses, hangers, fruit farms, private homes, beaches, schools, karate studios, rooftops, smallholdings – any of these could be turned into a unique, cost-effective venue. Think outside the box!

When analysing your list of ideas, keep the following in mind: location, relevance to event theme, accessibility, safety and of course the availability of the facilities you’ll need to host your event.

Also consider a venue you could use at a time of day when the establishment is closed, thereby not cutting into their profit-making time.

If you do need a “regular” venue, it helps to establish a relationship with a specific venue, who might give you a great price for your repeat business.

5. COLLABORATE AND SHARE COSTS – To get more bang for your buck, you could consider co-hosting the event with a company or brand that is aligned to your own.  Not only do you have someone to share the costs of the event, you can also tap into one another’s databases and further expand your network. When you pool resources with a company in synergy with your own, the whole is often greater than the sum of its parts.

6. TRADE – Trading is happening more and more these days, especially among small businesses. If, for instance, you are launching a new clothing brand, why not find an up-and-coming musician who would be more than happy to spend two hours singing for your guests in exchange for a store voucher?  Maybe your event is to launch a new gym or yoga studio. You could find a caterer who would be delighted to do all the event’s catering in exchange for free yoga for six months. Everybody wins. If you need a photographer, rather than hire an expensive professional, find a couple of photography students who need to build up their portfolios and would be willing to take pictures for free.

7. DON’T ADVERTISE – NETWORK! – If you are inviting the general public to the event, you might consider the traditional advertising routes, i.e. newspaper and press advertising. But these are expensive options and why spend your precious budget on advertising when there is a free platform you can use? We’re talking about social of course. Create the event on Facebook and then get it out there to all your contacts, and tweet a link to the page so your twitter followers are aware of the event too. Ask other companies if you can advertise your event on their page – if it is aligned with their values and business, chances are they’ll say yes. There are also many websites where you can list your event at no cost – Google your location and “free event listings”. Many radio stations have online calendars where you can post your event and some of the local stations might even be happy for you to talk about your event on air. The saying “if you don’t ask, you don’t get” certainly applies here.

8. FIND ALTERNATIVES TO PRINTING – If you need to get a lot of information across to your guests, but don’t have the budget to print 20-page, full colour glossy brochures, get creative and find alternatives that might achieve the same result, at a fraction of the cost. You could for instance, have all the information put onto a CD – your only printing costs would be for the digitally printed “CD covers”. Or you could present the information to guests at the event and follow up with an email, reiterating the points you want them to remember.  Whatever you decide, make sure that your idea is relevant and adds to the brand, the event theme and the objective.

For more information on managing your events and investing in your reputation, visit www.reputationmatters.co.za or call 011 317 3861. We are also on Facebook www.facebook.com/yourreputationmatters and Twitter @ReputationIsKey

About Reputation Matters

Reputation Mattes is not just another PR company, we are so much more! We measure five core dimensions of the organisation using our unique RepudometerTM research tool to understand what is building or breaking down the reputation.

We have been looking after reputations for the past eight years, with at least a threefold return on investment for our clients.

Reputation Matters joined ECCO International Communications Network in 2012 and represents the network in South Africa.

For more information about reputation management visit www.reputationmatters.co.za. We are also on Facebook: www.facebook.com/yourreputationmatters and Twitter @ReputationIsKey