Don't confuse value with cheap price.
The economy is ... somewhere. While many event professionals across the country are busy, the work is still coming in somewhat randomly and economic pressure is still a norm.
With budgets being scrutinized, clients keep asking us to do the same or more for less, or at least last year's prices. They want (or internal bosses are demanding) good value for their dollar. And yet, it continues to seem as though clients are swapping the word "value" for "cheap price."
In my opinion, cheap price does not equal good value, though you may find good value at a cheap price.
I am not advocating that vendors shouldn't help out their clients when there's a need for a lower price. Absolutely the opposite. Being a good vendor is about being a good partner, and as a good business partner we work very hard to understand the client's needs and wants, to define goals and objectives, and to create solutions that deliver against those objectives while adhering to their limitations.
Regardless of the budget, working together to create cost-effective solutions is always the way to go. That said, vendors shouldn't discount just to discount so they can grab an extra piece of business. Doing so is shortsighted and takes away any real value from the vendor's brand. Good service and great ideas will always be valued and paid for. And in creative solutions, cost reductions can be found as long as the players in the project have clearly identified what they value in the first place.
Ask your clients, "What value do we want to get out of this event? Who is attending and what do they want to take away with them? What do you want from them? What are you trying to teach, to learn, to share or experience? Do we need a general session? Does anyone really want name entertainment on opening night? Would the event be better with fewer people and higher-level discussions? Is our education track working? Is the networking earning anyone any business?"
Once you have identified the items which the organization or the attendees value, you can make good investment decisions on how to spend the budget for the greatest return. And here's a tip for event designers: present your design concepts and budgets in terms of organizational values. This provides leverage for you to justify why you made the décor, entertainment or food choices you did. It allows you to design the event to your client's needs and values rather than designing simply to a theme or to tradition.
Design Tip: Adding Value to Décor
Having no décor at all is preferable to décor that looks cheap. But there are solutions that add value and still look good. Consider centerpieces. If the right size/scale centerpieces for your tables cost more than you have to spend, invest your limited dollars on proper-sized pieces for half of the tables and place candles on the rest. Or build impact pieces at the entrance and on stage instead of on the tabletop.
Event Solutions magazine
by Ryan Hanson
Ryan Hanson, CSEP is a visionary designer and event producer at BeEvents in Minneapolis and is design editor of Event Solutions magazine.