Back in 2010, an article in Smart Meetings addressed the “do-more-with-less” complex many meeting designers still face today. The author identified that the concept was not likely to go away, even as the economy progressed, because leaders of organizations now saw they could still make due with less. The challenge, however, remains that expectations for delivering the best possible experience have not only stayed high, but have further increased due to the ability to access information through the internet and social media.

There are plenty of articles out there that offer suggestions on how to squeeze the last penny out of every dollar, and we’ll list some of the more useful ones at the end of the post, but perhaps the best advice for effective meetings on a budget comes from Jeffery Cufaude in an interview conducted by Meetings & Conventions. Cufaude said that “being more intentional in design does not necessarily mean spending more money. In fact, when greater intention is brought to bear on every design choice, planners might realize resources in some areas can be reallocated to others that will produce a greater return. Planners have to know what truly matters most to their stakeholders and invest accordingly.”

He continued to suggest that, “for highly desirable design decisions with lower doability due to resource constraints, planners could consider the biggest step forward that the available resources would support, instead of merely rejecting those ideas as undoable.”

Use the graph below to map the high-level elements of your meeting or event, based on feasibility and desirability, to see where they fall and decide how you can improve each of them. As you work through this exercise, you’ll discover ways to explore better ideas, consider the viability of others, and seek routes that lead you to the sweet spot of a high impact meeting or event.

Feasibility/Desirability Grid

High Feasibility, Low Desirability: Closely examine how important elements in this quadrant are. They may seem like a “given” for your meeting because they’re so accessible/easy, but consider if  they enhance the attendee experience? Elements in this quadrant have the most potential to create impact because they don’t cost a lot. EXPLORE ways to make them tie to your overall theme and you’ll see the desirability increase.

Low Feasibility, Low Desirability: Take a good, hard look at this section. If it’s expensive to produce and no one really has heart for it – you really have two options. Either you’ll want to make it more desirable by communicating its impact, or perhaps you’ll want to CONSIDER spending the money elsewhere.

Low Feasibility, High Desirability: There’s a lot of enthusiasm about the ideas in this quadrant, but they may be hard to pull off. One day, you can ASPIRE to get exactly what you want, but for now flex those creative muscles by thinking of ways to keep the general concept, but in a more budget-friendly way.

High Feasibility, High Desirability: This is the sweet spot where all aspects of your meeting should fall at show-time. Especially when working with a lower budget, you’ll want to exercise extreme thoughtfulness and make sure everything you do creates HIGH IMPACT.

Here are 10 other ideas to host an impactful meeting on a tight budget:

  1. Make sure the room set-up and flow of the space accommodate your meeting goals.
  2. Create visual conversation starters such as unusual centerpieces, interesting art, etc.
  3. Offer opportunities for active participation and interactivity among participants.
  4. Generate excitement and foster pre-event networking through social media.
  5. Manage your attendee count tightly especially when hotel and transportation are a factor.
  6. Consider all-inclusive options.
  7. Be flexible with dates to include off-season/off-peak times.
  8. Ask for special packages and deal promotions.
  9. Choose a venue with built-in décor or scenery.
  10. Add sponsorship opportunities.

A tight budget is no excuse for a lackluster meeting. If your meeting won’t be time well-spent and impactful  for participants, then you might want to consider other ways to relay your message. But fret not, if you follow the guidance above, you can be confident your low budget meetings will still be high impact meetings!

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