Effective Ways to Elevate Your Event Experience – Even on a Reduced Budget!
In 2008/2009, many of you will remember the ugly term that was born – the ‘AIG Effect’. It meant many different things to those of us challenged to produce quality events with reduced budgets, re-scoped meetings & entertainment, and oh-by-the-way, we may be canceling this annual event all together.
It’s amazing how resourceful you become when you have to! I’m actually grateful for that period of time; in 2009 it caused us to start re-examining event components to see how we could still produce an amazing experience, deliver it with 25% less budget AND assure the Executive Team that attendees would come away feeling great about attending.
You might relate to this scenario; a mid-sized company had been through multiple lay-offs, executive re-structuring and declining sales. At the time, the idea of holding the annual Holiday Event seemed insensitive, fiscally irresponsible and lavish given the circumstances, and yet – to take it away most certainly meant a hit to employee morale (which was already suffering) and the perception of another ‘benefit’ disappearing; this decision caused a huge Executive dilemma.
Out of preservation, a holiday event plan emerged that addressed each concern and helped create a positive perception around this event (which still remains one of my all-time favorite events to date!):
- From insensitive –> to an event with a purpose, that all guests felt good about
- From fiscally irresponsible → to an event that cost 27% less over previous years
- From seemingly lavish → to warm, comfortable & inviting
The Executive Team was quick to approve the idea.
A silent auction was incorporated (benefiting Make A Wish Foundation) which gave the event a definite purpose. Even though this was a staff holiday event , usually held to appreciate their year-long efforts…everyone was excited to include this element. Employees became actively involved in procuring items, setting up the auction & then bidding! This element cost nothing for the company to add – BUT it was a huge source of entertainment at the event. The goal was to satisfy the wish of 1 child…but the auction actually raised enough to take care of 3 wishes!
To achieve the 27% cost reduction, there were 3 important changes:
- Instead of placing the event in an elaborate venue (with rental fees to match!) a full buy-out was arranged in a gorgeous restaurant, well-known for it’s cuisine & wine…where the Chef had participated in Iron Chef. They were surprisingly reasonable.
- In years past, top name bands & entertainment had been hired. That year, local (awesome!) entertainers were sourced and put to work. Performers were suffering from lack of work during that time, so this decision was one that employees felt great about → “Putting our Local Performers to Work!” By creating a program highlighting each performer & how guests could continue to see & support them, everyone was excited to learn about talent right in their own community. The entertainment line-up included: Dickens Carolers, a seasoned Actor that performed as a ‘Still-Life Scrooge’, 3 Aerialists, 2 Stilt-walkers, a Corporate Burlesque Dancer and a band that was a huge talent.
- Choosing a location that had built in ambiance & was the inspiration to the theme, without incorporating costly decor. This particular building was reminiscent of the movie ‘A Christmas Carol & Scrooge’ hence a ‘Dickens with a Twist’ was born (incidentally, the ghosts of Christmas past, present & future were represented by the playful burlesque, the artful aerialists & the looming stilt-walkers! 🙂
The post-event survey left no doubt that the Executive Team had made the right decision by proceeding with the Holiday event that year… it was apparent from employee comments that the goals had been achieved; morale was affected in nothing but a positive way.
We are always challenged to learn when it comes to events…and as always – I am thankful for the lesson here, that allowed us to actually elevate the experience – even on a budget!!