Stu Katzen asks whether an event is about the budget or about the event.

That horrible elephant in the room. Sitting there, balefully staring at me and the client going “What Me?”

Boojay…as they say in the ads. Budget baby, budget!

I had a client come to me and tell me that they wanted me to create a truly memorable six star experience for 100 guests. I could “go to town”. Make it special and “create something that everyone there would remember”.

I asked for a budget… the answer… $10,000.

Dryly I replied “is that inclusive of GST?”

In an ideal world there would never be such a thing as budgets, but as we all know that is a fantasy. KPI, ROI and a dozen other acronyms all demand the same thing. Watch the bucks and make it count. I am however, a firm believer that while your budget can dictate certain things, it should not curtail your event. There are many ways to skin that ole budget cat.

Sometimes we get caught up in what we need to spend in order to make the event or the experience work and let’s face it, budget sure does help. But ultimately it is the concept and idea that should drive the event and therefore if something is too expensive, try try try again.

Now I do realise I have already used more that my fare share of platitudes and cheesy one liners in this article and we are not even halfway in, but the truth is, that sometimes the event should not be about the budget!

These days so many events are run from the accounting or finance department and I seem to spend a lot of time sitting with CFOs and financial controllers waiting for them to sign off on budgets and yes, even concepts!

In a recent study, the outcome was that it is still events and experientials that have the biggest cut through and the most engagement and definitely more so than digital.

It is only events and experientials that have the ability to truly engage your market on a one to one basis; the ability to deliver definitive information to a captive and defined audience; and finally the ability to follow that up with a handshake, a drink and conversation about how cool the show was, or how amazing, funny, sad, explosive, or enlightening the shared piece of entertainment was and all done in real time. So why are corporates ploughing huge money into digital and social media at the expense of events? I had a client that hosted a regular event. Only three per cent of their customer base attended that event and they felt the event wasn’t getting enough traction and the money spent on the events could be better spent elsewhere.

What they chose to not understand was that the money they spent on that event created a group of dedicated, die hard, sold in, hard core, repeat brand ambassadors that attended every event and then went out and spread the word and kept the customer base growing.

Every cent spent on those events was worth it and the event was one of the major things that set that brand apart from others like it and kept it so dynamic. Budget and spend should never have played a part in the decision to move that spend into other areas.

Budgets are there to keep us creative types somewhat on the page, amongst other reasons. As an events agency, I am entrusted to work to a budget. A good agency will always advise their client if they think the client’s expectations are unrealistic, based on their budget. I always work with my clients to define what they can or cannot do with their budget as it stands. However, your budget is there to be spent, so as the client don’t be afraid to tell your creative agency what you plan to spend. So much better then expecting them to guess.

I will never forget years ago, sitting in on a creative meeting with a creative agency and their client. The agency was tearing their hair out as the client refused to give them a budget and stated that as a creative agency it was the agency’s job to come up with an idea that worked, yet each idea and budget was shot down in flames as either too expensive, or not right, or both. When the agency finally asked the client to “please tell them what they wanted and what their budget was” the client response was “that is your job to work out”.

The learning from this is, don’t work with that client, but also: spend what you need to make what you need happen and happen well. Don’t skimp and don’t go too crazy. You don’t have to spend a million to create a good event, but don’t try and push that proverbial elephant into a thimble.

All that will happen is you will hurt the elephant and break the thimble.