A small budget doesn’t mean you can’t be bold, says Belle Laide Events’ Mark Taylor.

BY MARK TAYLOR
mark@bellelaideevents.com.au

An industry peer recently said to me that “creativity is great in events if you’ve got the money to spend”. My response was pretty much the absolute opposite and low and behold, a great debate ensued. It was more like banter but regardless it ended with one of us retreating, waving the white flag (insert industry peer). It simply came down to the fact that creativity requires you doing your research and using your resources.

By being resourceful (i.e. stepping up to a challenge), and most importantly working with our suppliers, we’ve quickly learnt that there truly are many ways to add creative punch even when the purse strings are a little tight.
First and foremost, your suppliers are always your best allies. In the early planning stages of your event, put in a few phone calls to specifically see if they’ve added any new stock or seen anything that may be worth considering for your next project.

Recently in the exact same scenario, our AV suppliers (Innovative Production Services) helped us as we wrestled with a small budget with big intentions for a music industry event. They made mention of some fake, yet very cool, perspex audio speakers that were used in a recent production. We repurposed these props to create a huge internally lit event feature wall (at a hire cost not custom-built cost) that saved our client thousands of dollars. The “don’t ask, don’t get” statement rings true in every sense of the creative hunt.
In recent years we have been creating and utilising a lot of large scale print applications in client events – cardboard, foam-core, re-board – I love it all. Once you understand the printable sheet sizes, best practice and ways to use it, your signage in events can take on a completely different look, presence and even depth.

Let’s take the classic conference stage setting for example. Naturally, most clients have their content and presentation completely nailed and the stage itself is often left as a blank oasis with a pull-up banner or two sometimes standing awkwardly on either side. These wobbly banners can be easily replaced with giant three-dimensional colourful printed foam-core cubes.
We’ve used foam-core to make five-metre tall mountains, four-metre tall pirate ships and two-metre crocodiles, all in the name of Neverland – a Never Grow Up staff incentive for a corporate Christmas party. The result led to the story book literally coming to life. Best of all, it’s flexible, lightweight, reusable, flat-packs for storage and it’s recyclable at the end of its life.

You don’t have to custom-make everything. There’s some great off the shelf products too. Check out the modular cardboard architectural system known as the Nomad wall from Mio Culture (www.mioculture.com.au).
What I’m getting at is that creativity doesn’t have to be tricky. Simplicity sometimes sits best pending the style and overall presentation of your event. Has everyone discovered Etsy yet? www.etsy.com is such a great site to find some incredibly talented and crafty folk offering possible cost effective event inclusions, invites, name tags, or even centrepieces in all forms for your consideration. If you search hard enough, you’ll find some great quality design solutions out there.
The event centrepiece is always a great debate – be creative with the budget allocation. Not every table has to have the same object on it. Alternate two different (yet complimenting) centrepieces across the tables with the second being a more cost effective element. Again, en-masse it looks really effective and saves money in the process.

Desktop 3D printers have us drooling at the moment. These are going to allow designers and event planners a great opportunity to custom-make centerpieces to suit a client’s brand to the finest detail at a fraction of the cost. This technology is constantly evolving and a fantastic bridge between creative crafting and technology.

Budgets of all sizes and scope will land in your lap, all the time. So instead of waving that little white flag recognise it as a creative challenge. Invest a little time, ask your peers and know that there’s something creative out there. You just have to look.