14 Strategies to Win a Bigger Event Budget

Aprilynne Pike

What’s the ultimate ROI for an event? For an event manager, it’s getting the green light to run another event. Preferably with a bigger budget. So how do you get the nod from your stakeholders?

After several years of cancellations and digital-only events, the demand for in-person and hybrid events is rising. According to the American Express North America 2023 Meetings & Events Trends survey, 90% of events in 2023 will have an in-person component, with over 60% strictly in-person. Also, 52% of marketers expect to spend more on in-person events in 2023. 

With events more important than ever, and attendees excited to meet face-to-face, the time is right to seek more funds. A bigger event budget isn’t everything, but it can get you some key elements that help you hit even more of your KPIs. Now might be an advantageous time to aim for that increase.

Asking for more money is always challenging, especially with stakeholders accountable to their own budgets. Inevitably, stakeholders will ask why you deserve the money and “because I want it” will not cut it.  Even if we wish it could.

Whether you’re planning a hybrid or in-person-only event, with the right strategies—and the correct data—securing the additional funds may be easier than you think.  What you need is a solid plan. You might not use all of these strategies (14 is a lot!) but pick a few of the most applicable, and go in ready to make a solid argument.

1. Request the actual amount you need

Don’t ask for an indeterminate amount of money. The answer will be no. Instead, figure out how much money you need to help make the event successful. Explain why you’re asking for the money, and how you intend to spend it. Show what your bigger event budget buys. Stakeholders will take your request seriously if you have a concrete plan for the money.

2. Let your stakeholders define success

Giving your stakeholders what they want is always a winning strategy. But first, you need to know how stakeholders view success. Once you understand their vision and goals, you can use ROI metrics to demonstrate how the additional money will help achieve their expectations. Stakeholders will have difficulty turning you down if you deliver on their vision.

3. Remember, data is king

Data is your friend when requesting more money. The more you can measure and quantify results, the stronger the case for boosting your event budget. With the many event technology tools available, you can access loads of data, probably more than you need. Data helps you analyze event success, attendee engagement, and ROI to back up the ask.

4. Track the right metrics

To justify a bigger event budget, focus on quantifiable and outcome-oriented metrics affecting your company’s performance—even if they aren’t measurable in dollars. Here are some data points to track:

  • Registration-to-attendee attrition rates
  • C-level or decision-maker attendees
  • Attendees from target accounts
  • Win-rate improvements
  • Net-New qualified contacts added to your database
  • Net-New leads generated
  • Demos/meetings held at or after the event

5. Sell the benefits

Highlight the benefits of having a bigger event budget. The benefits can be trackable—direct revenue, customer acquisition, upward-trending leads-to-pipeline flow—or conceptual—customer loyalty, brand equity, and audience engagement. For example, if you want $2,000 to book a keynote speaker, explain the impact of the action. Is the keynote speaker an influencer in the market who can attract more attendees, especially ICPs? Having more attendees means more potential sales leads. Be as specific as possible as to how the company benefits.

6. Compare overhead costs

If your event generated a significant profit, don’t reinvent the wheel. Instead, compare the overhead costs and revenue to determine why the event succeeded. To see which marketing tactics brought in the most revenue, compare by campaign or promo code. If most of your audience registered through social media ads, it makes sense to increase your advertising budget.

7. Ensure your goals are SMART

SMART goals stand for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. 

Here’s a sample:

SMART goals for events team

Identifying SMART goals helps determine if the event is a success, and identify the areas needing further investment.

8. Align event goals and business objectives

Ensure your event goals and business objectives are aligned to determine where to spend the most money. If the goal of your event is to increase brand awareness, the extra money could be earmarked to produce more eye-catching ads, a better website, or to order in branded swag.

9. Share the savings

While asking for more money, point out some areas where you’ve already saved money. (You know, like having a user-based event management platform.) In doing so, you demonstrate that you understand the financial constraints and are only asking for necessary funds. Show that you’re willing to be flexible on line items that have less impact … if you can have extra budget for line items that do.

10. Present ideas as solutions to business needs

Is your organization having trouble generating new leads or gaining attention for a new product? Demonstrate your understanding of current business challenges by presenting your request as a solution.  If you want to add on a mobile event app, explain how it will streamline the attendee experience and reduce staffing expenses because attendees can use it to self-check in.

11. Evaluate past events

Review data and budgets from previous events for successes, and areas of improvement. Past event ROI and KPIs can help justify your own bigger event budget expectations. For example, if you notice you overspent on audio-visual costs, you may need to increase the budgeted amount. Showing the impact of the audio-visual will help win you some extra wiggle room.

12. Know your C-suite

Make sure you know who you’ll need to approach for the extra money, and whether they’re likely to support your idea. Talk to colleagues, or look at the execs’ LinkedIn profiles, to get a sense of their personalities. If you need to meet with a group, try to align your ideas with at least one person, so you have a champion to help build consensus. 

Here are a few other tips when meeting with the C-suite:

  • Clearly articulate the issue
  • Be clear and concise; stick to a specific agenda
  • Keep the meeting on time
  • Ask a colleague or mentor to give you feedback on your presentation
  • Bring data to back up your proposal

13. Be prepared to address objections

You will almost always get pushback when asking for more money. Take the time to think about the request from their point of view and use data to address the anticipated objections. Collect insights to back up your argument. If stakeholders recommend live streaming the event to broaden its reach, you have a chance to explain that high-quality video equipment is vital for producing an impactful live stream. And that costs money.

14. Do your research

As the saying goes, knowledge is power. Knowing what to expect will give you more leverage when asking for a bigger event budget. Find out what’s happening with budgets in other departments—is the company looking to cut costs? This information can help you craft your event budget request. You should also look at trends across the industry. Are other event managers facing similar budgetary issues? What are the latest event trends? For example, if your request is to add an integration with gamification to increase attendee engagement, it may help to show that it’s a growing event trend, and that not having it may reduce attendee numbers.

Dream big!

Getting a bigger event budget doesn’t have to be scary if you take the proper steps and arm yourself with the data and analytics to make your case to stakeholders. If you follow the tips and strategies outlined here, there’s a great chance you’ll get the extra dollars you need to throw your ideal event. And if you’re looking for ways to stabilize your event budget in unstable times … have we got a blog article for you.