Lock Down a Stable Event Budget in an Unstable Economy

Aprilynne Pike

Events are back in a big way. We talk about that a lot here, it’s in the headlines, and if it’s your job, I know you’ve been thinking about it a ton. 

But there’s something else in the headlines too. Inflation, an unpredictable economic outlook, and … well, cold, flu, and Covid season right on top of us. If you’re an event manager, the economic outlook might be stressing you out. No fear! We’re here with some suggestions for how you can stabilize your event budget so your event has a solid foundation to survive, and even thrive, in whatever is coming our way.

Let’s get into why this is so crucial, especially now.

Event budgets and the economy are both guesswork

Predictions, forecasts, comparisons with past numbers, best and worst-case analysis. We could easily be talking about either your event budget or the economy. 

With the economy, analysts and economists are constantly looking at market conditions, current and past numbers, and outside influences, to try and predict what’s going to happen next. Sound familiar? It should.

Part of most event managers’ jobs is doing exactly that, but for events. Analyzing past event attendee numbers, current conditions, and new content/product offerings, and then guessing how many attendees they will be able to entice to their event.

So that they can buy blocks of registrations. Oh yes, the dreaded block buy.

If you guess too high, then you’ve paid for registrations you won’t use. Too low? You have to hurry and buy more, and you definitely won’t get the bulk discount you got the pre-purchased reg blocks for.

Talk about an unsteady budget

I’m not an event manager. But I do have a spouse and a handful of kids. And a budget. And I like my budget to be stable. Unexpected costs—the dryer that quit on me, the inevitable fender-bender my teenage son got into, and well, everything’s a little more expensive these days—can throw massive stress into my life, because it knocks my budget off. I’m pretty sure everyone feels the same.

What if you could take that variable event budget stress out of your life?

Here are some ways you can.

  • Avoid registration-based pricing
  • Watch for small charges that add up
  • Get a summary of your event platform fees up front
  • Make sure support is included
  • Ask, ask, ask! Don’t get caught off-guard

The trap of registration-based pricing

This one is the most important stabilizing tip in this whole blog … and the hardest one to lock down. But let’s talk about why it’s so important. When you’re paying per registrant, you have to reexamine the registration column of your event budget every single time you hold an event, big or small. If you hold three events a year, maybe that isn’t such a big deal. But if you hold twenty, fifty, or a hundred events each year, you’re just giving yourself more work.

And probably costing yourself more money. Some quick math:

You hold twenty events a year. You pay $10,000 a year to lock down your event management services, such as your event website, let’s say you got some custom work done, you have a yearly integration fee and you sprung for the mobile app for half of those events. 

You hold ten small (50 attendees), seven medium (300 attendees), and three large (1000) events. And you have three people on your team who run them.

Here’s your math, at $3.00 per registrant … which right around industry average.

Alright. Now let’s see what a flat, yearly subscription would run you in exactly the same situation.

We checked a TOTALLY random event management platform’s pricing page (please activate your sarcasm sensors) and got your team a three-user annual license for $15,000 a year. Since we want to really compare apples to apples, we’re using the same circumstances: you got some custom work done, let’s say $2500, and added a mobile app for half (10) of the events, at $500 per event. (The integration fee mentioned above is part of the yearly subscription.)

Here we go with more math:

Not too shabby.

But the equally important part is that you knew, right from day one, what your event management software was going to cost for the entire year. More attendees than expected? Same cost. Fewer attendees than expected. Same cost. When it comes to a stable event budget, nothing keeps the boat from rocking quite like skipping the registration-based fees.

Integrations, payment gateways, and an event website, oh my!

If you’re throwing multiple events a year, you probably have a martech stack. Salesforce, Marketo, Avalara, Pigeonhole, Stripe, Validar: just a few of the integrations our customers use the most. Big or small, everyone has at least a few integrations that are crucial to their events’ success.

But what if choosing to use those integrations increases your budget again?

Now, you don’t have to go with Swoogo’s all-integrations-included-pricing model. I mean, we recommend it, but there are a few other platforms out there that at least offer a yearly fee that covers all integration use for the whole year. 

Whether you go with us or not, we highly recommend opting for a fee structure that covers all of your integrations for a year, no matter how often you use them. Because you might find you don’t need one integration as much as you thought, and who knows what amazing new integration might be just over the 2023 horizon! 

Payment gateways are a different animal. Most companies allow you to integrate them for free … and then charge a percentage fee. Which means one of two things: either you owe them another payment when your event is over, or that fee gets passed down to your customers. We’re not big fans of either of those. 

Your event site is absolutely crucial to your events’ success. You really can’t (well, shouldn’t) throw an event without one. So if you’re looking to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck (and sticking to your approved budget) make sure you know how much it costs, how much work you can do on your own, and what custom work—if any—you’re going to need.

Which leads directly to the next tip.

Fees upfront

Make sure you get a clear, comprehensive summary of what you are paying, and what you will be getting in return. If you decide to use a company that has pay-as-you-go fees, you should still get a clear and concise explanation of exactly what those fees will be, and when you will be expected to pay them. When working toward a steady, stable event budget, surprises are not your friend. 

And let’s be real, budget surprises make everyone grumpy.

Support, support, support!

Hard truth; this next year will probably be stressful. The last thing you need is to wait 48 hours to get an answer to your question, and even longer for someone to help you fix it. Seriously, if your contract with some other company is expiring soon, and you’re thinking you might need something more stable in 2023, but you’re worried about learning a new platform, (switching over your integration accounts, re-doing your reg form, etc.) your number one question should be whether your prospective platform includes access to support. And preferably, that support should be in-house. *cough cough*

Ask ALL your questions!

This may seem obvious, but I know I tend to get some deer-in-the-headlights effect when I’m trying to talk money with a company. Before you sign anything—with anyone, and that includes us—ask all of your questions. If an Account Manager gets frustrated with your questions … maybe that isn’t the right company for you. A great Account Manager will be happy to explain every fee, every charge, every bill. That’s what they’re there for. 

You should feel confident that you know exactly what you’ll be paying, when you’ll be paying it, and what services you’ll be getting in return. We trust you to make the best decision for your event budget, and for your company. But the only way to make that smart decision is to have all of the information. If a company is hiding info before you even commit, you can bet they’ll continue to do so, and that’s a pretty good sign that they’ll be springing budget surprises on you.

The envelope, please

With all of that in mind, of course you know we have a recommendation that checks all of the boxes. It’s … us! Okay, we know that didn’t surprise you. But you know what surprises us? That more event management companies don’t copy our pricing model. Because it was literally inspired by YOU.

We did this on purpose

From the moment the idea of Swoogo took shape at a kitchen table in Rhode Island, our unique pricing model was a key part of our company mission—to empower anyone to bring people together. Everyone told our founder, Leonora Valvo, that there was no way she could offer unlimited registration and unlimited events for one yearly cost. But she proved them wrong and when we got a new CEO in 2020, he didn’t change a thing about the pricing model.

Why did that yearly subscription matter so much? Because Leonora is an events prof. She knows the stress of trying to predict attendance and the cost of getting it wrong. Swoogo was created by event profs, for event profs. And one of the most important solutions Leonora wanted to offer was the ability to have a truly stable event budget.

Here’s how it works. You decide how big your events team is, you pay a yearly subscription, you throw as many events as you want, with as many attendees as you can get.

That’s it.

No really.

It’s like we saw the future

We didn’t. No crystal balls here. (We wish!) But here’s a fact—unstable economies come and go; veteran event profs have faced them in the past, and new event profs will face them in the future.

That’s the point of our pricing model. We want to let you plan as many events as you want, without having to agonize over your budget. (Or sacrifice quality. Let’s not forget that.)

Maybe I’m not a good fit

Maybe you’re not! Swoogo is super clear about who we’re not a good fit for. Smaller companies that only hold one event a year? We’re probably just not in your price range. And we’ll tell you that. Focusing exclusively on digital events? … Well, we won’t turn you away, but we do focus on in-person and hybrid events. (Yay in-person events!!) 

You just don’t like to have fun? Yeah, you won’t be a good fit at Swoogo. Okay, okay, we know that’s not you.

We don’t know what’s coming

We never do. We certainly didn’t foresee 2020 turning out the way it did, just for one humongous, trauma-inducing example. But what we do know, is we created our pricing model for you. So you, as an event organizer, don’t have to check and recheck your budget every single time you want to hold an event. So you don’t have to spend as much time forecasting the future as all these poor economists. We don’t envy them.

Here’s what we can do. We can look at your needs, discuss the solutions on your list, and quote you one price, up front, that is locked in for 12 months. (If YOU want to, you can lock it in for 24 months.) So no matter what happens in the whole next year, you’ve already paid. Want to add a sponsor’s dinner for 40 at the last minute? Do it. Feel like your event team deserves an offsite and need to organize that? No extra charge.

I mean, dream big—decide that 2023 is actually the year you’re going to throw a huge, flagship event? Check event registration and management off your list of new budget money you have to ask for.

It will always be something

Death, taxes, and something disrupting the events industry. But at Swoogo we work really hard to provide immense value to our customers, and to be a rock when things get stormy. We actually grew in 2020 and 2021 because we immediately pivoted our in-person model to encompass digital capabilities so that we could continue to offer the same level of value to our incredibly loyal customers. We continue to grow now, and believe that’s because we go out of our way to offer something to every single customer that they can’t get anywhere else.

This year, it’s a stable event budget in an unstable economy. 

You may have noticed that this blog article is pretty Swoogo-centric. Most of the time our blog articles aren’t. But we’re reading the same forecasts you are, and the fact of the matter is that Swoogo has the most stable pricing model in the event industry. So when we’re offering advice about how to predict and stabilize your event budget … well, our #1 suggestion is that you use an event management platform that has one transparent, up-front price, with free integration use, and in-house support. And we’re the only ones who do all of that.

So, as we enter the holiday season, we wish you and your people a wonderful end of 2022 … and we recommend you treat yourself with a stable event budget for 2023. Book a no-strings-attached demo here to find out what Swoogo can do for you.