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Amid industry-wide event budget cuts, global inflation, and nationwide layoffs, teams across the events industry are forced to decide which things to keep, remove, or reduce in the budget. So in this episode of the Event Brew podcast, the crew shares their thoughts on what they’d keep, cut, and remove. 

But before we dive into budgets, let’s introduce our special co-host, Xander Castro. Our history with Xander started years ago when he worked for Endless as a freelance ghostwriter. Since then, he’s worked as an event planner and is now the Events Director at Tiny Seed. He was also featured on an earlier episode of #EventIcons. There, you’ll be able to hear more about his background.

Thanks to Xander’s input in today’s episode, the Brew Crew is taking a gamified approach to the heavy topic of event budget cuts. Given the ability to choose the episode topic, he says this: “I dropped in a random idea that just popped into my mind, the PG version of kiss, marry, kill.” The idea is, “If you look at budgets being cut and your clients are looking at stripping away some of the numbers you have for specific budget items, what are the things you need to keep? What are the things that you have an opportunity to cut? And, what are some of the things that you can completely do away with?” So without further ado, let’s see what the Brew Crew would do.  

Cut, Keep, Improve (the Kiss, Marry, Kill Revamp)

If you’re unfamiliar with the old-school game of kiss, marry, kill, here’s how it works: a player reviews a list of three real or fictional people. Of those three people, the player must choose who they would kiss, marry, or kill. However, in keeping things events related, the Brew Crew decided to revamp the game and call it “cut, keep, improve.” 

Today, the three categories the crew will have to cut, keep, or improve are:

  • Production
  • Food
  • Marketing

But before the crew starts making event budget cuts, Nick shares a disclaimer. “We’re aware that ‘it depends.’ We’re aware that the objectives really move these decision-making pieces. So take all this with a grain of salt.” 

Here is where Nick, Deanna, Xander, and Will landed in their decisions. 












Team Cut-Food 

Nick’s decided to cut food. Why? Alcohol. “I’d get rid of it,” he says. “I know that’s super controversial, but it’s pretty easy and probably the highest cost in the F&B (food and beverage) bubble. Most objectives don’t require it. I understand it has a social lubricant element, but you can overcome that with inexpensive alternatives. There are also other opportunities to pull themes into F&B. Even though there’s less food, it’s more thematically aligned with the theme. It’s harder to cut things with a purpose, like production.”

“Before you go to production, I’ll layer in with the food and beverage,” says Will. He also thinks cutting food is a great way to work with a reduced budget. “I think that you can pass that cost onto your attendees now and that they will crave a higher quality experience and then will pay for it how they want to. What I do is, give longer lunch breaks and send people to the local restaurants nearby. Let them enjoy their lunchtime and dive deep into conversations with people.” 

For Nick, food was the only right choice. He sees so much more opportunity in production and marketing to make your buck stretch further. “When you start taking money out of production, you start diminishing the point of most events. You don’t want to do anything that gives you less opportunity to repurpose that content in the future.”

“If someone has a diminished budget, my goal is to figure out how I can make more money in the future, so I’m not in this position again,” continues Nick. By saving production, “I can use that to make more money down the line. Specifically in recutting that content to have additional sponsored revenue opportunities in evergreen content. Production and marketing have better opportunities for me to make more revenue.” 

“I like to think of it as empowering attendees to make their own decisions,” adds Xander. “The opportunity to potentially reduce ticket prices by carving food out of your budget isn’t just a marketing tool; it also gets them out of the space and lets you have a more natural opportunity to connect.”

However, this cutting strategy won’t work for events with a long history of food-based experiences or events that have made promises around food. “If you’ve promised something to your attendees, that’s where you start running into some challenges. Still, F&B is an area where we have the most power to make adjustments without impacting the quality of the overall event experience,” concludes Xander.

Team Cut-Production

As Nick, Will, and Xander were all team cut-food, Deanna was left alone in her decision to cut production. “It’s interesting because I think some of the things Nick had in the marketing or production bucket, I would put in the marketing bucket,” she says.”

“So why I would cut production: I would cut visuals. I feel like plenty of speakers, presenters, and facilitators rely too heavily on them. Depending on the event, size, and scope, you can do some great stuff without any visuals. Audio is harder to cut, especially if it’s a large group, but I think you can get by without visuals if you have a dynamic speaker.”

Deanna has an example to back up her position. “I went to Connect Corporate in 2016. All the AV went out in the middle of one of the keynote speaker’s lunch keynote. She was amazing because she rolled with the punches and still got a great message. I still remember it, and this was seven years ago.”

This statement reminds Nick of TED talks, another excellent example of low-production events that make an impact. “There’s no real production elements beyond the TED letters that go everywhere. That’s a stripped-down affair that gets the point across. It’s more focused on how the speakers present and execute. It’s a very cohesive and impactful experience.” 

Team Cut-Marketing

As no one was on team cut marketing, Nick and Will share their thoughts on streamlining marketing. 

“No one said, ‘let’s reduce marketing.’ Maybe that’s because it’s the impetus of the move to spend less money this year,” says Nick. If you have to cut marketing costs, he suggests looking at partnerships. “Share the load, and make it easy for them to market your event, along with you, growing their impressions without spending as much money on media buys or PPC. If you empower your partners in your event, you’re potentially spending less money in a more coordinated effort. Then you could spend less money on marketing.”

“One thing I’ll add is, don’t be afraid to reinvent your marketing,” adds Will. “We were hardcore in the inbound marketing game early on in the events industry. Our only competitors in the content space were media companies. But during the pandemic, because so many tech companies had such a marketing budget, inbound marketing within the SaaS market got overcrowded fast.” 

He continues: “When you start feeling like something’s not working anymore, cut your emotion from it and rethink it. Shoutout to my team at Endless, they were telling me this more than I was listening. We should’ve tried something completely different, but I kept thinking, ‘No. this works.’ But then I realized I should have cut it, and we started new marketing tactics.”

The Creator Economy: An Untapped Low-Cost Resource

Inspired by suggestions on how to cut marketing, Deanna has some valuable and actionable advice for event marketers too. “I know this isn’t a trends episode. But it’s making me think about where our industry is going, where we have room to improve, and where we may be lagging. We don’t harness influencer or user-generated content. The creator economy is not just here, it’s booming. The event industry is definitely behind in that aspect.”

“I remember seeing this with HubSpot a couple of years ago,” continues Deanna. “They galvanized their community and made power-users that helped promote the conference while at Inbound. That’s a great low-cost opportunity that may be no-cost, depending on what your community looks like. They’re going to sell your product better than you ever can. They’re essentially the subject matter experts in this field. That’s one place I’d love to see our industry get into more.”

Nick agrees. “And in some cases, there are no hard costs associated with prepping them and making them feel special,” he says. “I’m not saying spend less on Google this year or stop email marketing. That’s not the best way to save money in marketing and reach your goals. It’s about using the inexpensive and no-cost methodologies out there.”

“Events really don’t leverage influencer marketing mostly because I think the understanding of what influencer marketing is in the B2B context isn’t obvious,” continues Nick. “In the B2B space, it’s much more approachable. They’re not looking for $250,000 per Instagram post. They’re looking for front-seat tickets or a shoutout.” 

In 2022, VideoFruit founder Bryhan Hariss guest posted on a niche B2B website. Following the article’s publication, his marketing agency saw a massive increase in page views and visit time, along with a decrease in bounce rate. The B2B influencer economy exists. You just have to utilize it.

What’s Your Event Budget Cut, Keep, Improve?

Now that you’re familiar with cut, keep, and improve, we want to hear from you! “Of the three buckets we’ve discussed, what event budgets would you cut, keep, and improve? Send us an email and email us questions for future topics,” concludes Deanna. 

We’re looking forward to bringing this format back in the future. We’ll catch you here next time for another episode of the Event Brew podcast

Will Curran

Author Will Curran

Information junkie, energetic, and work-a-holic are just some of the words we can use to describe Will Curran. Aside from spending 20 out of 24 hours a day working as the Chief Event Einstein of Endless Events, you can catch Will ordering a chai latte or watching The Flash with his cats. He is also well known for his love of all things pretzels.

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