Article by Jane Tweedy, Business Advisor, Western Sydney Business Centre

Tips to running an event on a budget as a small business


Recently some networking colleagues and I ran an event, using our mutual resources without an event manager (recommended for larger events and when budget allows). Here are some tips to running events on a tight budget.


What is your ultimate goal in running the event?

Is it to attract new clients, thank loyal supporters or to give back to the community, possibly as a fundraiser (the latter is regulated)? Understanding your purpose, makes it easier to make decisions about running the event including setting your budget. Our event was cobbled together last minute as part of NSW Small Business Month, because we felt Blacktown was under represented, and deserved more focus.


Your budget.

How much will you spend on this event and how much will you collect? What happens if the money coming in doesn’t cover the money going out? As venues and some other components will require upfront commitment, you need to know when you can cancel without penalty or how to cover any shortfall if it doesn’t go to plan.


The venue and catering.

The most expensive costs in running an event are typically the venue and catering (if any). Typically a financial commitment is required ahead of the event to lock in the venue. Sometimes the venue fee is waived if certain minimums are met on food and drink spend. Consider the size of the venue – too big will make it feel like it didn’t work as will be a lot of empty spaces, and too small starts to feel claustrophobic and people start bumping into each other.

Be clear about inclusions such as table cloths, shapes of table, room setup, AV equipment (projector and sound system), whiteboards etc.

Catering can vary immensely. Often the venue will have strict rules about using their catering, so make sure you know what you’re locking in to. Remember to include some options for those with dietary restrictions. Have enough for everyone, but you may set an initial limit e.g. 2 food items, then if leftovers people can go in for more. Better to have too much than too little.



may need to be done face to face and via online channels, depending on who your audience is, and how many people you’re trying to attract.


Other costs

include name badges, printing agendas, handouts and banners, and promo items. Goodie bags are often popular, but make sure there are some items in there, not just brochures.


Registration and welcome desk.

It is always best to have someone greet people as they arrive, dish out any name badges, workbooks, goodie bags etc. They can also explain what to do next and answer any queries on the day. This desk should also be checking everyone is properly registered and checked in for health and safety reasons.


Sponsors and advertisers.

Our event attracted less people than originally intended, but we covered our catering costs through sponsors who promoted their businesses at the event. The lower numbers meant participants formed stronger connections, including with our sponsors (as everyone got to publicly introduce themselves), which was a main objective of the event. The five organisers supplied our time free of charge to organise and speak at the event, and contributed to the marketing effort.  Our sponsors were promoted and they received things like entry, and shout outs at the event and on social media.


Setting the attendance price of your event

can be tricky. Too high a price will put people off, and too low won’t cover costs. Location can have a big influence on price. Free events have a 30 to 70% non-attendance rate. If people pay even a small fee, they’re more likely to turn up.

Before running a larger event, start small with a low cost event with no or minimal catering. Alternatively gain an audience first by tagging onto another event as a speaker, or by combining resources with others, being clear who is doing what. Starting small allows you to build your audience with minimal risk.

Post event.

Always review after the event and assess what went well and what could be improved. Overall we considered our event a success, and already have plans to do it again, bigger and better with Council support (who were a speaker at the event) and with more pre event planning and marketing.


Business Connect

Business Connect is here to help you, and we can assist you with ideas and contacts if you’re looking at running events in your business. Arrange to see your local Business Connect Advisors by contacting Western Sydney Business Centre.


Western Sydney Business Centre, offers 4 hours business advice at NO COST with a NSW Government funded Business Connect Advisor. We can talk about any concerns with your business, and help you connect with others. Please book here now!