Strategies for Mastering Your B2B Event Budget with Kimberly Wong of Paddle

In this episode, Kimberly Wong, Sr. Manager - Field Marketing, Global Events and Experiences, Paddle, shares tactics from her seasoned experience of running B2B events to help you optimize for success (and savings!)

Episode Highlights

How to think about building the best event your budget can buy
Levers that will help you stretch each dollar further
What to spend on, and what not to spend on!


What's good everyone. Welcome to yet another episode of backstage with Z. We have a super interesting topic this time around. We're gonna be discussing event budgets. Yes, we're sure a lot of you resonate with the challenge and the pain that is associated with handling event budgets. And more importantly, you know, putting together a memorable event, meeting expectations while staying within the limits of your approved event budget sounds relatable, right? That's exactly why we recently spoke to Kimberly Wong who is a senior manager of field marketing and global events at Pad. Kimber has a very interesting experience and journey with events. She's also worked in the hospitality industry before. So she has a well-rounded understanding of budgets and areas that can be optimized in terms of event budget. So let's say you are strapped for a certain budget amount, but you still have to deliver a great experience, right? So this conversation will help you identify the key areas where you can focus your money on and where you can cut back on without diluting the whole event experience. So if this sounds up your alley, then you've got a treat ahead. So let me take you to the conversation that Kim Wong had with our VP of marketing Kate and see you on the other side, 


You know, costs are skyrocketing everywhere, right? So whether it's a venue cost or whether it's other vendors and technology and whatnot, how do you ensure that your ROI stays at the benchmark that you have of 12 to 25 or whatever that you think? Right? How are you managing that? 


Very good, very good question. So I think something we have to consider in just the economy that we're in currently is I think you really have to plan as if you have no budget, right? And I think it's, you get really creative in doing so because it's easy to, I think, have money and just, oh, we're gonna do this, that, and that. But are you using it strategically? Right? And I think it's, if you treat your money as if it's your own and you know, you think about, OK, how do I want to steward this and make the most for the company? I think you get a lot more out of it, right? Like say for example, with a luncheon, you know, you spend 30 to $40 per person, you know, per head or you create it in a place where you don't have to commit to a food and beverage minimum. The impact of that on spending a $40 on a meal for somebody is huge. You know. I think part of that is experimentation too. Right. Sometimes this isn't gonna work for every single company. So if you're trying something, try it small and then if it doesn't work, like, OK, what did you learn? Like, it's not a failure. It's, it's a learning moment, you know. I think on top of that another piece to add would be, like, ask why, like, why are we doing this? Are we just doing this? Because we've, oh, we've done this 10 other times before. That's not a good reason to do it, right? I think it's, you know, has it worked? Ok, this is great. How do we improve it? How do we continue on that process to iterate again and again and again, right? So, you know, I had a boss who used to like to say that don't throw resources at a problem, be resourceful. And I think it holds so true for folks in the event space that no matter what you do, how well you budget, you're always going to fall short. So you might as well start from the beginning and make sure that you're you know, you know, there is scope a lot of scope and that, you know, brings us to the next point which is about negotiations, right? So going into an event, building a budget, you know, you have numbers on an Excel Sheet or CFO and the CMO have approved but, you know, when you're talking to a vendor or you, when you're talking to the hotels where, where do you see, the most scope for, you know, getting the most for your money and, you know, where can you save a lot of money? Yeah. So, I, I think first off you have to know what's important to your team and like, what you're willing to budge on. right? Because I think if, if food is very important to the CEO, you probably will have to spend a little bit more on that, right? You got to know your audience, right? And I think it's also important to know the value that you're bringing to the table. And, you know, sometimes you can't necessarily put a monetary amount on that. So, you know, like, for example, if you have an executive team, and they are killer speakers, right? How can you capitalize on that? How can you use that to your advantage? Because the conference that you're attending is going to want that speaker or, you know, they, they, they have a really good reputation where they are known as the expert in the industry. And so they will come to your program because this is the speaker. That's a highlight, right? You, you can't really put a monetary amount on that. I think the toughest thing that, that you can't really necessarily control, I think is like travel and accommodation for team members, right? If you're gonna be sending two people, you know, there's gonna be a cost and I think in this world where it's remote first, you know, everyone's everywhere now, you know, it, it companies are international and you know, you're building out in the US. So how does that look like when, you know, you're, you're sending people overseas and different things like that? But I think the easiest place that you can save actually is with your vendors. So if you set yourself up from the get-go and like doing your research and like finding that network of people that, you know, and you trust, you can very easily know that, you know, this rate that they're giving me at this hotel is not, is, is exorbitantly high. Like I need to look elsewhere or another thing to consider is consider what time of year you're having your event and your program, right? If, if you're going into a major city that's having a citywide where every single hotel is booked out and, and you, you know, you're trying to have your little program for 50 you're not gonna find anything that's, you know, worthwhile. So does it make sense to then pivot the time frame of when you're having that program so that you can, you know, I think another, another thing I think about too is, you know, oftentimes you're gonna have your basic food and beverage minimum as well as you know, your, your rental cost for the room and space. Well, when you're doing out your budgets and you know, the number of people that you're going to have at the program, are you going to be spending over that minimum if you are, is that an avenue of negotiation with the venue to move, maybe say some of that, you know, rental into that food and beverage minimum so that you're getting more bang for your buck if that makes sense. Yeah. Yeah. And I have to ask this as a, as an insider, where can somebody save the most costs when negotiating with the hotel? You know, I I think the the biggest piece of that is going to definitely have to be, I think in knowing specifically your A B needs because that's often outsourced to another company, right? Whether that's, you know, one of the big conglomerates or something like that. As well as knowing specifically, I think the big cost, right? Like food, food, beverage as well as like that room rental, which you know, is like goes directly to the bottom line. Yeah. Yeah. And what about third-party events, the ones that you participate in industry conferences? where, where are the levers for negotiation there? I think specifically with, you know, third parties. When you're looking at sponsorships, it's, it's again going back to what's important to your team. I think if you have your your base of like, ok, this is how much we're willing to spend and they want you, right, because you're sponsoring and you're helping their program be successful. It's, it's understanding what you want and being able to advocate in a way where you're, you're guiding them towards what you, what you would ideally want to have. because at the end of the day, if, if no one's told you this, like, it's all negotiable, you know, and if you don't ask, if you don't ask, you don't get, and I think that that's something where, you know, you, you have to know that you bring value, your company brings value being present and being a sponsor of that show. Yeah. Yeah. No, I, I completely understand that. And we've, you know, we've been in situations where we were going into an event planning eight months in advance, we get a 30 K, 40 K quote for sponsorship for a certain amount of size and we eventually close it at $15,000. And, you know, it's had we not known that you could imagine, you know, we, we could do so much more with that $25,000 that we saved. We went for a much higher quality swag. We, you know, we did an after party that was planned for a much larger audience and, you know, it just worked out just because we asked. And now I know that, you know, the first prize that you get is not the prize that you should settle for? Right? II I think you have to ask yourself, like, say, for example, if you're not getting the attendee list, what is that attendee list worth to you? You know, it like can you put a, can you put a number on that if you can, should you add that to your package? Right? Like is that something that's going to, you know, create a pipeline for your, for your sales team that's greater than, you know, what's on the floor. So all, all things to consider. Absolutely. And, any instances where, you know, it's, you shouldn't be penny wise and pound foolish, you know, I think you can have the most event savvy like budget owner out there. the, the key that you need though is like alignment within like your leadership because, you know, as every event marketer knows, like you can be putting in efforts like on, you know, you know, lower on the, on the totem pole, but then that's gonna get watered down if, you know, if, you know, leadership wants XYZ thing and they're very, maybe they're very picky about. I'm gonna give a silly example, like the type of chair that you have in, in, in a conference room, right? like if that chair is gonna rent for, I don't know, 20 bucks a person, you know, is that really needed, you know, and, and sometimes like those calls are made above your head. But I, I think it's, that's where you have to think about, you know, is it another, is it worth another conversation with the team? Because when you have alignment, you can do so much more, right? Like you, you can create that experience, like you were saying, whether that's like higher quality swag or, you know, elevated experiences, you know, with that after party, the things that, you know, what would you spend it if, if you had an unlimited budget, something to think about. Right. No, absolutely.

Meet the guest

Kimberly Wong

Sr. Manager - Field Marketing, Global Events and Experiences, Paddle

Kimberly is a passionate and creative field marketer who enjoys making dreams into realities. She creates memorable conferences, trade-shows, meetings and events, but is also a huge foodie, aspiring entrepreneur, and big advocate for mentoring! Currently, Kimberly is the Senior Manager of Field Marketing, Global Events and Experiences for Paddle. She collaborates with amazing industry colleagues to deliver unique and impactful virtual and in-person events.

Ketan Pandit, Head of Marketing, Zuddl
Meet the guest

Ketan Pandit

VP Marketing, Zuddl

A seasoned B2B marketer with expertise in building scalable demand generation engines and partnership ecosystems. Prior to heading marketing at Zuddl, Ketan has helped build the partnerships ecosystem, and led demand generation at CleverTap, built the marketing team at Aureus Analytics, and worked at consulting giants Cognizant, Persistent Systems and TCS.

Meet the guest

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Kishore CS

Content Lead, Zuddl

Kishore leads Zuddl’s content marketing efforts. With over a decade of experience in the content field, Kishore’s experience ranges from content writing and editing to strategy and analytics for B2B and B2C companies.

Kishore CS, Content Lead, Zuddl
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Shreya Sanjay

Content and Social Media, Zuddl

Shreya runs Zuddl's social media, from creating content all the way to sending out quirky replies! A young mind, filled with creativity and enthusiasm to share ideas in multiple ways. Shreya's previously worked in films and digital media.