Weddings, galas and other public events come with thousands of little details that event planners must handle while satisfying everyone from event attendees to clients.
Every particular concern must be deftly managed within budget, too, which can be tricky when unforeseen expenses arise.
Having the right spend management tools is not a luxury in event planning but rather an element critical to success. Companies need to prioritize smoothness, which means on-site employees must be able to handle expected — and, more importantly, unexpected — event expenses as they come, Christine Altieri, founder of event production and project management firm AE Events, told PYMNTS in a recent interview. The firm uses a well-known corporate card provider to support its team’s expense needs.
“The reason is that our senior event managers have the [provider’s] cards, they manage [them] … and they are responsible for reconciling and keeping all of the [receipts],” Altieri explained. “This also gives [event managers] the opportunity on site, in the event that they need to pay for something … at that moment, they have [those] cards that can do that.”
Expense solutions also need to be transparent about where money is headed and why. A flexible spend management tool allows AE Events to keep events on course, she added, as well as track incoming and outgoing spend for each project.
Expenses and Contingencies
Unforeseen expenses or delays — like vendors or laborers who do not show up on time — are familiar hazards for event professionals, Altieri said, so all events should be budgeted with contingencies. Such expenses can stress both on-site planners and clients, especially if there are no methods — or no funds available — to resolve them. Quick, convenient spend management tools can allow event planners to promptly implement necessary backup plans, Altieri explained.
“Having these contingencies allows us to alleviate the surprises of clients who are trying to fit within a budget, and it also gives us the opportunity on site to make judgment calls,” she said. “Being able to not have to call a client the day of the event and say, ‘Oh, we have an additional $100 to $500 that we need,’ [and instead] having the ability to say, ‘We made this decision, we were able to do that based on our contingencies,’… and being open and honest — that helps alleviate that stress.”
Cards may allow on-site specialists to anticipate and fulfill clients’ needs, but speedy expense management tools allow AE Events to better track clients’ current spending. Those insights free up both time and costs, improving efficiency for the firm and its event professionals. The technologies are critical to offering transparency into clients’ budgets as well as the firm’s cash flow, so it is increasingly important for such companies to access these tools, Altieri said. Its card provider partner automatically categorizes each client, highlighting where the money for each project will be allocated. This empowers AE Events’ contingency measures to be much more transparent, optimizing efficiency for everyone involved.
The Importance of Expense Flexibility
Spend management tools must be able to handle contingencies while keeping pace with on-site managers’ needs, Altieri explained. Finding tools that support real-time payments and readily available customer service features can be difficult, especially for smaller companies with fewer resources.
AE Events is currently a 10-person business and has relied on its corporate card provider partner to fill its needs for more than 10 years, but the firm is open to adopting new expense management tools to provide this necessary flexibility in the future.
“We have looked at other platforms that have the ability to manage costs and give clients sort of a breakdown [of their costs],” she said. “The problem with some of those [solutions] is that they are not flexible enough, [so] we [cannot] use them immediately.”
Immediate support is essential to keeping events on track, and it will likely continue to be critical to the event and project management industry. Event planning costs are expected to creep upward alongside clients’ budgets, which means carefully balancing event spend will likely grow more complicated.
Demand for software that can keep up with these needs is increasing as well, as some reports predict the expense management software market will reach a value of $6.6 billion by 2025. Solution providers will thus need to innovate their solutions’ flexibility to keep up with fast-paced companies’ even faster-paced client demands.