Having worked in the nonprofit world planning events for years, I understand what it means to plan an event on a low budget, sometimes NO budget. Here are my five best ways for doing so:
1 • VENUE
Hotels and conference centers are not your only options. There are many low-cost venues in community centers, libraries, private homes, corporate offices that will offer you great space at an affordable cost. With a little research, you'd be surprised what you can find. My fav event was held in the loft warehouse office of a local coffee company. The space had such character and natural light, no one paid attention the workstations and offices surround us.
2 • CATERING
Time of day impacts this greatly. If you are having a short, 2-hour workshop holding it 10a-12p or 2p-4p, minimizes the need to offer food as it falls between mealtimes. If it's a daylong workshop, you will need to consider options for breaks so your peeps can go find food on their own. It's not a problem to go this route, but be clear upfront and consider needing to have a 90-120 minute break in the middle of the day so no one get hangry!
3 • DECOR
Expensive decor is NOT necessary! I did a charity event once with flowers purchased at the local grocery store and some mason jars. Things like signs with your local can be printed at your local Staples or printer, pretty affordably, and there you go... instant branding! And they are reusable (the signs not the flowers)!
4 • PHOTOGRAPHY
Great photos are certainly helpful but you don't need to break the bank hiring a pro photographer. Enlist the help of a friend who's a hobbyist and set her loose! A few great group shots and some snaps of you while doing your thing will do just fine.
5 • SPONSORSHIP
To offset the cost of your event, seek out sponsors. This is when you receive donations of goods, services, or money in exchange for some benefit to the sponsoring company/person. Be sure to deliver on your promises and that your sponsors are aligned with your business and brand values.