5 steps to get buy-in from your CFO for an event

Being an event manager in turbulent times for business, means often you find your budget can get cut, you must provide more value for the same cost, or funding for a swanky night is just not on the agenda anymore.

When CFOs are looking to make cutbacks during hard times, things perceived as ‘luxuries’ will be the first to go. But, this perception is the problem as, although events may feel luxurious due to the finishing polish, they should be considered an essential part of any company due to the incredible ROI potential.

Investing in a conference for the company, a motivational away day or an awards dinner will provide your audience with value that long outlasts the day; in terms of motivation, team morale, lessons learned and new ideas developed. But, and this is a big but, ROI can only be guaranteed if the event is done properly. To ensure this happens, I have put together my top five tips to getting your CFO’s attention and, ultimately, buy-in for your event.

1. Clearly explain the benefits and risks

While the CFO may, justifiably, be concerned at such a big expenditure for just one day, in terms of costs for speakers, food, and a venue, you must pitch them the long-lasting benefits of the event. Dedicating a day to creating an environment which fosters creative thinking, motivational morale and internal business reflection will leave delegates with refreshed mindsets and new methods for approaching industry problems. These positive attributes will undoubtedly outlast the day itself. 

In uncertain times, it’s the CFO’s job to implement long-term strategic plans that serve both the health of the company and the health of the employees. No longer can they just be focused on quarterly reviews and profit margins. In such an unstable climate, sharp and quick changes in the market are not necessarily reflective of a broader picture. Your event can offer a solution for the long-term health of the company, ensuring employees feel that they are in a thriving environment, adjusting their mindsets to this positive outlook.

You must also explain the risks. Putting on any event, potentially opens up the company to loss of reputation, finance and equipment. By clearly explaining to your CFO your awareness of these risks, and contingency plan for them, you put yourself in a mature, well-rounded and advantageous position. 

 2. Present case studies of success stories

Look through past accomplishments from previous internal and competitor events. Collate this evidence to compile case studies of success stories.

This will highlight to the CFO the need for an event. Instances of innovation and change in creative direction can often be tracked back to delegates feeling inspired by a certain speaker, or morale being boosted after an awards ceremony. By mapping occasions when this has occurred, within your own company and within the industry, the CFO will hopefully feel catalysed into taking action. This process can be done through collecting data from your internal records and putting together a list of testimonials from accredited sources. Hopefully, it will leave them not wanting to lag behind past successes of the company, or their competitors. 

3. Timetable your planning

Put together a detailed plan of the event and the scheduling of it. The more specific the detail involved in this, the more impressive your case will be. If you plot when key stages of development will be completed alongside the budget for each stage of the event, the CFO can follow your progress without the need for unnecessary update meetings. This smart forward planning will save time in the long run. 

4. Garner cross-departmental support, before you present 

This event has to have broad brush, company-wide appeal. It’s vital to realise that what the marketing team wants and needs is very different from that of the CEO for example. Therefore, transparent communication is key. Ask each department what their goals and targets are, and what they hope to take away from a company event. By putting together this list you will have drawn up the overall tick boxes for success. 

The fact that other departments have been given a voice and that their opinions have been taken into account will mean that they are onside with the event, and won’t see it as an unnecessary luxury in tough times. Hopefully, other departments will want to see their goals facilitated through an external speaker and their ideas come to fruition. Multiple department support for an event will make it difficult for the CFO to refuse giving the event the go ahead. 

5. Consult an expert

Expert consultancy from professionals who dedicate their time to reviewing everything from entertainment to the events marketplace is not to be undervalued. This last point also ties into all the above. A speaker bureau, talent manager or events agency will be able to outline the benefits and risks of certain external speakers, venues, catering requirements and anything else to you. They can also provide testimonials from audiences at conferences, after-dinners and keynotes, letting you know which speaker will work best in a certain slot. Working with them on a daily basis, they will understand the importance of creating the right flow and atmosphere. 

This type of expert research means risks are mitigated. By identifying what worked and what didn’t in other events, you have evaluated potential problems and already planned strategies to deal with them. Moreover, consulting an expert will no doubt get the CFO onside, and furthermore, it will leave you with more time to plan the other elements of the event. 

Changing the mindset of your CFO from seeing the event as a luxury to a necessary expenditure with lasting return on investment is the biggest hurdle to overcome. However, following the above five steps should make this a smoother process and take you a step closer to securing that sought-after buy-in. ​


-        Nick Gold, Owner and Managing Director, Speakers Corner

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