While we are thankfully no longer in the depths of an economic recession, companies here in NYC, across the country and globe are still suffering from the effects of the financial meltdown of 2008; layoffs, hiring freezes and furloughs are unfortunately still happening, as close scrutiny of the bottom line continues to be the norm.

Yet despite all of the belt-tightening, for companies to remain competitive in this economic environment it is still necessary to entertain clients, staff, interns and summer associates. Given the realities of corporate budgets these days, how can HR managers, intern coordinators and event planners pull off meaningful corporate entertainment events in NYC and elsewhere, without breaking the bank?

Based on my experience planning and producing these types of activities, here is my best advice on how to keep costs down at corporate entertainment events:

1.         Plan Your Event on an “Off” Night – As part of your research into selecting the perfect venue for your corporate event, keep in mind that most bars and restaurants are typically slow during the early nights of the week. If you can plan your event on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, odds are good that you can negotiate a great deal with a venue who would be delighted to host you.

2.         Keep it Close to Home – Especially in New York City or other large metropolitan areas, transportation expenses should be quite easy to mitigate if you can reduce them, or eliminate them completely. Select a venue within walking distance from your office, and you won’t need to spend unnecessarily on wheels or rails.

3.         Hold Your Event Onsite – Taking the above point a step further, why do you need to go outside of the office at all? Provided that your physical space is appropriate and conducive to a corporate party, you can save a whole bundle simple by not leaving (note: this may necessitate you bringing in food, beverage, tables etc. which can in fact run up in expense; however, by and large if you are concerned about spending, this is a good option).

4.         Don’t Serve Booze – I can already hear the booing, yet this is always a viable option if controlling costs is a real concern. At the very least, ask about the different bar options your venue has; depending on the nature of the event and its participants, you may not necessarily need the premium open bar, if a beer & wine package will suffice.

5.         Open the Event to PartnersAn easy way to mitigate costs is to share them among event partners. Are there any other departments, organizations or industries which may benefit from participating in your event? Get them on board can help defray expenses, and even allow you to do more than you originally expected!

6.         Cancel the Entertainment Vendor – This may sound counterintuitive coming from a guy who owns a corporate entertainment business, but let’s be real: if you have a serious event to run and money is an issue, you are better off not having any entertainment at all than by trying to go cheap. Although I’m all for cost-effective employee entertainment, especially when entertaining existing or potential clients, you want the event to represent your company and your brand in the best way possible; you can do that a hundred times better without spending a dime on entertainment, rather than going with a discount vendor which may reflect poorly on the company – and ultimately, on you.

If you’re willing to be creative and flexible with your planning, there are many ways to keep your corporate entertainment costs down, and still produce a fun, professional event which you can be extremely proud of. What are some other suggestions for watching the bottom line when planning company entertainment activities?