Category Archives: How to budget for a conference

First things to consider when producing a memorable small business event


When organising a small business event much of the time is spent in the planning of that event whether it is a workshop, seminar, small exhibition with speakers, and your events success is all down to the planning and in the details.

First decide upon your target Audience:  You need to define who your target audience is.  This will be the start for all your other decisions, such as format, content, price and location etc..  Being structured will enable you to stay focused on achieving your goals.

Have a clear business purpose for holding your event:  You have to be clear on why you are doing this event, as every decision will support your mail goal:

  • Is it a medium for passing on information, educating your market
  • New products or services release
  • Create brand awareness
  • A way to meet new customers/prospects and gather sales leads
  • PR opportunity, a way to make customers feel important build on loyalty
  • Involve third party vendors and resellers, strengthening business alliances

Create SMART goals:  always start with strategy; this will need to be measurable.  You need to know what is you are trying to achieve, outline what you are aiming for, then make sure that you follow this through to enable you to reach your goals.

Check other industry event when they are scheduled:  Check the calendar for dates, no bank holidays, or school holidays etc..   Check other events that your target audience might be interested in attending.

Know your budget:  Know how you are going to pay for the event.  The cost will depend on the number of attendees you will have.  Is the event funded by sponsorship, ticket sales, collaboration with other companies?  You will need to create a budget before looking for a venue.  Remember to add all expenses not just the meeting room such as food and beverage, audio visual etc..

Decide on type of venue for the event:  Know your event size, location, how easy is it for your attendees to get to this venue?  You may have to be flexible on this depending on availability and how the event may change in size.

Make a checklist of the details:  The checklist needs to contain everything you are planning for the event.  Are you are going to do all this your-self, or just certain parts? Event management logistics that needs to be considered include:

  • Programme content of the event
  • Putting together a Gantt chart showing time lines with action points, responsibility and critical dates
  • Marketing the event – the invitation process to include attendee invitation and registration
  • Registration management – client lists
  • Venue liaison to include:
    Room set up
    Audio Visual requirements
    Food and beverage
    Running order for breaks, luncheon, reception
    Logistics of getting materials to the conference venue
  • Speaker management including co-ordination of speakers, presentation, hand outs
  • Production of delegate documentation including delegate packs and badges

The organisation of an event is a project planning process.  Like all projects it will grow and develop and you have to be flexible but still keep your eye on the ball as with all events that are going to happen at a certain time and all has to be ready and in place for this time.  Checking and re-checking is so important to make sure that you have covered as many eventualities.  Remember your events success is in the details.


Tips on How to Run a Successful Conference or Seminar – Part 3 Your Budget

The last two blogs reviewed corporate reasons to have a conference and how to plan for a successful conference. There can be many business reasons why a company should consider having a conference, not least are that events are an important part of the marketing mix.  We will now outline the main check points to consider when budgeting for a seminar or a conference:

  • Setting the budget and having funds that is sufficient to fulfill the objectives and make sure that the event is executed to the right standard.  Details of setting a budget are discussed below.
  • Compile a checklist of:
    –  fixed costs which is around 35% of the budget costs
    – variable costs (per delegate) this is around 50% of the budget costs
    – calculate a reasonable contingency of around 15% of budget costs
    – review your costs regularly, it is most important to establish budgetary control of costs at the beginning of the project planning, to know where you can during the build up to the conference enhance the event or cut back
  • Fixed costs – these costs need to be covered regardless of the number of attendees.  Dependent on the type of conference it is normally staging and production which probably takes the largest proportion of the costs, with venue cost after this.
  •  fixed  production costs this include:
    • Staging – design of set, lecterns, backdrop, furnishings, graphics, banners, room decoration, floor plans
    • Audio Visual – such as screen, projection, video, camera recording, laser projection
    • Sound to include –  speakers, microphones of all types, CD Player, mixer, cabling, adaptors music copyright, creation
    • Speaker support – design, image production, animated images, script writing, training rehearsals
    • Lighting – design, equipment hire, installation crew, freight  transportation rigging and de-rigging costs
    • Crew – design and equipment hire, installation, freight transportation rigging and de-rigging, per diem, show caller, script assistant, and all the technicians for the above equipment used
  • Fees and Insurance – this includes, producers fee, speaker fees, event management fees if an agency is being used to help with pre event planning registration or logistics.  Also you may need to pay for equipment insurance, or event insurance for cancellation etc..
  • Invitation process – this will be a once only cost and is not dependent on the number of delegates attending this can include:
    • Invitation – design costs, print cost for direct mail, brochure, website setup, database list of invitees, telemarketing follow up.  Any advertising, posters and promotional costs as well as  follow up activity to boost delegate response
  • Venue hire to include function rooms and contracts, as well as additional venue costs such as for gala dinner if off site.
    – Normally you will have to pay a deposit on the room hire when booking for the event with a sliding scale of payment to be made as you approach the event.  You need to commit to a number of delegates when booking the room hire.  Note be aware of the cancellation fees and dates when confirming the contract, make sure from the outset that you know roughly within 20% your delegate numbers.  Also note that some conference centres do not always include the same services as hotels and these can sometimes be an additional charge to the room hire.
  • Set up Services – this includes security personnel, extra staff, on site signage, registration costs, secretarial services and other ancillary costs such as conference office costs, telephone and faxes.  Always check exactly what services are included and for what period they are offered.  Include wet weather back up if applicable, entertainment if you are having a gala dinner
  • The variable costs are usually the bulk of your budget, and this will be dependent on the number of delegates that you expect to attend.  It is vital to know or estimate the number of attendees before you can compile a working budget.  It is impossible to be absolutely accurate on your variable costs as conferences are dynamic events and ever changing, this is why it is important to create a workable budget in the early stages.  Past historical documentation can be valuable when looking at attendee numbers and booking trends as sometimes there is a last minute rush to register.  The variable items need to be checked carefully if the budget is to be kept under control.  If there is to be at the outset a significant variation in estimated number of delegates then you need to get agreement for a variable overall budget range.

variable costs include

    • Banqueting food & drink, refreshment breaks
      Delegate print materials, menus, table plans
      Ground transportation
      Table, room, speaker gifts
      Partner programme
      Social events
  • Contingency budget – always build in at least 15 % of variable and non variable budget as a contingency budget for the unexpected, such as additional drinks, crew overtime, additional catering, unforeseen printing costs etc…  You need to also put in here any currency conversion fluctuation to be covered.
  • Above are most of the expenditure amounts of the budget however you may also be able to generate some revenue at your event depending on your objective and type of event planned. These could be:
    • Charging an attendance fee, having different charges for early bird registration to normal attendance
    • Sponsorship from business partners, TPVs to cover such things as speakers, F&B entertainment, drinks reception
    • Advertising sponsorship on pre conference documentation/ web site as well as during the conference
    • TPV/ distributor exhibition area in conjunction with the conference where stand space is charged
    • Partnering the conference with another company where both companies can benefit with shared audience to promote their services or products
  • Further blogs on how to run a successful business event that has ROI will follow. Follow the blog or subscribe to the RSS feed to make sure you don’t miss any of them. The blogs will be full of tips and ideas, to help you and your business in event management.

Reference reading:
John G Fisher – How to run a Successful Conference

Philip Calvert – Successful Seminar Selling