Congratulations, you’ve got the gig. Now, do you have the money?
Conferences sometimes come with pre-set budgets thanks to good corporate planning, but more often than not, you’ll be handed the job and a deadline to come up with a budget, or even be pitching for the job and blue-skying the budget. Fortunately, there is no shortage of resources to help you do just that.
Shop Around for Tools
The Internet is rife with budgeting checklists. Find one that speaks to you and spans the offerings your conference will feature: trade shows, VIP parties, workshops, whatever. A simple Google search for “Conference Planning Checklist” returns over 1,230,000 results. There’s even a list of checklists on this site. Find one that works for you and use it.
Consider Conference Expenses
There’s a budget for a reason and this means you need to allocate the funds accordingly. If you want the whole shebang, complete with delicious catering and a functional space, it’s important that you take into consideration all the fees that will add up. This means thinking about rental fees, equipment fees, catering fees, and so on. Tight budget? Stick to the essentials and don’t go crazy because sometimes there really isn’t a need for elephant rides and porcelain dinnerware.
Be Firm, Yet Flexible
This doesn’t mean “wing it.” This just means that when putting together a huge event like a conference, prices for both services and goods are flexible and you should think in terms of negotiating a price within an upper and lower boundary, rather than taking prices at face value. Sure, the website may say that lunches are $29 a head, but if you’re booking 300 of them, that should come down some. Here’s a solid, if short, checklist for budgeting that reminds you to negotiate while keeping you on track.
Keep a Contingency Fund
The ideal contingency fund is 30%, but 20% should be your minimum. You will need this, if only for financial guarantees and unanticipated deposits. It’s far better to have some money unspent at the end of the conference than to have to forgo part of your planned offerings because of a preventable cash crunch. You want to be the person people rush to in an emergency who can make the problems go away with a wave of your corporate credit card.
Scope Out the Competition
If your organization is big enough to host a conference, we’re betting it’s got some competitors, and that they, too, have conferences. Do your homework and see if you can get a copy of their planning documents or budget. If it’s a public company, their PR department should be able to help you locate these documents; there might even be an appendix in their annual report. Interview local banquet managers, who will be happy to help with informational interviews, hoping to book your (very lucrative) business.
Whether you’ve been given a strict budget or have no worries thanks to unlimited funds, you still need to allocate the budget accordingly. Use these tips and you’re bound to be a budgeting master in no time.