Event Budgeting 101: Key Steps Every Meeting Planner Should Take

Posted on September 19th, 2018

Whether you are planning your first event or your one thousandth conference, budgeting is something you must get your arms around. There are many variables and if you don’t dedicate constant attention to the details, it can spiral out of control.
Here are seven key fundamentals that can help you keep your stress levels down and bring you success at every turn.

Seven Key Meeting Budget Guidelines

1. Start with the why.
It’s vital you have a strong case to hold your meeting, conference and/or trade show otherwise you won’t receive they type of budget required from management. You must show a sound need along with expected Return on Investment (ROI), even if this is your inaugural event.

2. Look at three-years’ worth of history and set reasonable objectives.
If this is your first event, you will have a harder time taking a stab at your goals. However, if you run an association, you should be able to survey your members through tools like SurveyMonkey, PollDaddy or Google Forms and get an idea of what they are willing to pay, the duration of the event and the type of speakers they wish to see.

If you have history, take the last three years and come up with an average. For example, if you had 100, 200 and 175 attendees for years 1, 2 and 3, your average attendance is 150 per conference. From there you can assess a reasonable growth target (say 10%) and come up with a targeted goal of 165 attendees. You can follow the same logic for sponsorship revenue, advertising, and other items.

3. Identify fixed and variable revenue and expense sources.
Here is a list to help you keep track of common items:

Revenue Sources
Registration Fees
Sponsorships: You may have limited sponsorships, but selling them is key
Trade Show Space and Booths:  Renting the space is fixed, the number of booths sold is variable
Food and Beverage

Speakers: Can vary depending on whether you are picking up their accommodation and travel fees
Meeting Rooms:  May be waived depending on the total food spend
Technology:  This can include A/V, Wi-Fi, event rentals and apps
Marketing Promotion 
Event/Media Space
Food and Beverage
Printing:  Can be variable depending on what you are printing (i.e. programs, binders, badges)
Room charges 
Contingency:  Whatever your total expense, add on 5-10% for contingencies

4. Gain approval from management.
Once you have your budget in place, be sure to pitch it to your boss for approval. This is the meeting you will set your revenue and profit goals. Present the breakeven and the projected profit picture based on your goals.

5. Keep track of revenue and expenses as they happen.
Once you have an approved budget, keep it updated. It is best to present any under/over performing line items to management as soon as you know about them in order to gain approval for budget adjustments.

6. Research the hard questions.
Here are the ones that you should have answers to before you market your event:

a. How loyal are your attendees?
Determine how many attendees come year after year. These are the ones you want to help you market your event as brand influencers. Don’t know? Rule of thumb is about 25% of your prospect database will consistently attend.
b. If you are increasing your marketing efforts, how receptive are your attendees going to be to higher registration rates?
c. What special offerings worked? Will you use them again?
For example, are you going to run early bird or multiple registration discounts? What about offerings through email, text, social media or Google AdWords?

7. Be sure to tap into the all the resources that can help you.
You are welcome to submit a RFP to Meetings Michigan or give us a call if you need help identifying the destination and/or hotel you’d like to use. Once you have narrowed your selection, be sure to work with the hotel and CVB and the resources they suggest keeping your budget under control.

Meetings Michigan is a Great Resource to Help with Budget Planning
Why Michigan? We have so much to offer! Give our office a call at 734.646.0791 to discuss your budget requirements so we can direct you to the right venue and destination.