Event Budgeting - What You Need to Know



“A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.”
Dave Ramsey, Finance Expert

In-person meetings can really drive success for your organization, and help you meet all your objectives. Web-meetings, emails and phone calls are cheap, efficient and effective in their own right. However, nothing beats face-to-face for developing relationships that find commonality, promote collaboration, and nurture growth.

Even seasoned event planners have to start at zero to figure out exactly what that event is going to cost. Can your company afford it? The answer, as it is in much of life is, it depends. And it all depends on what the event encompasses: the people, the place, the timing and the content of the program.

“Budgets are blueprints and priorities.”
Kevin McCarthy, Congressman



The People, Place and Timing

Who: Are you trying to reach two dozen people or two thousand people? This can vastly alter the cost of an event. Size matters. There are economies of scale with larger groups, but smaller ones can provide unique experiences for attendees, too.

When and how long: What works best for you may not for your attendees. For example, over 80% of event attendees say networking is their primary goal, so your program should have time built in for that. But your goal may be communicating information, and networking takes time away from that. There may also be high/low season considerations. Can invitees wrap their stay into a long weekend and bring their families as a vacation? If so, schedule sessions and outings accordingly. If the event is strictly business, avoiding weekend stays or weekend travel.

Where – Part 1: Looking for a destination event or simple conference room? Hawaii at Christmas is expensive, but Phoenix in June probably isn’t. Be open to unconventional ideas to maximize your budget.

Where – Part 2: How are your event equipment and supplies getting there? Freight, travel, lodging, meals, etc. can vary dramatically based on distance traveled and the weight of your equipment.

How will attendees get there? Are you providing car service to and from the airport, shuttles to off-site locations, or other types of transportation for your event attendees? If it’s a small event in a major destination, public transit might be practical and inexpensive, but a larger event or an out of the way location could require motor coaches or similar options. Whatever you choose adds up quickly.

Registration fees and staff: What do you expect attendees to pay for and what are you willing to cover? Consider this before meeting with your production company. And understand, the more involved the agenda, the more staff you will need to run the event (see content, below).



The Content

Production costs: There are some crucial elements that create an environment that will impress and inspire your attendees. Producing items like special videos, scenic backdrops, event graphics and banners will add to your budget, but if done correctly will greatly add to your business’s bottom line.

Audio-visual services and related technology: Do you need multimedia presentation equipment in one main general session and/or multiple tracks or breakout rooms? Do you want panelists, formal presentations, casual fireside chats or even moderated interviews? How about event management tools such as custom registration and event mobile apps? All of these preferences will affect the budget.  This is one area where an experienced event production company can consult and help you decide which features will be the most productive and beneficial for your specific event.

Keynote speakers and entertainment: Engaging a dynamic expert speaker can really breathe new life into your employees and customers. They can motivate participants and make the experience more memorable. There are a few things to consider when picking a speaker including budget, expertise and your audience. Same with hiring entertainers. Whether they are musicians or magicians, speakers and entertainment can be costly, so you need to be confident you are choosing the right ones.

Excursions and off-site events: Does your event include any leisure activities, like sightseeing, athletic outings, fitness classes or other off-site experiences? Does your event include family members? Yes, or no, these are elements that need to be factored in.

“The budget is not just a collection of numbers, but an expression of our values and aspirations.”
Jacob Lew, Former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury

Whew! That’s a lot to consider. And all of these items directly affect the budgetary bottom line.  But thinking about them will make creating an event budget much easier. In fact, in Enliven’s initial exploratory process of goal setting, our clients define which aspects and services are most relevant for their event's success.

Let us help you take the pain out of budgeting your next event so that it meets your company’s objectives and goals, every time.

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