Creating an event budget can be challenging. After all, there is a lot to consider. In addition to necessary costs like the venue and event staff, you want to allow for unexpected expenses, hidden fees that will undoubtedly crop up and an emergency fund.
Here are eight tips to help you prepare for the unknowns and set your event up for success.
1. Identify Goals and Primary KPIs
Budgeting for your event usually occurs after the main objectives have been identified but before you’ve laid out the groundwork for the planning process. This is because you cannot plan any event without knowing how much you can spend.
To ensure you’re on the right track, align your event objectives with key performance indicators (KPIs). For example, if the primary goal is to make sales from ticketing revenue, identify a sales number for how much you need and ideally want. From here, go back to your plan and estimate how big your event will be and what you can manage.
Naturally, ticketing prices will come down to the venue costs, event staff invoices and catering expenses. However, as you go along, you can see how much you need to charge or how many ticket sales you need to make to reach a particular overhead.
2. Use Past Data for a Starting Estimate
Draw from experience when pricing out an event. Use past data either from your event or a similar one so you can see the actual cost of items and which expenses are more important than others. You’ll want to account for the type of event (in-person, online or hybrid), location, size, brand being promoted and its actual budget. Your event should be relatively similar in each of these areas; otherwise, it may be tricky to convert certain aspects of the past event’s budget to match yours. Once complete, you will have a ballpark figure that you can then begin to refine.
3. Research Budgeting Expenses
Event expenses are probably the most essential aspect of budgeting. Major costs to consider include the venue, marketing and promotion, and event management technology. These can be further broken down as follows.
- Cost of the venue itself
- On-site staff and event team
- Food, beverage and catering
- Event technology like audiovisual (this will be more expensive for hybrid events)
- Speakers and other forms of entertainment like a master of ceremonies
- Accommodations and transportation near or around the venue
- Other on-site staffing, including network engineers, videographers, technical masters, event planners and event coordinators
- Swag and other handouts on-site
- Physical printouts, posters and banners
Marketing and promotion:
- Paid content marketing and ads
- Event marketing
- Affiliate or influencer fees
- Social media advertising
- Printed marketing materials
- Graphic design for event branding or logos
- Website design and/or hosting (if not included in your event management technology)
Event management technology:
- Event platform fees
- Booking and ticketing fees
- Event website hosting
- Mobile event app
- Lead capture tools
- On-site check-in and registration
- Virtual event streaming or integration
- Data and analytics
Many of these expenses can easily add up, so it’s important to cut costs where you can. That being said, choosing the right event platform can drastically reduce fees, both expected and unexpected. For example, a virtual event platform can be used for on-site event hosting like ticketing and event registration. Its advanced features can support lead capture, streaming, data and analytics, booking, hosting an event website, marketing and integration.
4. Obtain Multiple Vendor Quotes
Your event vendor will be one of the most significant costs associated with your event, so be sure to shop around. Get multiple quotes and inform the vendors that you are doing so to obtain the best rate.
In some cases, you can negotiate contracts that include extras. For example, you may want to avoid paying for event management technology if you can supply yourself. Before striking from the contract, vet the technology costs to see if it would be more advantageous to bring on your own event tech team rather than renting through the venue.
5. Create an Estimated Balance Sheet
Once you’ve got a good idea of your event spend, revisit your ticket sales and how your event will make money. Create an estimated balance sheet of income versus expenses. Suppose you estimate all expenses and see that you need to sell 2,000 tickets for $1,000 each to breakeven. In this case, you’ll need to evaluate whether you can sell that many tickets at that price, whether it’s worth it to do so and where you could cut costs to offer more affordable ticket prices (if that’s part of your goal).
Map out different sales estimates so that you can plan your sales strategies. If you need to keep ticketing high, you’ll likely have a direct marketing campaign that suits this. Your expenses shouldn’t force you to breakeven either, unless you’re determined to use long-term marketing tactics.
6. Search for Savings
More often than not, if you do not have a firm budget in place or it’s your first event, you’ll overzealously plan expenses. Some event planners are the opposite, though, and don’t give themselves or their team any room to breathe.
Try to find the perfect balance for your team. You cannot and should not operate off a strict budget. With any event, you should look for ways to save money as this always increases your return on investment or profit. Choosing an easily scalable event technology platform gives you a clear idea of what you can take away from each ticket sale.
Re-evaluate your event budgeting goals to identify areas to save. Consider asking your lawyer to review the contract to ensure your brand does not become liable for any damages or accidents that happen at the event. You could also find some loopholes where you could cut costs associated with the venue, catering, event supplies, marketing and more.
If you can’t cut costs, then look at other ways your event can make money, including sponsorship revenue and fundraising.
7. Always Account for Incidentals or Emergencies
Even the most perfectly planned event will incur some unexpected costs. Something is bound to crop up from needing last-minute marketing materials to significant issues with the event tech. A speaker may even say they can no longer present, in which case you might have to make up for it in other, more expensive ways.
It’s important to have a rainy day fund that can be accessed on-site for such issues. Consider budgeting an extra 10 to 20 per cent of your event budget for incidentals and emergencies. You can even source some of this cash from a portion of ticket sales. Any unused amounts will go back to profit.
8. Document and Organize Expenses
As you move through the event budget, be sure to keep all receipts and regularly document expenses as well as any known, large costs to come. You’ll need to report these expenses for tax and accounting purposes, so having this data organized will set you up for success.
Keep a spreadsheet with monthly expenses so you know what you require each month leading up to the event. You may need to make certain expenses early on to offset major costs closer to the event date. This will also keep your team organized when it comes to planning.
Jon Kazarian is CEO and founder of Accelevents, a leading virtual and hybrid events platform. As CEO, Jon is focused on leading the company’s vision and helping event organizers and marketing professionals transform their events through innovative technology solutions. Prior to launching Accelevents, Jon led business development at Windham Capital Management, an independent asset management firm focused on risk-based investment solutions.