Budgeting basics for event planners

By f4group, January 7, 2016

Budget is the main controlling factor of any event you plan, once the budget has been defined and divided it makes the job of planning a lot easier. The difficult part is ensuring your budget covers absolutely everything needed for the entirety of the event.

Some warm-up principles:

  • Be realistic – Are you really going to get those 20 sponsors and 500 delegates for that first event with no track record or branding in the market place? Create your ideal scenario (20 sponsors, 500 delegates). Your realistic scenario (where you are most likely to end up) and your worst-case scenario (your fallback position when everything that you imagine can go wrong has gone wrong!)
  • Be clear about what type of an event you are aiming to deliver – guest invitation, fee paying only, sponsorship driven, or a combination of all the above. Your budget will look very different for each event model type so ensure you are clear about which option you are working towards.
  • Destination and venue – the quicker you can nail this, the more accurate your cost estimating will be. The entire event tends to hang on the venue or destination so if this is still up in the air then your numbers will not make any sense and moving forward with your planning will be difficult.
  • Indication of revenues – for fee-paying events, what are the price points that you are aiming at charging? Check out the competitive events already being attended to see what the market is used to paying and benchmark your event against theirs to create your rationale for a higher, lower or similar price point.
  • Fixed and variable costs – what costs are you liable for irrespective of the size of the audience? Which costs grow as your audience grows?
  • Venue agreements – most venues want some kind of guarantee.A deposit for your room hire and catering. Know what that figure is and factor this into your budget
  • Contingency – usually 5-10% for unforeseen costs (risks)
Create a checklist of everything needed for the event, from table dressing, staff costs and overnight stays. This will make it easier in the long run to create your budget with no hidden surprises.

Event Budget Check List

  • Food and Beverage– How many guests? What type of food/ how many courses will be served?
  • Music and entertainment– will you have to pay a supplier to install/ manage this?
  • AV equipment– what do you need, will you need an AV technician to set up/ put down?
  • Staff costs– pre-event, guest list management, organisation time, travel, expenses, subsistence and event staff cost for the day
  • Venue & venue dressing– is there a theme? What is already available at the venue? Does the marquee need lining?
  • Consumables– name badges, table names, event brochures, gifts or flowers?
  • Print– whether invitations, itineraries for the day, posters/ wall decorations and how many?
  • Marketing for the event– products as well as studio time for completion
  • Insurance for the event– don’t underestimate the important of event insurance, you can mitigate your event without a good policy. Remember to include your risk assessments!
  • Alcohol Licenses

There is software out there which makes the whole budgeting process a lot easier on the system, tools such as PlanningPod are there to make everything a little easier although many event managers still choose to stick Microsoft Excel. Make sure you have allowed room for any increases or additional costings you may not have expected. Set up a template, it makes it harder to forget any important lines when starting a new budget!

Thanks to event lecturer Michelle Fanus, through EventBrite, who set out the basic warm up principles of event planning.

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