How to manage event budgets successfully

Events are a lot of fun, the planning, seeing a vision come to life, that ‘on the day’ buzz but the event budget… not so much, the event vision versus the reality of actual costs and revenue can often be a reality check but it shouldn’t be seen as a negative – the event budget and managing it well is actually the most important part of the whole process, it’s the detail you need to be closest too throughout the event planning stages and it’s important that you ask some key questions prior to committing to any costs related to your event. 

Here we share a few useful tips on getting your event budget right from the start and what to look out for along the way.

Do some basic maths – and keep it real

Conversations around cost and how much an event will make are usually based on best-case scenario, 15 sponsors, 500 tickets sold, X amount of profit, job done. But it’s important to add a good dose of reality at this point, what’s the position of your event? Does it have a successful track record, is it brand new? Is there a lot of competition? Do you have an identified target audience who are ‘ready to buy’ and once you’ve considered all of these questions, it’s important to have a ‘realistic scenario’ and a scenario where you just cover your costs and much as you don’t want to think about it, the fallback position – events can go wrong and your budget needs be prepared for that. 

First job, venue costs 

For most events, this is one of the biggest costs and the faster you can lock this down, the more accurate your budget is going to be, whilst the venue is still in question, quite frankly so is the rest of the budget and moving forward will be difficult. Most venues will look for some kind of deposit or commitment to the event space, in terms of your budget that’s spent almost as soon as you confirm the venue. It’s also important to consider your contract carefully: what’s the minimum cost you’re committing to – you need this in the budget as part of your ‘break-even’ scenario and you need to be aware of at what point you can no longer cancel or make changes to your numbers

Build out that budget, what else do you need to pay for? 

Event costs rarely stop at the venue and the bigger the event, naturally, the more costs are involved, these will usually come from Marketing, Delegate items (goody bag, pens, badges, lanyards, delegate packs), AV, stage and set, decor, furniture, travel, accommodation, speakers expenses and fees and of course resource, even if you’ve got a full team ready to work on your event – they are still a cost and therefore a line in the budget. It’s important here to consider every single thing – need a courier to get items to the venue – put it in the budget! Planning a thank you for the team afterwards? Put it in the budget! 

Know where your revenue will come from? 

Now you’ve identified all your costs, it’s time to revisit just where your revenue will come from, this is generally a simpler exercise than identifying all those costs as it will largely come down to Ticket Sales and Sponsorship for the majority of events, however, you may also create additional revenue from selling exhibition space, speaker places or advertising at your event and all of these options should be included in your budget.

Stay close to the budget

Once you’ve created your budget and you’re ‘up and running’ and in the event planning stages it’s important to revisit it often. At a minimum, you should revisit your budget at 12 weeks, 6 weeks and 1 week but it’s recommended to do Flash forecasts (and do them often). Managing your budget this way keeps you close to the figures, it flags up unanticipated costs that you may have put in but forgotten about, things which have changed and any unforeseen issues, this method also allows you to revisit your ‘ideal’ ‘realistic’ ‘ break-even’ and ‘ fall back’ budget scenarios.

In conclusion, we can’t stress enough how essential budget management is for successful event management and delivery, it’s the catalyst for helping to plan and if necessary redesign your event in line with your budget performance and most importantly a visible and well-managed budget  it keeps all stakeholders accountable meaning you should never be in the position of having ‘blown the budget!’ 

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