Whenever I’m asked ‘how much will my conference cost?’, I have to reply: ‘It depends.’
Putting a price on a conference is a complex business and because one size never fits all, no conference organiser should ever give you a definitive figure upfront. What they can do is guide you through the complex process involved in hosting a conference, which will help you arrive at your own ballpark number.
But before you do anything else, ask yourself why you want to host a conference, and who it’s for. That may be stating the obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people rush headlong into staging what can be a costly and time-consuming event without being clear about the purpose or desired outcome.
Do you for example want your event to make a profit, or break even, or are you prepared to underwrite some or all of the costs as the overarching aim is to raise your profile and build your own or your organisation’s reputation?
Once you’re crystal clear about the purpose, really drill down into who you want to attend as that should drive all your other decisions, such as whether you should include an exhibition, have guest speakers, or host social events, like receptions or a gala dinner.
I strongly urge you to do this even if you’ve hosted a conference before!
Now pin down as much of the detail as you can and then start drawing up a realistic budget. This needs to include all your projected income and expenditure and you need to be prepared for it to change as you get closer to the event. And don’t forget the VAT — how you handle this will depend on whether or not your organisation is VAT-registered.
Not sure where your income will come from? Some of the most common sources are delegate fees, sponsors, and exhibitors. You may also have access to grants or subvention funds, capital, and other specialised income streams all of which can help underpin the costs of staging the event.
Your highest areas of expenditure are likely to be marketing, venue, social events and catering, conference collateral, exhibition support, travel and accommodation, and speaker fees. Also likely to eat into your budget are insurance, and an assortment of other outgoings, such as paying for awards presented at the event.
At the Conference Collective, we have years of experience in helping our clients get clarity on their event’s purpose and budget — just call us to see if we can help you too.