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How to Budget for an Event

Event Planning

The part of event planning that success is ultimately underpinned by, here are our tips on how to budget for an event.

Setting a budget for an event is arguably the most detailed piece of work you will do throughout the whole event management process. This isn’t just about financials – it’s about imagining how every detail of the event will play out – and then attaching a cost to each and every part.

Being clear and realistic about how the event will be funded – such as through sponsorship or ticket sales – and being pragmatic about numbers, are both particularly crucial points to think about.

Working with a venue finding agency can help with each step the budgeting journey, as they will often be your best ally when negotiating, looking for savings and not finding those surprise charges in the final bill that we all dread!

Here are our top tips on how to budget for an event.

Choose your method or software

Before you even start on the numbers, decide where your budget will physically reside. Microsoft Excel is a popular choice as you can create a summary sheet as well as add multiple tabs for different categories of the budget. Google Sheets gives most of the same functionalities, and has the added benefit that it can be shared with other users. This is useful if you have multiple colleagues and stakeholders who need a regular ‘live’ view of the budget – give them ‘read only’ view to ensure you’re the only one who can make edits. Event budgeting software can be a good option if your event budget is likely to be particularly complex.

Create a template

Before you get into the nitty gritty of budgeting, design your budget template to ensure you have columns and lines for everything you’ll need. This includes the basics such as the item, a description of the item and its estimated cost. Also add in a column for the actual cost – this will be useful later on to help you see if you’re in danger of going over budget. Make sure there is a clear place for you to add in the payment deadline for each item – which will help you manage cashflow and avoid late payment penalties.

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The microscopic detail stage

Now you have the basis for your budget, it’s time to dig into the detail. It’s important to add a budget line for every single part of the event. Even if some things seem small and insignificant, you’ll appreciate knowing how the figures break down later on – particularly if you need to make some cost savings. Include everything from the cost of hiring an event space to goodie bags. Separate out food and beverage costs in as much detail as possible, and remember the budget is for expected revenue (e.g. from ticket sales) as well as expenditure. Add in additional budget as a cushion in case things don’t go to plan – this is usually 5-10% of the whole event budget.

Research for accuracy

It’s important to do as much research as possible about your projected event costs to ensure they are accurate. Look at the ‘actual spend’ columns of past events you’ve run and get firm quotes from venues and suppliers. Look at where you want to spend your marketing budget and assess whether this will get you the results you need. Also ascertain whether any of the costs you’ve been provided are variable – increasing if your number of delegates is higher than expected. Gain as much clarity as possible on what the actual costs for every single detail will be so you have confidence in your numbers.

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Breaking even

Event budgeting ultimately comes down to making the event viable in respect of projected revenue versus necessary costs. Calculate your break-even point and/or the amount of profit you need to make the event viable. This is something you will need to constantly refer back to during the event budgeting process.

Make savings

At some point while budgeting for an event, it is inevitable that you’ll need to make some savings – particularly when you look at your break-even point. An obvious area to look at is the venue – can you find a cheaper venue without negatively impacting your brand or the overall feeling of the event? However, don’t just look at the big ticket items when making savings, as smaller items can really add up. Look at transport and whether you can get your team to the venue via a cheaper method, or see if you can digitise the bulk of the event materials to reduce printing costs. Having a detailed budget where each aspect is itemised will help you see what you can cut without being detrimental to the overall event.

Event budgeting requires diligence, accuracy and an approach that takes care of the details. Getting it right creates a strong basis from which any event can be successfully launched.

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