In our most recent posts, we have talked about ways of using Twitter to create a buzz around your conference, general ways to promote your conference and how to make your Call for Papers stand out. Before you start any promoting however, a budget needs to be put in place. Below are just some of the things to consider when developing your conference budget.
Talk to previous chairs
You should talk to the organiser of the conference the previous year. They can fill you in on what they included in their budget, how many abstract submissions they received, did they break even etc. While your conference could be in a different region, the conference should attract a similar audience and number of abstract submissions. While costs may have changed slightly, the previous year’s budget is a great starting point to work off.
Estimate number of abstract submissions
One of the biggest unknown factors when organising a conference is how many abstract submissions you will receive. This will directly affect your budget. You need to have an estimate of the number of delegates that will attend your conference. This will determine how much you need to charge each of these delegates to cover the costs of running the conference. You don’t necessarily want to make a profit, but you definitely do not want to be coming to the end of the conference making a loss.
Beware of under budgeting
This can easily happen with hidden costs. For example, it is advised to check with the hotel the capacity the conference room can safely hold. Then, you must remember that there will be a number of complimentary tickets given out to keynote speakers, to sponsors etc. Also remember volunteers and security will also have to be taken into account – they won’t be paying customers, but will be present in the room (reducing the amount of paying delegates). This is one of those hidden costs that can significantly change the shape of your budget.
Another cost to take into account is if you have invited a keynote speaker. Their accommodation, flights (if they are coming from a different State or country), taxis etc. will need to be taken into account. It is advised to budget a 10% contingency for unforeseeable costs, such as weather disruptions.
When budgeting, it is not all about the monetary costs – time costs need to be taken into account also. A general timeline (which can be found in this conference planning eBook) needs to be in place. A lot of your conference committee will have full-time occupations and they need to have realistic time goals to work around their jobs. If this is not put in place early, some jobs will be forgotten about and when they need to be rushed, committee members may not have ample time to reach these goals.
There is a lot of guesswork involved in budgeting, and conference budgeting is no different. The advice is to take advantage of all the resources available to you before budgeting starts – it will benefit both you and the conference throughout life of the conference.