Creating a detailed conference budget is a vital part of the planning process. We’ve created a conference budget template to help.
Your conference budget plays a key role in your conference planning and management tasks. If you don’t have a centralised place to manage your costs, important expenses might slip through the cracks and push you beyond your budget.
No two conference budgets are identical, planners range from being conservative to creative with their spending. But it’s important you have a good understanding of key markers, like at what point your conference will be running at a loss, breaking even, or making a profit.
Before we take a look at our conference budget template, here are some tips to help you create an accurate budget for your research conference.
1. Get feedback on last year’s conference
There can be a fair bit of guesswork involved in event budgeting, especially if you’re organising a first-time event. If the conference has taken place previously, eliminate some of this guessing by getting as much feedback as you can from last year’s chair.
(And while you’re at it, it’s worth chatting to last year’s chair about a number of other issues around conference planning. Like how they promoted their event or managed exhibitors, just add budgeting to the list. )
If last year’s conference was similar in format, all you may have to do is edit your budget from last year. A good suggestion to help you critique your conference budget each year is to add two extra columns to your spreadsheet: one for actual costs and the other for estimated costs. This will help you understand how accurate your estimations are and help you stay on budget.
2. Separate your fixed costs from your variable costs
To help you keep track of your expenses, your conference budget should include a combination of fixed costs and variable costs.
Fixed costs: For the most part, these costs won’t change. Regardless of how many delegates attend, you’ll need a venue, AV and room setup.
Variable costs: These will depend on delegate numbers and will cover things like catering and transport.
And some of your budgetary costs may also include a fixed and a variable element, for example, a professional conference organiser may charge a fixed fee as well as a per-delegate charge.
3. Build contingency into your budget
No matter how well you plan your event, there will likely be unforeseen elements. And it’s important your conference budget can handle them. Conferences are complicated machines and you don’t want to risk being caught out by unpredictable costs.
So include around 15% of your total costs to cover the unexpected: like overtime for staff, extra supplies or currency fluctuations. You need some space for your budget to breathe.
4. Include the cost of conference technology
A good abstract management system, registration system and mobile app will help eliminate the manual tasks of research conferences. They’ll also provide you with rich data and save you money on big-budget items like printing. The right conference software can eliminate a lot of late nights, uninspiring work, and admin stress. Which means you can focus on your #1 priority: organising a great conference.
We believe sourcing conference technology should be as much a part of your planning as setting a conference date. Not all systems are the same, some conference tech is designed for all types of events and other types specialise in peer review. So it’s important you’re clear on exactly what you need for your event and fit the cost of suitable software within your budget constraints from the outset.
5. Check if you qualify for tax exemptions
If your conference is organised through a non-profit organisation, you may qualify for tax exemptions on goods and services. Before you create your conference budget, check if you qualify.
If you don’t, be sure to include tax in your budget. And if you’re organising an international conference make sure you put some work into understanding how tax exemptions for non-profits work in your host country.
Once you’ve got a good idea of your main costs and income, use our free conference budget template to create your own. Click the image below to download our template.
(Click the image to download)
Once you’ve filled in the budget template, your conference budget should look something like this
— Your fixed costs, probably around 35% of your budget costs
— Your variable costs, probably around 50% of your budget costs
— A contingency, probably around 15% of your budget costs
Update your conference budget as you go. Regularly review your spending and your income so you know at what point you can begin to enhance your event or to cut back on costs.