George Washington once said, “We must consult our means rather than our wishes.” Hardly cheerful stuff, but the man had a point. Careful budgeting is important and, if you’re organizing an international meeting or conference, there’s no excuse for getting it wrong. Your client/boss/CEO is going to want to see some numbers and will expect you to stick to them. So what are we talking about here? How do you develop a budget and make sure you don’t go over it? At Sea to Sky Meeting and Association Management we’ve been doing this stuff for a while so here is some advice on the two key steps you’ll need to take.
Step One: Crunching the numbers
Conference management as a whole involves four main stages: concept, design, execution, and evaluation. Develop your budget in the design stage. It should:
- Translate the goals and objectives of the meeting into financial terms
- Provide a framework for supplier negotiations
- Act as a tool for analyzing major decisions and controlling expenditures
- Forecast the financial return on investment.
To do this you’ll need:
- The event’s goals and objectives (which you should work out in the concept stage – see above)
- A history from past meetings (things like past revenues, expenditures, and statistics)
- A previous conference program and/or current draft program, which outlines the components of the conference and what line items to include (food and beverage, events, exhibits, accommodation etc.).
When you’re going through this process, try to be as accurate as possible, but make sure you are conservative when projecting revenue figures and generous when projecting expenses. It’s also wise to have a contingency fund of 3-5 per cent.
Step Two: Sticking to the plan
The execution and evaluation stages of your conference are the time to manage your budget carefully. To do this you must:
- Only overspend in one area if you can underspend in another
- Stick to your budget and only make changes that are agreed upon in advance
- Monitor your budget constantly
- Regularly compare your actual spending with the budget plan.
Once the conference has ended, all the revenues are collected and the expenses are paid, you should produce a financial analysis. This will form part of the conference wrap-up report that demonstrates the return on investment. Don’t forget this bit. It’s important. It will serve as a historical document and should contain facts, figures, and lessons learned for use by the next people to organize a similar event.
But if all this sounds a bit much, Sea to Sky Meeting and Association Management can help and we could save you money at the same time. We have the expertise and relationships that translate into significant cost savings and we never accept commission from our suppliers or add mark-ups to invoices to earn additional revenue. We’ll just get the best possible price and pass on any savings, leaving you more time to concentrate on your wishes instead of consulting your means. So eat your heart out George Washington.