What Is a Conference Budget?

A conference budget is a comprehensive budget that details the different costs and other financial data of a conference event. The budget is a tool meant to maximize the outcome of an event with a careful calculation of cost while avoiding overspending.    

According to an article by the School of Advanced Study in the University of London, there are six major types of conferences. These are a basic conference, symposium, seminar, colloquium, workshop and roundtable. 

What Goes Into a Conference Budget?

A conference is a widely practiced and common event. It can come in various shapes and sizes as well. For example, it can be in the form of a small intimate meeting or a large assembly. But one common denominator is the cost that is always incurred in mounting a conference event. The following examples are just some basic items that are typically included in a conference budget.   

Logistics. A major item in a conference budget worksheet is logistical needs. Logistics can be a pretty broad category. It essentially covers the venue, communication, transportation and other logistical support. One of the first things conference organizers do is book a venue to hold the event. As mentioned earlier, conferences range in size and scale. Common options for conference venues include hotels, trade halls, malls, tents, and various other event spaces. Technical support is also a major logistical need. Most conferences require both an audio and visual system. This includes the entire production of lights, sounds and communications. Logistics is very important especially in the pre-event phase. Setting up requires heavy logistical support. For example, organizing a corporate trade conference may require special equipment such as forklifts and trucks to prepare the venue for the event. Meals. Another essential component in a typical conference budget is food. Even one-day conferences need meals to keep their participants content. Conferences that last a few days or weeks require a steady supply of food. Whether it is in the form of packed lunch, snacks, refreshments or even free flowing coffee, meals must always be incorporated in the budget. Not only do event organizers have to feed the participants or audience, but they are also responsible for the speakers and facilitators. In most cases, food service is outsourced and caterers are tapped to provide meals for the event. But other times, meals can also come as part of the package such as in the case of a conference that’s held in a hotel. The arrangement would greatly depend on the agreement made between the conference organizers and vendors. Resource Speakers. The format of a typical conference always includes a resource person or speaker. Unless the speaker agrees to share their expertise or experience freely and voluntarily, organizers have to allocate a portion of the budget to paying for the services of a resource speaker. In some cases, a facilitator is also engaged in addition to a keynote speaker or speakers. Speaker fees may vary. It may include an honorarium, transportation, and meals costs. If the resource person resides outside of the immediate conference venue, then organizers will normally cover their accommodation and trip expenses as well. In larger scale events, there can be several speakers tapped to offer their services. Obviously, this would entail a higher cost because conference organizers would have to oversee the needs and preferences of multiple resource persons. Materials and Supplies. A subcategory of logistics include materials and other supplies. These are needed to aid the purpose and objective of the conference. Whether it is through educational materials, marketing collateral, or even additional chairs and tables, a typical conference event cannot be executed properly without the appropriate material resources. Marketing collateral such as banners and tarpaulins are quite common in conferences and other similar events. Even decorations that spruce up or improve the aesthetics of the conference venue can fall under this category. Lastly, a lot of conference organizers also provide printed certificates to the participants upon completion of the event. Although compared to other items, it’s only a minor expense. But if the audience size is particularly huge, even printed certificates could create a significant dent in the budget.

Cost-Effective Tips for Conference Organizers

Mounting an event, especially a large scale one, is no easy feat. Being an event organizer requires above average organizational and coordination skills. And one of the most fundamental tasks for any event organizer is skillful budgeting. The following examples are just some practical tips for budget-minded conference organizers.   

Canvass carefully. A basic tip to keep in mind is learning how to canvass and discern better. If you are concerned about your event budget, you do not immediately accept the first offer that comes your way. As the event organizer, you have to source multiple suppliers and weigh each option carefully. Say, for example, you are scouting for the perfect conference venue or looking for the right caterer to service your event. It would be a good idea to collect several price quotes from multiple vendors, then make your decision after carefully examining each offer. The process of canvassing is key in order to make the most informed and objective decision. Especially when the conference budget is tight, you want to make sure you have exhausted all possible avenues. Learn to negotiate. One of the most important skills conference event organizers must possess is negotiation skills. The events industry can be relatively complex to navigate yet the room for flexibility is quite significant as well. There is a lot of back and forth involved and formal agreements between various parties are quite nuanced. If you are the event organizer, it is only natural for you to want to get the best deal. Thus, you need to learn how to leverage effectively. Doing a counter-offer with conference vendors and suppliers is a common practice. To ensure that you are getting the most out of the agreement, it is crucial to leave room for negotiation. To illustrate, conference organizers can strike a deal with the hotel that is hosting the event. Hotel management can offer special room and meal rates for participants of the conference. Maximize the event. Time is a precious resource especially in the events industry. Each hour or day matters. So if you are looking to cut costs, you want to try and maximize each event day. The longer your event drags on, the greater your operating and miscellaneous expenses. For instance, unless the conference venue’s price is fixed, the cost of rent would increase with each conference day. Thus, it is important to plan out your event carefully and practically. If it is possible to hold several activities on the same day, it might be the most economical thing to do. The more materials and supplies for the participants would also mean greater cost. When it comes to sticking to a budget, being resourceful and creative can work to your advantage. You do not necessarily have to spend money on new materials, recycling and reusing old ones can be one way of cutting costs.

How to Create a Conference Budget

To create a conference budget, you need to gather all the relevant data pertaining to the event. And if it’s convenience and ease you are after, there are tons of sample templates above that you can use as a reference guide. Simply select one that suits your needs and follow the basic steps below.   

Step 1: Basic Event Information 

The first step in crafting a conference budget is to state basic information about the conference. This includes the event name, location, time, date, and purpose. It is important to indicate these basic data in order to aid the reader in comprehending your budget plans and strategies. If the reader is not given a general idea of what kind of conference is being held, it could be potentially easier for anyone to question the budget. This can serve as an introductory section of your budget. The section does not need to be long, a brief and straightforward presentation of facts will do.   

Step 2: Conference Requirements

If the previous section is a general description of the conference event, the next section dives more into the specific. In some cases, it is important to provide more depth and information about the event. This is especially applicable if the conference is a big-ticket event with hundreds of participants. Larger scale events often cost a great deal more than smaller and minor ones. Thus, detailing the specific conference requirements can help justify your budget plans and strategies. Conference requirements can include technical support needs, venue specifications, or even dietary restrictions. You can list these in plain bullet points for a more organized section.    

Step 3: Proposed Budget 

The next step should be dedicated to your budget. Once you think you have enough information about the various costs, you can then proceed to drafting a proper budget. Make sure to indicate all applicable conference expenses. For practical reasons, you can use a table to present your data. Be sure to double check each value for accuracy. Examples of conference expenses are enumerated and discussed in the previous sections. Label them accordingly and use a format that’s suitable and one that works for you. For more ideas, you can refer to the broad collection of sample budget templates. 

Step 4: Actual Budget

After you have filled in your budget table, the work does not end there. Obviously, you would have to implement your budget plan. The last step is to allot a section of your worksheet or table for the actual amount. As the various phases of the conference event unfolds, you need to constantly update the values. This section is crucial because it serves as a point for comparison. When taken into account together with the proposed budget, it’s used for future reference and continuous learning and improvement. Usually, the lessons gained- including that of the budget- is incorporated in the post-conference or post-event report.  


What is a conference budget?

A conference budget is a formal budget that outlines the various expenditures of a conference event. The main purpose of creating a conference budget is to maximize resources without compromising cost. It can serve as a guide or reference so as to avoid excessive spending.

How do you set a budget for a conference?

To create a budget for a conference, you first need to have a firm understanding of the conference requirements. Once you have identified the different costs, create a detailed breakdown of all the conference expenses. Refer to the previous sections for examples of these expenses as well as a detailed instruction guide on how to make a conference budget.

How much do conferences cost?

The cost of organizing a conference would depend on a number of factors. The size, scale, duration and number of participants are just some major factors that would influence the cost of a conference. Hence, it is important for these to be taken into account because your budget will be based on these various considerations.

Organizing a conference event, regardless of size, will always incur some cost. From operating expenses to marketing costs, a budget is needed to keep track of these expenditures and also to avoid overspending. Browse the wide selection of sample templates above to get started on your own conference budget today!