Best Practices for a Setting Meetings and Events Budget for Next Year
It’s that time again, folks… annual budgeting and forecasting season is upon us. Is it just me or does is time moving at warp speed? It seems like just yesterday we were finalizing our 2018 budgets and already we’re planning for 2019! Are you prepared to start crunching numbers and spitting out spreadsheets for your 2019 meetings and events budget? Here are a few best practices to help you on your way.
The number one piece of advice for setting meetings and events budgets is to start as early as possible. Some organizations start budging for events the moment they book a venue. If you book your conference two years out, that’s when you start drafting your budget. Doing so will help you line out sponsorship and attendance needs projections well in advance. If you offer multi-year discounts for sponsors willing to sign up in advance, you can account for income early on.
There is no reason why you can’t estimate costs early and adjust as numbers become more definite. Site rental and hotel rates are set when you book your venue, but catering, décor, transportation, entertainment, and technology costs can all be estimated early. Too many things can go wrong when you wait until the last minute, so plan ahead!
Audit Your Usual Programming
When recurring events pretty much follow the same template each year, event planners tend to have a wash-rinse-repeat mentality. Meetings and events budgeting season is the perfect time to think outside of the box! Consider auditing your programs, technology, staffing, suppliers, etc. Are you operating at the most cost effective level? Just because “that’s the way we’ve always done things” doesn’t mean that it’s good for the bottom line. Now is the time to reflect on what has worked well in the past and what needs improvement.
Consider your marketing approach. Are you tracking analytics and success rates? Is it possible to utilize less expensive online media over print and postage? As event planners, we are always exploring ways to get the best bang for our buck. Dissecting your marketing approach is just one way to get your creative juices flowing when auditing your programming.
Refer to Survey Data
Many associations and suppliers produce annual reports and market forecasts relevant to their industries. The data and statistics they provide could be a huge help to determining a need for increases/decreases to your budget year in and year out. Will industry issues affect participation and sponsorship sales? Will rising fuel costs limit travel? Are salaries increasing due to cost of living expenses? Are catering costs going up due to increases in the cost of goods? These questions and more can be answered using this data.
Additionally, data for the meetings industry itself is readily available. MPI issues regular Meetings Outlook reports and American Express Meetings & Events offers useful forecasts.
Devising a meetings and events budgeting process that examines your event goals and using it to produce an accurate budget for the coming year is essential for each event’s financial success. A rational and accurate budget will give you clear guidelines regarding fundraising and spending.