Budgeting is important for every corporate event, large or small. With a realistic and detailed budget in place, you can begin planning the event. That’s why your corporate event budget needs a clear strategy.
Whether or not you’ve got an established budget process or you’re new to corporate event budgeting, follow these budgeting tips to create an even more effective corporate event budget.
7 Steps for a Solid Corporate Event Budget Process
- Set aside time to create the budget. Your event planners, event marketers, and event managers should work together to create this budget before planning any other aspect of the event. This task may begin anywhere from a few weeks to a few months before the actual event. If you plan on hiring event professionals, invite them into this initial process, and you may be able to allow them to take over the rest of the steps!
- Create broad budgeting categories. To create a budget, the first thing to do is determine which parts of the event will incur expenses. You can use your experience with past events, if your company has any, to get started. These categories will vary according to the type of event. In-house corporate events, for instance, may not need to pay for a venue but might need to explore catering options. International events will inevitably include out-of-town guests, requiring a travel and accommodation line in the budget.
- Develop a list of every expense that falls into each of the categories in Step 2.
- Determine an organizational framework or structure for the budget. This is much simpler than it sounds. For small events, it’s typically enough to use a spreadsheet to map out your budgeting framework. But for larger events it’s often useful to use budgeting software. There’s a huge mass of detail involved in creating and tracking a large event budget. It can be difficult to organize without using a dedicated budgeting program.
- Regardless of size, any budget needs to have two distinct sections: one for expected costs, and one for actual costs. For a spreadsheet-based budget, each line item can have separate columns for expected and actual expenses. This makes it easy to do a side-by-side comparison.
- Set aside 5% to 10% of the budget for unexpected expenses, emergencies, or budget overruns.
- Explore ways to reduce expenses. For some events, this might mean inviting sponsors to get involved. For others it could simply be a matter of working with less expensive vendors or cutting accommodation or travel costs for guests. These cost savings can add up!
Elements to Include in a Corporate Event Budget
The average corporate event budget includes anywhere from four to eight general categories. But depending on the size and nature of the event, each category may include a number of subcategories too.
When preparing the budget, it’s important to be as thorough as possible, while still allowing room for later adjustments. That’s where that 5% or 10% set aside is useful, as it means you’re able to make any late changes while still staying within your original budget.
Here are a few common elements in a corporate event budget:
- For most live or hybrid events, venue hire is likely to be the biggest expense, and it has a significant impact on the overall event experience, both for you as the event planners and for event attendees.
- Obviously virtual events do not have a “venue” expense per se, but you will need to look carefully into the platform you use for a virtual corporate event, in order to make the virtual experience enjoyable for all.
- Make sure to check what’s included in the price. Inclusions such as amenities, staff, parking, and vendors, may make a slightly more expensive venue a better deal than a venue without inclusions.
- Event management platform
- Whether you host a live event, hybrid event, or virtual event, in today’s world you may find yourself needing an event app, website, or other platform to engage with attendees both before and during the event.
- A strong event management platform will make registration, attendance, and other key metrics easier to track.
- AV equipment
- Some venues include equipment rental in the price; others charge it separately. Check with venues to see what is and isn’t covered.
- Includes items such as microphones, lighting, and sound equipment.
- Staff & vendors
- Including kitchen/catering vendors, servers, bartending, ushers, and others.
- Some venues may have rules about what kinds of vendors can operate on-site.
- Some venues may have general-purpose staff available, either as an inclusion or for an additional fee.
- Note for staffing costs that any staff you hire or reassign from in-house departments may have associated travel, accommodation costs, or per diem costs.
- Food & beverages
- Any relevant items that aren’t covered under vendors: catering.
- Speakers & entertainment
- Including fees/honoraria/per diem for a keynote speaker, presenters, and entertainers.
- Any gifts or perks offered to guests as part of the event program.
- Travel & accommodation
- Hotel bookings for speakers and guests.
- Flights for out-of-town guests.
- Overland travel e.g., to and from the airport, the venue, or other locations.
- Marketing and promotion
- May not apply if the company has an in-house marketing team.
- Any advertising or marketing in any format, including online, podcasts, or social media, as well as more traditional formats such as print, TV, or radio.
- Include event-related items such as signage and branding for the event venue.
- Your emergency and overrun funds.
- Anything that doesn’t fit anywhere else in the budget.
How to Record Budget Items
Once you’ve decided on a budget format, and have a comprehensive list of categories and items, you can go ahead and draw up the budget. What your budget looks like will depend on your chosen format, whether that’s a spreadsheet, template, or planning tool.
For a spreadsheet, for instance, you might end up with a set of spreadsheets, one for each budget category. Within each category you can then list every associated item for that category, then add information in each column. For instance:
- Item name – try to avoid having multiple items with the same or similar names.
- Item description – description of the item and its purpose. Be as detailed as you think is necessary.
- Projected cost – the expected cost for the item, or a vendor quote.
- Actual cost – how much it ends up costing.
- Payment date – the date on which payment is expected as per contract.
- Paid – whether the item has been paid for.
No matter what format you end up using, you’ll be entering much the same kinds of information. However, depending on the format, your information may be organized differently. Make sure to get familiar with any software or online tools you choose, so that you can be sure you’re entering the information correctly.
Once you’ve created the base budget, it’s important to review and update it frequently, even if you’re the only person who’s actually working on it. Having an up-to-date budget at hand is essential for staying on track with expenses. Updating is even more important when working in a team, as everyone needs to be able to access the same current information at any time.
Careful Budgeting Helps Make Corporate Events Successful
Attention to detail is essential in event-planning, and it’s essential when planning your corporate event budget, too. Carefully planning a detailed budget, and keeping it up-to-date, makes it a critical reference that you’ll rely on just as heavily as your event plan. A well-executed budget helps track your event spending and helps you ensure the event is an overall success.