What is an event budget?
An event budget is a financial plan that helps event planners stay on track with their expenses and ensure the success of their event. It includes estimated costs and revenues, such as venue rental, decorations, food and beverage, entertainment, etc.
Creating an event budget requires careful consideration and planning to ensure that all expenses are accounted for and that there are no surprises when it comes to the event. By creating and adhering to a budget, event planners can ensure that they are able to deliver a successful event without overspending or compromising on quality.
How do you create a budget for an event?
In short, to create an event budget, you should start by making a list of all the expenses you anticipate for the event, including venue rental, catering, decorations, marketing, and any other costs.
You will also need to research the costs of each item on your list and create a spreadsheet to track and estimate your expenses. Finally, compare your estimated expenses to your available budget to ensure you can afford the event, and make adjustments as needed.
What are fixed costs for event budgets?
Fixed costs are expenses that remain constant and do not change regardless of the number of attendees or the scale of the event. These costs are incurred before the event takes place and are usually non-negotiable. Examples of fixed costs in event planning may include venue rental fees, event insurance, and administrative expenses.
On the other hand, variable costs are expenses that are subject to change depending on the number of attendees and the scale of the event. For example, swag, merchandise, food, beverages, etc.
9-steps to planning and creating your event budget
1) Take cues from your previous event budgets
Looking at previous event budgets can provide valuable insights into the expenses and revenue generated, helping you plan a more accurate and realistic budget for your next event.
You can also identify what worked and what didn’t – pinpointing the areas where you need to double down and cut costs.
In short, analyzing the budgets of past events can give you a powerful start.
2) Set priorities for your event
You need to be clear about the financial outcomes of your event. Do you want to make a profit, break even, or trade off profit for broader brand exposure and mindshare?
If you’re doing a trade show, then profit might be your end goal; however, for a marketing event, you may be ready to bear an initial loss to expand brand awareness and recognition.
3) Identify your event goals
Your event goals will decide where you need to double down and where you’d need to cut costs.
For example, to leave a lasting impression, you should double down on attendee experience, meaningful swag, and entertainment. However, if your goal is to establish your brand as a thought leader, then having a great set of speakers would take away a sizeable portion of your event budget.
4) Decide a format
Your event can be virtual, hybrid, or in-person.
Just as the blueprint determines the cost of construction materials and labor, the event format can impact your event budget by determining your overall spending towards the venue, event technology, decor, hospitality, branding, marketing, logistics, equipment, catering, staffing, or entertainment.
5) Number of attendees
Some event expenses are directly proportional to the number of attendees. For example, food, event swag, logistics, and catering. Some virtual event platforms have attendee-based pricing, thus influencing your event budget based on the number of event attendees.
The total number of attendees is variable, and thus, the estimated cost linked to it can vary until the day of the event.
6) Research the average event budget for similar events
Try to estimate the industry average and keep that as a guiding point to gauge where you’re overspending and where you are not. Were other events able to offer a similar experience with a lesser budget? If yes, then you might revisit your event plan and see how you can optimize costs.
As an event planner, you’d also recognize the areas where you’d need to compete to offer a competitive experience and also avenues to gain a competitive advantage by doubling down on some aspects of your event.
7) Consider Sponsorship
Event sponsorship can impact event budgets in several ways, including increasing revenue, reducing expenses, enhancing production value, and providing marketing and promotion opportunities. The level of impact depends on the type and amount of sponsorship received.
8) Categorize your event budget, and expenses
Events can have many moving parts. Categorizing them into buckets like entertainment, catering, virtual event technology, logistics, promotions, etc., will let you make a clear budget for your event.
9) Gather cost estimates
You can’t prepare a budget without a quote from your vendors and service providers. So if you don’t have the cost estimates for the items and services you want for your event, it’s a nice idea to reach out to potential providers to ask them for an estimate.
Event budget breakdown: Listing all your event expenses
A comprehensive budget plan consists of all the expenses and costs associated with all the components of your event. Start breaking down your budget categories, like venue, catering, and marketing, into their components
So, pull up your spreadsheets or excel, and let’s dive into creating your very own event budget for virtual, hybrid, and in-person events.
Common budget expenses for all types of events – in-person, hybrid, or virtual events
A well-branded event is the key to boosting event ROI. This way, people will remember your brand long after the event. Thus, keeping your brand on top of mind whenever they’ll require a service that aligns with your offerings.
You may include these items in your budget for the event:
- Graphic and event website design
- Copy and content
- Event website
You’d need to include marketing and promotion in your event budget plan unless you plan to keep it a secret. People need to know about your event to signup and attend. So make sure you allocate the required budget to marketing as per the number of attendees you want at your event. Remember, not everyone who signups up for your event will show up.
Here are a few things to keep in mind while planning your event budget:
- Google ads
- Email marketing
- Social media ads
- SEO Content
- Newsletter partnerships
Entertainment and attendee experience
When attendees leave with happy memories from your events, good things follow. By prioritizing attendee satisfaction, you can increase the likelihood of repeat attendance and positive word-of-mouth recommendations, ultimately leading to greater success and profitability for the event.
While budgeting for your event, It’s recommended to prioritize entertaining and engaging attendees.
Here are some recommendations you can plan in your budget to ensure attendee satisfaction:
- Dj/Music performance
- VIP experiences
- Experiential activities
- Photo booths
- Other rentals
- Event swag
Speakers play an important role in event success. If they are well-known individuals, then that can help you get more signups for your event. Moreover, A guest speaker can bring a wealth of benefits to an event, from providing valuable insights and perspectives to energizing and entertaining the crowd. With their ability to inspire and support event themes, guest speakers have the potential to make a lasting impact on attendees.
Because they have such a huge impact on the success of your event, you should consider allocating a sizeable portion of your event budget to bring well-known and high-impact speakers.
- Speaker fee
- Equipment needed for speakers
- Travel and lodging in case of an in-person event.
Additional expenses for in-person events
For an in-person event, the venue takes up a major portion of the budget. While booking a venue, you’ll need to consider costs associated with the number of attendees, accessibility of the venue, and its overall look and feel.
Here are some items that you’d need to consider:
- Carpet / Padding
- Venue Tech Support
- Expo Signage
- Digital Displays
- Venue / Registration Signage
- Booth equipment
- Liability insurance
Decor plays a significant role in setting the ambiance and atmosphere of an event. It can enhance the overall experience for guests, create a memorable impression, and help to communicate the theme or message of the event.
Including decor in your event budget is essential because it allows you to allocate resources to create a cohesive and visually appealing event design. Here are a few items that you might need to consider while planning the budget for your event.
- Fabric and drapes
- Stage Design
- Gift wraps and boxes
- Ceiling design
- Hanging / Floor Signage
- Contest / Giveaway Rentals
- Other Decorative Elements
Food and beverages
Food and beverages should be an integral part of any event budget because they are a basic necessity that attendees expect and appreciate. Neglecting this aspect of the event can result in dissatisfied attendees and a negative perception of the event.
To take it up a notch, ensure that you offer high-quality food and desserts to keep your attendees satisfied. Here are some expenses you’d need to keep in the budget plan:
Lodging and travel for attendees
For in-person events, your attendees and speakers might need logistic and lodging support. If it’s a marketing or promotional event, you might sponsor one-way tickets for the attendees and offer them accommodation as a part of the event experience.
For corporate events, you’d need to sponsor accommodation and transport
- Flight/Bus/Train tickets
- Cab expenses
Your event may be an in-person event, but you’d still need some software, tools, and technologies to manage multiple aspects of your events. For example, automated kiosks or event management software.
The budget allocated to event tech depends on the type of experience you want to deliver to attendees. So there might be some room to cut costs and manage budget and expenses here and there.
Here are a few things to consider during event budgeting:
- Event management software
- Badge printing and RFID
- Check-in kiosks
Team and staff
Event staff are like conductors of an orchestra, coordinating and directing every element of the event to ensure a harmonious and seamless experience for attendees. They work tirelessly behind the scenes, troubleshooting, and problem-solving, to ensure the show goes on without a hitch.
Here is a list of staff you’d need to consider while budgeting:
- Event managers
- Event planners
- Hospitality staff
- Tech Staff
- A/V engineers
- Housekeeping staff
- Parking staff
No event is complete without an audio/visual solution. Your speakers will need microphones and speakers, and if it’s a large event, then having additional displays to showcase branded material or present a live stream of the main stage would add to the overall experience.
However, if the budget for your event is on the lower side, focus first on the audio. Expenses can be cut on video during an in-person event.
You can also hire a cameraman to capture the key moments of your event to post on social media and your event’s landing page.
- Speakers and Microphones
- Audio and video mixers
Extended budget breakdown for virtual events
So far, we have discussed what budget items and expenses could look like for in-person events, and also some common budget items like entertainment, marketing, food, and beverage for events.
So here is an extended list of the virtual event budget items to keep in your budgeting plan
Virtual event platform and SaaS tools
Your virtual event platform can make or break the event. Everything from attendee engagement and networking to marketing and post-event analytics depends on the tools and technologies you use for your event.
Here are some tools and technologies you might need to include in your virtual event budget
- Event Platform / Mobile App
- Registration System
- Event Website / Hosting
- Email / Communications
- Live Streaming Software
- Backstage Speaker Area
- Social Media Streaming Tool
These days, people demand more from your events. If your presentations, videos, and streams are not production quality, then you’ll lose opportunities to make an impression on your event attendees.
Here are items to add to your budget worksheet for your event A/V production
- Video Production / Editing
- Presenter kits (Webcams, microphones, and ring lights)
- Live Production team
- Pre-Recorded Content Creation
- Live Streaming Specialist(s)
Virtual event branding
Just like any other event, branding your event will incur certain expenses that you’d need to include in your virtual event budget.
Here are some branding items to consider while budgeting:
- Your virtual spaces like receptions, booths, and lounges
- Branding content for Social Media like banners, profile pictures, and more
- Event website branding
- Digital Content Downloads
- Online Event collaterals
- event swag
Event budget items for hybrid events
Since hybrid events are an amalgamation of both online, and in-person events, all of the items mentioned above can be considered in an event budget plan for hybrid events.
This includes everything from transportation and logistics to decor and virtual event platforms.
Template to create your event budget
No that you know what goes into the expenses and the granular breakdown of budget categories, it’s time to create your event budget with this simple template.
Here’s the list of columns for your event budget worksheet. These columns can work for planning event budgets for any type of event.
So let’s deep dive into the columns:
We discussed creating budget categories for an event like marketing, food and beverages, venue, virtual event technology and etc.
In this column, you can start adding the relevant categories to your event budget.
This column would have items under a particular category
Summarize the item description by including only the most important details so that all the teammates in your event planning team should know about it.
This is where you add any notes that you’d want to share with all the team members.
Mention the cost of the item or the service that you will need for the event.
Mention the quantity of the items or frequency and duration of the services.
As you progress in your event planning process, your estimated expenses will also change. Some vendors will change, the costs of the items might increase or decrease, or a few items might be replaced from the list.
This column should reflect the real-time updates in the overall expense of the budget after accommodating all the changes.
Calculating the difference between the actual expense and estimated expense will enable you to gain insights and track your event budget.
Calculate an estimated inflow depending on the forecast of ticket sales, profit margins, and event sponsorship available. Your estimated income will play a decisive role in planning your event budget.
Maybe the ticket sales didn’t do as well as planned, or one of the sponsors backed out. Your actual income should reflect these updates in real-time as your progress in your event planning process.
It’s important to keep track of differences as it lets you make preemptive decisions while planning your event’s budget.
Lastly, include a section to add any comments for your team members.
Here’s an event budget worksheet template and example
Video equipment kit
Event management software
Expert tips for planning your event budget
1) Remember that your event budget is a living document
Any event budget is a breathing, living document that needs to be updated time-to-time. As your event progresses, the cost associated with services and items is subject to change. Thus, these changes in the event budget should be proactively tracked and shared with all the stakeholders.
2) Reach out to sponsors
Onboarding sponsors will help you host an amazing event even on a shoestring budget. Sponsors can add value to your events by offering services like technology solutions, food, and beverages or by infusing capital to plan your event.
3) Keep your sponsors and stakeholders in the loop
The success of an event can be heavily influenced by the level of support provided by sponsors toward the budget. To ensure effective communication with sponsors, it is important to keep them informed about the progress of the event. Doing so can contribute to a more streamlined budget planning process.
4) Follow the latest event trends
Being aware of event trends can help you budget efficiently, attract more attendees, and achieve better results. Incorporating popular trends ensures you stay true to your event’s purpose without overspending.
5) Create an event budgeting committee to keep track of spending and expenses
Consider forming a budget committee to review the spending habits of all the teams involved. By working together towards your goals, you can achieve success as a team.
6) Source the best possible vendors
To make the most of your budget during the planning process, it’s a great idea to reach out to a variety of vendors. By talking to a few caterers, DJs, performers, and decorators, you can find the ones that not only provide excellent services but also fit within your in-person or virtual event budget.
So, take the time to connect with vendors, and you’ll be able to create an unforgettable event that stays within your budget.
7) Purchase event cancellation insurance
As event planners, we know that we need to be prepared for any kind of situation possible. Event cancellation insurance is important because it can provide financial protection in case unforeseen circumstances force an event to be canceled or postponed. It’s like having an umbrella on a cloudy day – you may not end up needing it, but it’s comforting to know that you’re prepared for any unexpected rain that may come your way.
8) Build a contingency fund
A contingency fund is necessary while planning an event to prepare for unforeseen circumstances or emergencies that may arise during the event, ensuring that the event can continue without significant disruption or cancellation.
Budgeting gives you a basic framework to start with, and not all expenses can be forecasted. It is a good idea to have a reserve and pad your budget for unexpected expenses. A virtual event does away with a large number of expenses associated with an in-person event. These include costs related to venue rental, hospitality, equipment rental, staffing, etc.
In this blog, we discussed methods to create your own event budget planning worksheet presented an easy template, and a few examples of how you can plan your event budgets and expenses.
So get ready, fire up your worksheets, and start planning your event budget!