15 tips for an effective budget

Calculating conference budget
Concluding that the financial basis of a conference was insufficient is unpleasant, to say the least. These 15 tips from the Educational Events & Conferences team at the University of Amsterdam can help you draw up an effective budget.  


1. A clear picture

Make sure you have a clear picture of the event, location, audiovisual equipment that needs to be hired, catering and the content of the social programme, as well as the expected programme costs (such as speaker fees, travel reimbursements and costs of speaker gifts), printing costs, and transport costs.

2. Use quotations

Try to base your budget on quotations as much as possible, as they provide the most realistic provision of the costs. The quoting party can also point out additional costs such as transport costs or VAT.

3. Extra cash flow opportunities

Be sure to provide insight into extra cash flow opportunities outside of registration fees. Think about who would like to get in touch with your visitors and how you can make this happen, for example in the form of a sponsorship.

4. Financial objectives

An organisation’s financial objectives must be unambiguously clear. Can there be money left over or do you have to break even?  


5. Round up the costs

Budgeting more generously in advance means avoiding arguing about it later. Give yourself more spending leeway.

6. Not every visitor pays

Members of the organising committee, speakers, PhD students, and other people who contribute to the conference often participate free of charge. Be sure to take this into account when calculating the costs in relation to your number of participants. These people do count towards room capacity and catering, for example, but not towards the budgeted revenue of the conference.

7. Keep time in mind

The decision-making process or lead time for an association conference is long. It can take two to four years between submitting a bid and the actual conference. Be sure to take into account current and expected inflation figures.

8. Make the estimate clear

If you make an estimate, indicate it properly. Call that a cost estimate, for example. In addition to an oral explanation, also record it on paper in the budget. For example, you may not know the number of speakers or the costs per speaker at the time of issuing the budget. To get the budget as accurate as possible, you can base yourself on the previous edition of the conference. The old website may give you an indication of this. Please make it clear that this is an estimate. This is also useful later in the process when you review the budget with the prices that apply at that time and based on the additional information gathered.

9. Version control

In the event of changes or if you have collected more information, continue to adjust the budget during the project. Save all these versions as well, so that you can analyse where and why these changes occurred later. Or, if the plan changes again, you can always go back to an old version.

10. Keep sharing

Keep sharing your budget with your client regularly. Depending on the lead time and the number of changes, do this once a month or once every two months. Complete transparency helps provide peace of mind.

11. Elaborate large cost items in more detail

Since hiring equipment and staff is expensive, take a closer look at what audiovisual equipment you need. If you plan to stream, is one camera enough or do you want to film from various angles using a camera technician? Hiring screens is also expensive, as the costs quickly add up. By mapping these out, you help your client make the right cost/benefit analysis and ultimately decide where the money is going.

12. Speakers from abroad

Will speakers from abroad be coming? Then carefully consider what expectations there are in the field of travel and accommodation costs. Do you have to buy a first class plane ticket or is tourist class enough? Does the person expect to be picked up from the airport by taxi or are those costs at their own expense?

13. Additional income

To generate additional income, see if you can get more from your sponsors. Be sure not to limit yourself to any packages that you have devised beforehand. By asking sponsors about their specific needs, you can offer additional valuable products and services.

14. VAT check

Be sure to include VAT in your budget. The suppliers who will provide you with quotations sometimes include VAT, and sometimes they do not. Check this carefully so that there are no surprises later!

15. Catering costs

When estimating the catering costs, also include additional costs such as catering furniture and personnel costs. For example, a coffee with a biscuit in itself may cost € 2.50, but including someone who prepares and serves it from a hired folding table, perhaps the costs are more towards € 7.50 per coffee.  

The Dutch Pre-financing & Guarantee Fund

Are you organising an international conference lasting at least two days in the Netherlands? For more financial security, you can make use of the Dutch Pre-financing & Guarantee Fund. This free service can help you in one of two ways:

Pre-financing scheme

The pre-financing scheme allows conference organisers to apply for an interest-free loan at no charge. The maximum loan amount is capped at €90,000. This scheme finances the initial costs that conference organisers incur in the early stages. For example, these funds could be used to make the first down payment for the accommodation or to develop the conference’s website.

Guarantee scheme

The guarantee scheme provides conference or event insurance that offers great financial security. The amount that may be insured, the guarantee, is capped at €90,000. This scheme covers possible losses due to disappointing numbers of attendees. The fund aims to guarantee that the conference can take place, regardless.

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