Budgeting for event success

Among the most important elements of any project or procurement plan is the budget. A budget not only accounts for costs but also helps articulate the drivers of those expenses, forcing project planners to consider the logistics behind what goes into a project and (hopefully) what comes from it.

One of the mistakes that organizations make in budget development is that it is too often done apart from the planning and operations of the project, particularly with events. How often do we see well thought out project plans scuppered at the last minute because, upon running the numbers, it was determined there weren’t enough funds available to execute the project as designed? Or the intensity, quantity or quality of program components are reduced to save money after the fact?

It’s about more than money

Budget setting is about more than money: it’s about impact. It’s been estimated that 80% of the environmental impact of any product (or project) is determined at the design stage. Whether that number is specifically correct or not, it’s not hard to see evidence of the impact of design on what comes next. Once the budget and other parameters are set it is the work of project staff to figure out how to work within those parameters to achieve a result: that’s the power of the design to shape the outcome.

While money is important, one of the often forgotten budgetary items is time. There used to be a product called the Tim Timer that was a small desk clock that allowed you to input the average cost per hour of time spent per person attending a meeting and then tracked that for the length of the meeting. A meeting of 10 senior managers who might make, on average $80/hour, meeting for two hours would result in a meeting cost of $1600. If half of those managers didn’t have to be there, that means $800 was wasted in just two hours. When we factor in lost productivity for those two hours and the accumulated impact on morale and motivation of attending more meetings that mean little, the costs rise.

When we factor in lost productivity for those two hours and the accumulated impact on morale and motivation of attending more meetings that mean little, the costs rise.

Time and impact

Consider another example: hosting a learning event. If the focus is on introducing people to new content, most planners will focus on the curriculum. However, consider the possible aims: to increase the knowledge, skills, and capacity of attendees to do something. If that is the case, a curriculum is only part of the issue. How the event is organized, how it is facilitated, how the discussion is supported, what learnings are captured, and how attendees are prepared in advance to learn and supported afterwards in integrating that learning is all part of achieving that objective.

This requires consideration of how the event is designed for learning. Each of the elements above can be managed well and skillfully or ignored and poorly executed. How often have we been to learning events that simply didn’t prepare us for learning at all despite having high-quality content available? How much did we retain, forget or ignore as a result?

This is about budgeting not only money but the time, care and attention required to make the most of the investment in learning and people. One example of how these considerations fit in practice is in the CoNEKTR model of learning developed for busy people, diverse groups, and complex problems. CoNEKTR brings together the science of complexity, social networking tools, and design-driven approaches to social learning and innovation in ways that maximize the time and energy of event participants.

Strategies for better budgets

To effectively build budgets that will create the greatest benefit for the time and money spent, consider these tips:

  • Bring together those with the knowledge of the finances, logistics and strategic intent in co-developing the event plan early in the process
  • Consider both the cost of time and the opportunity costs associated with the event
  • Price your event based on value: what are you expecting to get from your investment?
  • Evaluate the impact of your investment to align your future plans with the outcomes of your current event. This determines how well you managed to accomplish what you set out to do
  • Invest in time and focus. If you’re organizing the event in-house, is the focus on the event drawing you away from other things related to the operations of your business? Do you have the time to invest in delivering the value you seek from the event?  Ensure that you can focus on the event, its purpose, and its outcomes without distraction.

If you need help building better value for your events, facilitating networking, measuring outcome and creating memorable, impactful learning opportunities connect with us and see how we can help you focus and do more.

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