Event Planner’s Toolbox: Anticipate Event Revenue and Costs with Conference Calculator

Event Planner's Toolbox helps anticipate event revenue and costs with Conference Calculator in this edition. It uses over 90 different metrics and event data entered by the user to generate comprehensive report, which can be customized for a specific event.

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Event Planner’s Toolbox (EPT) focuses on software and services that enable you to reach your full potential as an event planner. They are handpicked, loved, and trusted. We try to keep them free, but free is not always the best option. However, in the age of freemium, services became more and more reliable while costing users nothing but time to learn how to use them. Each article focuses on one area, covering it in depth to make sure it solves the problem. You’re more than welcome to leave your suggestions in the comments.

Conference Calculator
The first set of graphs and calculated results based on sample event data.

A client walks up to you and says he or she wants to do an event in city A in the spring with X amount to spend on it. How long does it take you to get back to them with an answer?

Location and time are the most important elements of any event. Picking the right location and time for an event determines the overall budget. It's very important to do initial research to see if the budget your client has in mind would work in that location and time. You want to save your client money; you don’t want to go over the budget. It doesn’t look good if you do, and you'll lose business.

“Everybody has great ideas until they see exactly what it’s going to cost,” said Christopher Justice, CEO of SparkSight. His company recently introduced free Conference Calculator (no longer active) to help event professionals get a glimpse at what their future event might look like financially.

Conference Calculator calculates revenue and determines costs for an event based on several inputs from a user without registration. It takes in account event size, location, time, and registration fees to generate the first draft of a comprehensive report.

“It took about six months to derive a formula that was relatively, but not completely, accurate. And we just kept refining it over a period of time,” Justice said.

It uses over 90 different metrics to calculate an average budget based on entered event requirements, “then uses a combination of industry variables, statistics and other information we’ve collected over twenty-plus years to calculate the expenses,” according to the site.

Once the report is generated, you have more input fields to personalize the results for your specific event. It includes pre- and on-site registration, sponsorships, merchandise, and more for the income column. The expense column has an even greater amount of customizable inputs, such as speaker fees, beverages and food, production, and more.

“You could then tweak those budgets,” Justice said. “One of the skills that we have as a business is, really, mechanisms to optimize that budget.”

The Calculator is not 100 percent accurate, but it provides event professionals with a starting point for an event budget. Quickly reviewing generated reports is an easy way to see what budget works for that location and time based on industry averages. Even an estimate is better than nothing.

What’s funny and embarrassing at the same time we had people take the data out of Excel spreadsheet and they walk into their planning meetings. That becomes their basis for an introductory budget.

The Calculator was originally used to qualify leads, so clients had a basic understanding of the budget before they came to Justice. Calculator’s backend gives him an inside look at events in their pre-planning stage, but not everyone completes full reports.

Each event can be categorized by area of interest and event type. Justice says he keeps an eye on the data to see if there are any events he’s interested in. Recently, they had someone use the Calculator to see an estimated budget for a 2014 event in his area. Justice was able to provide recommendations for the event because he knew that market best.

The Calculator does not require any personal information. It’s very straightforward and easy to use. The only time you're asked for your email is when you choose to email the report to yourself or someone else, and it states they will never share or sell any private information collected.

The Calculator is a great tool for all event professionals. It provides an in-depth starting point for any event. Once you have this starting point you'll be better prepared to tackle the budget. It’s always hard to start with a blank screen. You often don’t know where to begin. This way you'll have the basics already in place, so all you have to do is begin changing numbers to fit your needs.

“It’s a hobby and if there’s a relationship that emerges from the data, great,” Justice said. “Do we look at the data? Absolutely. Do we always take advantage of it? No.”

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