Budgeting for a Virtual Event

Author: Convene Editors       

Budget

How can planners account for new costs associated with virtual meetings? Members of the PCMA Catalyst community discussed the issue of budget in a recent thread.

PCMA’s Catalyst community offers members a platform to ask each other questions, share ideas, or, as the website says, “communicate and collaborate.” Here’s a sampling from a recent Catalyst discussion.

How to Budget for a Virtual Event

“As my clients shift to a virtual conference format, I need to create a budget for the event,” Diane Laundy, principal planner, Behind the Scenes Conference Planning, wrote on the PCMA Catalyst forum. “Does anyone have a virtual conference budget they would be willing to share, or suggest line items that I should consider as I develop my own?

“The in-person conferences [I plan] are typically for 300-350 people, [with] plenary and breakout sessions, an exhibit hall, and sponsors — a pretty standard format. We are still working on the virtual schedule, but [we’re] likely to incorporate similar education formats [to the in-person event]. We’ll definitely provide sponsorship opportunities and [the event] may or may not have a virtual exhibit hall. Registration systems and mobile apps are already in place.”


We’re in the same spot, and doing it for the first time as well. One section of line items that we’re finding is a bit different is in registration costs and the platform [we’ll] be using. We want to continue using Cvent and Crowd Compass and we know our costs there — no changes. But another cost does creep in when you then “marry” your registration platform to your delivery platform. In the case with Cvent, it was different depending on the platform and the integration needed. There could be another line item in your budget for this.

Then [for] the delivery platform you decide on — there are so many to consider, but a few folks have already shared great recaps of the primary players — you’ll need to capture the cost for that. Will you be running the show? … We’ve added a line item for tech support and virtual administration to our budget.

Something I’m seeing more and more of is the idea to have some of your presentations pre-recorded, in the bag, all set [and] ready to go. At the predetermined date and time, the pre-recorded presentation is shared and then in real time, questions can be fielded, polls can be taken, and surveys [can be] done. Depending on the quality of the pre-recorded presentations, you could have production costs.

Another cost I’ve seen brought up is on swag. To help your attendees feel engaged, [you] could offer a sponsor the option to buy cups [that say] “I had coffee in my PJs while attending XYZ Conference.” Just because you’re not meeting face-to-face doesn’t mean you won’t have promotional costs.

We know F&B as a cost will be gone, but we’re trying to find the “new” costs that we haven’t seen before.

— Jan Haughey, CEO and Founder, Jan Haughey Enterprises


If you have a good event app vendor, you should have the option to use the app/desktop itinerary planner as your content hub. I would [imagine] all app vendors now have virtual integration. From our perspective, the technology side can easily be kept under $10,000. Add your video conferencing licenses — one license per concurrent session. Think of it as your rooms at a convention center. If you have 10 concurrent sessions, you need 10 rooms. In virtual, with a tool like Zoom, it’s 10 licenses. Pricing depends on the size of the rooms (virtual license capacity) and if, in the case of Zoom, you go with Zoom Meeting or Webinars. Your event could probably be managed with a Zoom license under $500 for just the one month your event is being held in.
As Jan said, budget for IT help who would act as your meeting hosts so they can answer technical questions from attendees, help moderate the Q&A, start/end the sessions, and keep the speakers on time.

— Silke Fleischer, co-founder, ATIV Software/EventPilot

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