Conference School: How to Organise a Good Conference? Part IV: The Funding

Organising a high-quality conference may be expensive and labour-intensive, but if we budget smartly and search for other funding sources as well, then organising a conference may also end up being more affordable than it might seem at first glance.

Do we finance everything ourselves or will we need extra finances?

If by ourselves then what are our limits? What shall we cancel?

If we need extra finances then how much do we need minimum and what happens if we get more?

The budget

Broadly speaking, the main parts of the budget are:

  1. content creation, including speaker fees,
  2. project management,
  3. marketing,
  4. PR and communication with the participants,
  5. renting and decorating of the venue,
  6. equipment and video production,
  7. creation of conference materials,
  8. service at the conference on the day,
  9. accommodation,
  10. catering,
  11. entertainment.

mobile phone with calculator

If we have previously handled conference organisation on our own but now wish to use a partner, then we must also save about 10%-30% of the budget as their fee. The precise fee depends on the amount of work that needs to be done. Although this fee may seem big, it actually already exists when we are organising a conference on our own. It is because the salaries of our company’s employees are not included in the conference budget.

Today’s companies are so optimised that it is more affordable to buy the conference organisation service in. This takes away a huge additional workload from our employees’ in an area that is not even their specialty. A professional conference organisation partner can also helps us save on direct costs through their good established relationships with sub-contractors. They do it also by showing us where we could spend less in our funding.

Knowing what are the different types of costs, we ought to ask ourselves whether we will finance everything ourselves or will we need extra finances. If by ourselves then what are our limits and what shall we cancel? If we need extra finances then how much do we need minimum and what happens if we get more?


Regardless of whether we hire a partner or not we still need to buy most of the services we will need. That’s because very few conferences organisers also cater their own food or own a venue that is suitable for a conference. The most common method for getting the best quality-price ratio for any services is using procurements.

State institutions must always buy their services via procurements.Usually, the winner is either the cheapest offer or a combination of the price and meeting the client’s requirements. This means that we could end up with a cheap, low quality service or the procurement may be deliberately geared towards pre-picked service providers. In both cases, the organiser might not end up with the best possible service on the market.

To help us procure the service with the best quality-price ratio, we need to start with very precise and detailed requirements. Also by negotiating with renowned high-quality service providers. For example, we could organise a meeting with two well-known service providers and a newer group that consists of young and eager members. Listen to all of their ideas, be open to any new ones and then ask for a more detailed offer from whomever we clicked with best. Planning a conference takes a long time and ensuring we work well with our partners is just as important as the size of the funding.

Funding sources

Instead of doing price-based procurements and trying to get the cheapest offer, we should ask ourself how we could collaborate with a good planning partner. And how to ensure the execution of a high-quality event within a reasonable budget.

A common denominator for this would be division of costs. Here, we should start by contacting our suppliers. As a rule, suppliers have a marketing budget, which can also be used to help their vendors with their marketing in the form of a conference. For example, most startup conferences around the world are organised by using resources from global technology companies.

Another option for funding our event is by doing co-marketing or by getting sponsors. It might not make a lot of sense to organise a whole conference alone for our clientele. Instead, it may be more useful to join forces with other companies who are also interested in the same target audience.

A third source of funding is to check whether the conference being planned meets any goals of a project or programme being funded by the local government, a ministry, some Embassy, or any other similar public organisation.

Finally, if the content of our conference and the contacts involved are truly unique, we could finance the event by setting up a participation fee. As a global trend, huge and significant events such as the Nordic Business Forum, SLUSH and Web Summit tend to sell themselves quite well. At the same time, the average-costing conferences on the market are being replaced with client conferences. Those have an increasingly higher quality, and are free to attend for the invited guests.


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