The One Thing You Need to Know to Create a Realistic Corporate Event Budget
Want to know the question we get asked most often?
What kind of event can I get for $XYZ,000?
It’s the million dollar question...literally, but the truth is, we just don’t have a rinse-and-repeat answer for that question. An event is so varied, so complex, that there is no set formula for what it might cost.
A budget of $250,000 could be a lavish company picnic for many or a luxurious gala for only a few. There are so many variables that affect the event budget, and without a serious feasibility study for an event, it’s simply impossible to estimate a cost.
there’s one thing we do know that affects the budget more than any other variable: The Venue
Venue selection is the cornerstone for all other choices. It determines your date, guest capacity, vendor options (or restrictions), what extras are included (or not), what decor and rentals you’ll need, and so many other event factors.
When you’re trying to determine your event budget, the better question is: “Where do we want to have our event?” (Or, more realistically, “Where can we have our event?”)
You might not have known it, but booking a venue is not a buyer's market. There’s limited stock, even in big event towns like New York and San Francisco. Often this means that you’re confined to just a handful of choices and that limited choice shrinks even more if you need a space that can accommodate more than 500 people or if you want to hold an event in a busy season.
Since a realistic event budget formula is as elusive as a unicorn sighting, and knowing that venue selection is a critical factor, how exactly does one even begin to figure out how to put together a decent budget to present to internal teams to get sign off?
By researching venues and related costs.
There are two ways to get that done: either by doing it yourself or by hiring an event planner to do the R&D for you (hi there!). Determining your venue, or at least the options for a venue, is the #1 thing you should do before you can build a viable budget.
The Venue Research Process
When we research event spaces for clients, we ask questions that help our clients spend their budget in the best way possible. We’ll get into the weeds of all the ancillary costs that a venue might require (like security, power distribution, extra setup and teardown hours, whether you need to use a certain A/V company, what furniture is included, etc.). We’ll also consider costs that the venue might not tell you about; like what to do about transportation if there aren't great parking options nearby.
If you plan to do that research yourself, give yourself time and space to make it happen. We strongly recommend against committing yourself to any budget limit before you’ve done this research. Nobody likes asking a stakeholder for $10,000 more because you didn’t realize that you needed to pay extra for janitorial services and a dumpster.
When to start working with an event planner
The dreaming stage is the perfect time to bring an event planner into your process. Whether you choose to DIY this process or hire an expert, here’s what we recommend:
Start calling venues early.
Be open and flexible with dates.
These two tips will make your planning process much easier and your budget more flexible. We recently researched venues for a client with one date in mind, and after researching 30 venues and touring five, we found two that worked for their budget and scale. We made it work, because we’re good at what we do, but to give yourself the best options, start early!
Are you hosting an event in the next year?
If you’re considering hosting an event in the next 12 months, we’d love to do the research for you. We know the quirks of each venue and which questions to ask that you’d likely never think of (like “Is WiFi extra?” and “Do we need a third party service to take out the trash or is it included?”). Details related to your venue get granular, fast, and it takes time and expertise to do research that gets you an accurate budget estimate.
What events are you dreaming about in the coming months? Now is the time to lock in venues before they get snapped up. Interested in having us do the research for you? Send us a note and we’ll get the conversation started.
Paige Buck is the co-owner of Kennedy Events is a large-scale event management company based in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York City. Our team creates stress-free conferences and events with a positive impact, which allow our clients to resonate with their audience. Kennedy Events specializes in producing flawless product launches, award ceremonies, fundraisers and multi-day conferences while keeping our eye on retention and engagement goals.
About Kennedy Events
Kennedy Events began with one goal in mind—to produce high-level corporate events with just as much strategy as style. Maggie founded the company in 2000, found her match in Paige, and in 2011 the two became official partners. Since then, these two resourceful and brilliant creatives have pooled their strengths to build one one of the most the most sought after corporate event companies in San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles.
Make sure that your event is as valuable to your company as it is meaningful to your attendee.
We’ve (nearly) done it all when it comes to large scale events.