Academic conference budget planning tips at Royal Holloway University

How to prepare a conference budget

Planning a conference is a unique experience. With many elements to consider, the most important factor is ensuring that you keep track of your incomings and outgoings, and that you stay within budget. Here are our top five tips for preparing, and sticking to, your conference finances.

Find a good venue

Find a good and trustworthy venue. They will go through your event with a quote, a contract, planning schedule, function sheet and summary of on-the-day delivery with either an event or account manager helping you to look after your finances. You’ll have fixed overheads such as room hire, your programme and speakers expenses and variables such as catering, drinks and accommodation to take into account.

Prepare yourself for maximum capacity / cost

When planning your conference, always prepare a budget for maximum capacity, but make sure that you don’t tie yourself in to a contract that could incur cancellation fees. If you’re not sure that all of your invited delegates will attend, make this clear before you sign a contract with your venue and check your terms and conditions carefully. It may be easier to add people at a later date than to remove them, just be transparent with your venue or account manager throughout the process.

Are you able to book bedrooms separately to your main contract?

Variables like bedrooms and meals can be potential pitfalls when it comes to cancellations or last-minute dropouts. Try to sign a contract separately from your main room hire and overheads so that you can deal with the final attendance list closer to the time.

There is usually scope to negotiate

If you’re staying at a hotel, high headline rates allow venues greater scope for negotiation, so don’t be afraid to try and get a discounted rate. When it comes to academic venues, you may find their overall prices to be lower but this often leaves less room to bring down the overall price. Always ask about group rates, as you may be entitled to a large discount.

VAT should not be charged on academic non-profit conferences

With some exceptions, such as alcohol, academic and non-profit conferences should not incur VAT charges. If your venue is charging you VAT, make sure to mention that your conference is exempt.