While events are often judged by how creative they are, only those who actually plan them know that the real creativity lies with that wonderful balancing act known as the budget.

The event budget is the ultimate balancing act in the hands of the event planner. Anyone can create a fantastic event that goes overboard and gets you fired. But underspending can result in the horrible awkwardness of a completely lame event.

As most things in life, preparation and aligning expectations is 90% of the battle.

In this blog post, we not only provide practical tips on how to create realistic corporate event budgets, but more importantly, we aim to remove the fear of even having to deal with numbers. That’s why we call it a numbers game. We want you to have fun with it (:

Let’s get started.

The essentials of corporate event budgeting

A clear and structured budget is not only a bunch of numbers on a spreadsheet. It provides the entire roadmap for what kind of event you will end up having.

It forces you to make decisions and allocate resources to what matters most.

It’s good to look at your event budget in terms of nice-to-haves vs must-haves. Ultimately, it reflects your purpose and priorities. For example, giveaways are a nice touch for a company workshop, but not quite as important as investing in a top notch lecturer. On the other hand, when celebrating a major company milestone, people tend to remember the entertainment and open bar. For knowledge and function-driven events, you want to focus on the value. For experience-driven events, you want to focus on that intangible thing called experience.

When all is said and done, the first step in corporate event budgeting is defining what a successful event is for you and your organization.

Making the case for flexibility

It might sound obvious, but we can’t overstate the importance of maintaining a flexible corporate event budget. So many things can happen that you need to factor it all in and stay nimble on your feet. The following scenarios are where flexible budgets can really make a difference:

  • Real-time response: when unforeseen changes in circumstances can put the event at risk if you don’t make a last minute change. Whether that’s a sudden cancellation from one of your vendors or a sudden change in weather.
  • Adapting to changing needs: As the planning process evolves, it's common for new needs or ideas to emerge. A flexible budget allows for adjustments to be made without affecting the quality of the other moving parts.
  • Moving the budget around: Event planners often need to allocate resources as the planning process evolves. That can mean needing more budget for entertainment. With flexible budgeting, you can often move it from one aspect of your budget to the other without skipping a beat.

Expect the unexpected

As a rule of thumb, we recommend allocating at least 10% of your overall budget for a rainy day ie. for the unexpected

Treat it as petty cash, but make sure that every withdrawal is registered. Over time, this will create budgetary patterns that will help you create tighter, more accurate ones in the future.

Corporate event budget f Factors in the key variables

There are a number of factors that many planners overlook, and that end up influencing your budget. Factors such as location, time, and season can all affect your bottom line by as much as 25%.

That’s a whole lot of money that could be otherwise spent on increasing the wow factor of your event. It’s something to consider, and unless completely necessary, you might want to consider making minor changes in your event plan to give your budget some breathing room.

Location: not every city is the same. If you have to hold your event in Manhattan, than you probably expect to pay that premium. But for many other planners, by changing the location you can save quite a lot of money. View our location heat map below to see the most expensive and most economical cities)

Time: Whether it’s weekend vs weekday, peak season vs. off season or day vs night, time plays a big part in cost.

Season: Each season has its pros and cons. We don’t recommend skipping a season just to save money on summer fans or winter heating. But when planning an event in either summer or winter, keep in mind that there are a few extra costs to consider.

The location heat map

Cost to hold a corporate event can vary depending on a number of time, season and local economic conditions. However, some of the cities that are consistently ranked as either the most expensive, least expensive or affordable for corporate events appear here in red.

New York




San Francisco


St. Louis

Salt Lake City




Kansas City




Los Angeles




San Diego








Las Vegas

San Diego


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