My boss wants me to get a “ballpark estimate” for our next special event. What kinds of information do I need to provide to get an approximate cost?

This is a common question for us.  It’s the old chicken or the egg paradigm.  Do I start with a budget and see how much I can get, or with the creative elements of the event, and see how much it costs?

Creating An Event Budget

Making a budget can be a challenge depending on the size of your event and how you approach it.  It isn’t as difficult as many think and should be viewed as a good companion to the creative process of putting on an event.

First, start with listing the different aspects of your event – tables, chairs, food, drinks, presentation, entertainment, lighting, and decor.  Next, look at each line item and ask:

  • What does each line item need to be a successful part of the event?
  • Do you want standard white linens for the tables or specialty linen for extra pizazz?
  • What kind of centerpieces for the tables?
  • Any special seating?
  • What are your sound requirements? Speeches, band, DJ, etc.?
  • Is there a presentation portion?  Screens/ projectors or flat screens?
  • Do you want to have any special décor?  Mood lighting, projections or table spots?

Once you determine some of these things you can start to estimate the costs. At some facilities, tables/chairs/linens may be included in the room cost, unless you are going for a custom look.  But even if you want special linens or chairs, the venue may be able to help you with that.  If you are at a location that is a la carte,   these items must be priced separately, and thus the challenge begins.

(Click here for a free Event Budget Worksheet to get you started.)


“Can you give me a ballpark estimate?”

One common mistake people make is calling around and looking for a “ballpark” estimate for an event.  This is a hard question to answer, as there are many variables within each event service that are co-dependent.  The type and size of the sound system depends on audience size, type of program and the room. Presentations have similar variables- will it be video, I-Mag and/or PPT slides?   Décor of course, has a huge range of options. Lighting can also run the gambit from simple to over the top extravaganzas.

Options for obtaining estimates for all these elements are just as varied.  The only correct way to get even semi-accurate estimates is to map out your expectations and provide as much information as possible to vendors.


Where do I start?

You have the option of going to companies in the area that specialize within each of your line items: tables, chairs, linens; décor, or sound or video, lighting, food, etc.  You can call and work with them individually, essentially becoming your own production manager.  One challenge of this is understanding how all the event components interact with each other technically and logistically.  For instance, ensuring each of the vendors you are talking with will deliver the appropriate level of service you need. One errant vendor can cause ripples that will throw your whole event off track.

You could also reach out to an event production company who can help you by doing all the foot work by talking to the multiple vendors and pulling all the pieces together for you.  They have established relationships with trusted vendors with whom you can work.  Having one point of contact will also make your planning more efficient and timely.  Again, every event and organization is different, so weigh your resources.  Not just your budget, but your time and creative ambitions as well, before deciding which route to take.

To ease the burden of deciding how to approach your next event, feel free to contact me for a free consultation and honest opinion of the best route you should take in developing your next event.


Tel: 860-528-1343

To help you budget, here’s a free Event Budget Worksheet to get you started.


About Ed Woodward, General Manager, Event Resources, Inc.

Ed keeps Event Resources’ operations in sync with our clients’ needs. He has filled many roles in the music and event world since his start in 1976, and his propensity to stray outside of the lines has enabled him with a unique set of production and problem solving skills. Ed has been part of the team since 1996.


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