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Katie MoserMar 4, 2024 9:25:12 AM6 min read

What Does a Corporate Conference Cost to Plan?

Conferences are a large undertaking with an even larger price tag. With inflation increasing costs across the board and so many factors to consider when planning your conference, it’s hard to know exactly where to place your budget. 

Sometimes it’s easier to just slap a number on it and try to fit everything into that topline budget, but that’s not always the best approach.

In this article, we’ll walk you through some average costs for conferences (they can vary greatly!), a couple of budget scenarios, and some areas to keep in mind when building out your budget.

Average Cost to Plan a Corporate Conference

Conferences are certainly more expensive than they were just a few years ago. Inflation took a toll on every aspect of the industry, and those increases are being reflected in overall budgets.

Although the cost of a conference can vary wildly, we have some basic numbers to keep in mind as you start to plan.

  • The average per-person cost for a conference can range from $500 to $2,500. These costs can obviously run much higher, but we’ve found that the average conference comes in around this range.
  • Total conference costs can range from $150,000 up to over $3,000,000. Again, this all depends on factors like the size, location, and length of your conference. We typically wouldn’t recommend trying to host a conference for under $150k unless you don’t plan to serve any food.
  • In this case, we consider a conference to be a 2-to-5-day event with more than 200 people in attendance.

How to Allocate Different Budgets

Let's take a look at two different budget scenarios for a 2-day conference with 500 people in attendance. The format of this conference would be one full-day + one half day, which works out to two lunches, two breakfasts, two-to-three breaks, and one dinner / reception. In the first scenario, we take out the breakfasts to give you a lower food & beverage cost.

Per-Person Cost: $500

Let’s do some quick math. If your goal is to keep the per-person cost around $500, then a 500-person conference would cost around $250,000. 

We would break down the cost as follows:

  • F&B - 2 lunches, 2 breaks, 1 dinner: $100,000
  • Basic A/V: $65,000
  • Registration / attendee management: $15,000
  • Printing / branding / gifts / misc: $20,000
  • Entertainment / photographer: $15,000
  • Event Management: $30,000
  • Staff accommodations & travel: $10,000

Keep in mind that these costs will vary depending on your location, choice of hotel, number of meals, and several other factors. Take a look at those in the next section.

Per-Person Cost: $1,500

Let’s now take a look at a conference of 500 people for 2 days with a cost of $1,500 per person. The overall budget will come out to $750,000.

The cost would break down as follows:

  • F&B - 2 lunches, 4 breaks, 1 dinner + reception, 2 breakfasts: $175,000
  • A/V: $250,000
  • Registration / attendee management: $40,000
  • Printing / branding / gifts / misc: $45,000
  • Entertainment / etc.: $30,000
  • Event Management: $60,000*
  • Transportation: $30,000
  • Activities / team building: $50,000
  • Expo hall: $50,000
  • Staff accommodations & travel: $20,000

For an event with this type of budget, you can offer more meals, improve your registration management with things like self-check-in stations or nicer badges, improve your expo hall, and add on additional activities to excite your guests. You can also vastly increase the quality of your A/V production setup, which is an area that can create a lot of impact (what we like to call the “wow” factor).

*Note that event management costs on a program like this will likely increase due to increased complexities around F&B (more meals), transportation, activities, etc. Even though the basic format and size of the event are similar, there are several more factors built into this event than the previous scenario.

What Factors Affect Your Conference Budget?

There are several areas that have a big impact on your overall event costs. These include:

Attendance numbers

Larger events are going to cost more, typically, though you can find ways to drive efficiencies with larger numbers (e.g. entertainment will cost less per-person for larger events). Keep in mind that more people typically means most costs will increase.


Whether you’re looking at hosting your event in a Tier 1 or event Tier 2 city will impact your overall budget. High-end venues will also increase costs. If you’re looking to save costs, take into consideration how you might be able leverage facilities you own or less traditional locations to host your conference.

What you’re paying for vs. what your attendees pay for

If you’re paying for all meals at the event, this will drive your costs up. Consider how you may be able to balance your agenda with some meals purchased by attendees vs. you providing every meal. Also consider whether attendees need to pay for their accommodations, flights, transportation, and more. Taking those costs off your plate can help bring your overall budget down.

Audio / visual production

Your production costs can vary drastically, depending on what you’re looking to accomplish. Production will always be a large portion of your budget and you should consider factoring in more budget here than you originally thought.

Special events / activations

Any add-ons to your event like evening events or activations will drive up costs. You’ll want to consider what adds the most value to your conference, and what might just be worth cutting.

Event management & registration

Hiring an event management agency will require additional costs, but can drive efficiencies through negotiation power. Registration management will also factor into these costs.

How to Save Money when Planning Your Conference

  • Leverage your event management agency for negotiating power
  • Cut out any unnecessary aspects of your event (does anyone actually use your app?)
  • Consider digital signage
  • Reduce meals paid for by your team – obviously you’ll want to hit your F&B minimum, but maybe you don’t need to serve every single meal
  • Find unconventional spaces to host the event that may be more willing to work with you on price
  • Revenue: Revenue from ticket sales and sponsorships will always help balance out your budget. Consider how you can incorporate both of these into your conference to offset overall costs.

What Makes the Biggest Impact

Overall, keep in mind that creating a conference experience isn’t just about budget. You’ll want to deeply evaluate what makes the attendee experience great and make sure everything you’re providing gives value, and that the things you’re cutting out don’t detract from the attendee experience. 

Staying at a not-so-nice hotel or hosting the event in a space not conducive to conferences isn’t worth it if your attendees won’t come back next year.

We also like to say that creativity is not a function of budget. Some highly impactful things can be accomplished on small budgets, and increasing your budget doesn’t always equate to better experiences (though it doesn’t hurt). We always recommend evaluating your business goals, your attendee preferences, and your overall program to determine where you need to place the most budget.

Not sure if your budget is accurate? Let’s take a look at it together and see how GoGather might be able to help you find cost savings or value-adds!


Katie Moser

Katie Moser is the Director of Marketing and Business Development at GoGather. With over 10 years of experience in marketing and a certificate in meeting and event planning, she has an extensive background in creating content and branding for events, working with speakers, and managing agendas for conferences. When she's not updating blog posts and sending out social media posts, she helps clients identify areas of opportunity for their events from branding to communications. In her downtime, she enjoys spending time at one of the many beautiful San Diego beaches, exploring new breweries, or chilling at home with her cat.