Good, Better, Best: How to budget for success

by DevOpsDays Global Core Organizers - 06 June, 2024

DevOpsDays events have been running for nearly 15 years now (plug: come to the anniversary event in Antwerp!), but the ecosystem in which events are run has changed. The cost of living has increased in many countries, the ability to travel has been severely reduced, and there is less financial ability by many historically generous sponsor companies.

As one of the co-chairs of the global core team, I wanted to take this opportunity to highlight a new section we’ve added to the Organizing Guide: Good, Better, Best Budget.

This section is all about helping events—especially newer ones who may not have their own processes in place for this—to understand what would make their event financially viable, in terms of the number of attendees, the facilities offered, and the amount of sponsorship necessary to make these things happen.

Consider how many attendees would make your event “well attended”, and how many would be “overcrowded” (and how many your venue would support, keeping in mind you will be doing open spaces that need their own separate space to have conversations). From that, how much should you charge for a ticket? How much money would cover the bare minimum costs for the event (you definitely need a venue, but how much does that cost? You need badges, but how sophisticated do they need to be). While events in the past have offered full catering for attendees, this may not be a viable option any more. A community run event does not need to be run with the same flair as enterprise networking events. Consider a “contributor” tier, which costs double a standard ticket, that can be used as a subsidy for another attendee.

Consider how many sponsors would help make your event viable. This could be none: if you have established a cost-per-attendee that means that all attendees cover their own costs, then you may not need sponsors to break even. But if you do get sponsors, what else could you pay for? Do you want a sponsor to pay for coffee? As in, can you work out an arrangement where the venue hire cost for coffee is directly invoiced to the sponsor? Also, if your event has been running for a number of years, think about how many of your sponsorship tiers may change price. Also, think about how the tiers in your system work, and the cost of your time to acquire said sponsors: if you land a “gold” sponsor, how many “bronze” sponsors is that equivalent to?

In all of this, if things aren’t trending how you think they should be, consider when you would want to set your go/no-go dates. It’s always a difficult decision to cancel an event, but if you consider what your lowest “good” level is, you can drop services from your event before canceling entirely. A major cost is venue catering: can you drop lunch, and add an extra half hour in your schedule for attendees to find their own sandwiches? Are you running in a location where it’s practical for your event to blend into the facilities for office workers seeking snacks, as not to overload any one particular venue, so everyone has options and can get back with time to spare before open spaces?

We would love to hear more about how cities have been running. In that vein, we’re piloting a “post event survey”, where we’re asking events to share nuances about their event and how it ran. We know that most if not all devopsdays events use the website, so we can see how many sponsors and speakers each event attracted, along with ticket pricing; but we don’t often have visibility into the total number of attendees and how the event actually felt on the ground, including attendees, sponsors, and organizers. We hope this information will help us tailor guidance to other events in the future.