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Researcher Development

Researcher Development


Key to organising a conference is knowing how much budget you have to spend. This will allow you to determine the size and scale of the conference. So, the first thing is to establish where funds will be coming from and what the outgoing costs will be.

  1. Conference budget: Whether the conference you are organising is departmental, faculty-wide, or bigger, there are usually allocated budgets. For instance, if you are organising a faculty-wide conference, you can contact the faculty head and ask whether there are any funds available. They will either be able to help you directly or direct you to someone who can. If your conference focuses on a specific group (eg doctoral students), an initiative (eg climate change) or a research practice (eg qualitative methods), you can contact any relevant bodies, organisations/industries committees or societies and either access existing funds or apply for funds wherever they are available.
  2. Registration fees: Requesting registration fees from your attendees depends on the type of conference you are organising and the budget you have available, so it is completely optional and based on the purpose of the conference. If you want to keep the conference free to attend and take part in, this will not be something to consider, but if you need to make (extra) funds, you could charge a registration fee (but keep in mind that this can hold people back from registering). Although, if it is a university event, you’ll need to check if you are allowed to ask for registration fees.
  3. Sponsorship: A great way to access additional funding is to get sponsorship. This means contacting businesses and companies that may be relevant to the purpose of your conference, such as suppliers of lab equipment or student service providers and offering them an opportunity to promote their company on the event day. In exchange, they will be able to pay a sum of money which could go towards the conference budget. You could offer tiers of sponsorship with different benefits, so that they have different options to choose from. For instance, for £100 you could offer conference admission and promotion of company and logo on the conference programme, website and all promotional materials; for £200 you could also offer a speaking slot during the conference, additional person’s conference admission, more company/logo exposure and first choice of exhibition area, etc. Below you can find an email template for approaching companies. If they respond positively, you can follow up with a document outlining your sponsorship packages with prices.

Email template:

“Dear Sir/Madam or Insert name of contact,

As Insert value of their relevance to your audience, we thought you might be interested in receiving more information about an upcoming Insert brief description of conference which has now been confirmed to be occurring on Insert date! We would like to extend an invitation to you to join us this year. Please find some more information below:

Insert details about the conference including theme, audience, venue,           prospective attendees, estimated number of attendees, etc

We would be delighted if you could attend the conference (either virtually or in-person) to provide information to researchers who already use your services or may want to in future. If you would be interested in attending, please find attached a document detailing the tiers of sponsorship which we are currently offering. Insert financial status of the conference if relevant e.g., free, not-for-profit, or emphasise the initiative. If you have any queries or require any more information, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Organising Committee”

  1. Catering: If you are holding a conference in-person, and it spans across the day – or even a number of days – you may consider food catering for your attendees, in addition to tea and coffee (Chapter 8). This will likely be your biggest expenditure. Be sure to gather an estimate of the number of people who will attend before budgeting for catering, perhaps with online polls or registration forms, where you can also gather information about dietary requirements (Chapter 7). Prices will vary depending on type of food being offered, so keep this in mind.
  2. Online costs: If you are planning to have an online conference you may consider online conference platforms, which come with various costs (Chapter 5). Get quotes for potential platforms as soon as possible. Some online conferencing platforms offer free demonstrations where you have the opportunity to ask questions and explain your requirements. If you decide to create a website for your conference, this will also require time to build yourself or a payment for the website builder. Additionally, there are likely costs to get the domain name.
  3. Printing: If you want a conference programme booklet for attendees to refer to on the conference day, the printing costs need to be budgeted. Plan these costs based on your estimated number of attendees. You can get quotes from different printing companies.
  4. Prizes: You may want to have competitions for the best posters/speakers at the conference, in which case, you’ll need to budget for prizes. Vouchers are a convenient prize that anyone can make use of! You could decide to allocate the funds you receive from sponsors for this.
  5. Other costs: Additional costs may include travel (if you need to provide transport to attendees), and you may accrue costs related to practical things on the conference day(s) such as velcro/poster fixing materials, nametags, lanyards, etc. Be sure to allocate some of your budget to these miscellaneous expenses.

Discuss these funds and costs with your team throughout the course of conference planning. You may find it useful to have a dedicated Excel spreadsheet that keeps track of these incoming funds and outgoing costs.

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