Figure out what your conference is really worth

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Ever since we did a webinar on how to develop an effective budget a couple of weeks ago, I've had costs and values on my mind. Especially when it comes to pharmaceutical meetings (but increasingly true for corporate meetings of all kinds these days), you have to balance value, real costs, and perceived costs, with what it takes to accomplish what your meeting needs to get done without having to hear the word "boondoggle" or complaints from attendees. It's not easy, I know. And for associations that have to work around perceived values and costs when it comes to registration pricing as well as the perennial need to do more with less, that's not easy either.

While I haven't come across any big solutions to any of it, I did find a new way to think about costs and benefits from Seth Godin that I have to pass along. Basically, his premise is to stop talking about numbers and start talking about equivalencies. One of his examples has you choosing between going to a good college that's offering a free ride and a slightly more prestigious school that'll cost $200,000 over your four-year stint. Most pick the "better but more expensive" school because that $200k, while a big number, is still just a number. To get to the real value, think about what that money represents, he says. For example:

If you go to the free school, you can drive there in a brand new Mini convertible, and every summer you can spend $25,000 on a top-of-the-line internship/experience, and you can create a jazz series and pay your favorite musicians to come to campus to play for you and your fifty coolest friends, and you can have Herbie Hancock give you piano lessons and you can still have enough money left over to live without debt for a year after you graduate while you look for the perfect gig...

Suddenly, you're not comparing "this is my dream," with a number that means very little. You're comparing one version of your dream with another version.

Meeting managers are probably better than most at thinking in these terms, but it really struck me as an interesting way to approach budget issues.

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