Tips for Calculating Registration Fee

Published: 03rd October 2005
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With conference registration as the primary source of revenue for meetings and events, determining the right registration fee is probably the most important step in ensuring a highly profitable event.

Conferences derive revenue from many sources, such as books, tapes, exhibit space rental, and sponsorship. However, the registration fee is typically the single most substantial source of revenue for any organization. Not only does the registration fee generate revenue but it also determines the ultimate number of attendees. The goal then is to set a fee that attracts the most attendees yet covers the requisite expenses to maximize the profitability of your event.

To this end, there are myriad factors you must consider before pulling out that all important spreadsheet and running the numbers.

Who are your potential attendees? Are most "on their own nickel", or sponsored by their organization? Attendees paying out-of-pocket will have a lower pain threshold than those whose registration fee are covered. If you set the fee too high, you might dissuade attendees due to the high cost. On the other hand, setting the price too low sends the message that the perceived value is low. Take a "big picture" look at your potential attendee's budget. If you've got a beer and pretzels crowd, don't set a registration fee for the champagne and caviar set.

If your conference fee is prohibitively high because of numerous food and beverage functions, for example, offer your attendees a net rate with the option to buy such extras as lunches, and a ticket for the social at pre-registration. If they register a la carte, you won't order too many meals, and more attendees may attend the conference who couldn't otherwise afford your deluxe, all inclusive registration fee package.

Before setting the fee, also consider the total conference attendance cost to attendees. Remember to include airfare, hotel, meals, transportation, meals and miscellany in your calculations. This figure is a guide to your attendee budget and will guide you when formulating a registration fee commensurate with the overall cost.

What are my numbers? Determining the expected number of attendees is vital to the success of your conference. This is where your detailed group history reports come in handy. Your expected number of attendees is used to determine the cost of your food and beverage, meeting room rental, transportation, etc.

Sharpen Your Pencil:

Conference costs are either fixed or variable. Fixed costs are those expenses incurred regardless of attendance and variable costs change with attendance. An example of a fixed cost is meeting room rental and a variable cost would be food and beverage. Using your group history, calculate your event's anticipated fixed and variable costs. I always add a 10% buffer for the inevitable hand of fate!

One way to calculate registration fees is to divide the total fixed costs by the number of expected attendees, and then adding in the per person variable costs. Remember to prepare your budget under the assumption that all registration will be at the discounted rate(s). That way you are covered in the worst case scenario.

Early Bird specials and other discount programs are the industry norm and can increase registration. Those early bird's can be your budget's best friend too, for several key reasons. Those early registrations are an excellent gauge as to what to expect as "D" day draws closer. If your early birds are turning into a flock, it's a good bet your total attendee showing will be strong. The greatest advantage to these early discount programs is that you can coordinate their cut-off with your key hotel and supplier contractual obligations. If, for example, you have a room attrition deadline of February 1, you should set the early bird registration cut-off date no later than January 25. On your cut-off date, you will have a snap-shot of your upcoming event which will assist you manage your contractual obligations. If the discounted registration fees are coordinated with suppliers, the information gleaned is invaluable when determining how many guest and meeting rooms to release, hold or increase. This would hold true for variable expenses, such as food and beverage, transportation requirements and other related expenses as well.

If increased membership is a goal, remember to offer discounts to your members. When non-members see reduced member fees they might be inspired to join. Consider offering members and non members early and late registration fees;this incentive will help in your determination of the head count for your conference. As with early bird specials, use the lower fee when calculating your budget to cover that dreaded "worst case" scenario.

Registration fees are tricky to calculate under the best of circumstances because, alas, even us planner's can't predict the future! In today's uncertain market, this all important calculation is even more challenging. However, with careful planning, meticulous calculation and a nod to Murphy, you will calculate a registration fees, or fees, that provides your attendees and your organization with that much coveted win-win.

Remember these key points:

Use your group history

Consider all factors that may affect attendance (world events, competing event, a pricey venue etc.)

Know Thy Group (fee "pain" threshold, total attendee conference expense expenditure, etc.)

Fixed Costs divided by expected number of attendees. If you expect 100, calculate based on 90 attendees. Add in per person variable costs. This gives you your discounted registration fees. Always add into your fixed and variable costs a 10% buffer for the great unknown.

About RegOnline

RegOnline provides meeting planners and event organizers with a flexible, affordable online registration solution that allows them to process registrations and accept payments via the Internet. RegOnline is a web-based service, meaning there is no software to purchase or install. RegOnline's customers include companies and organizations such as

Arthur Andersen, Tech Data, and the California Library Association.

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