I’ve had many people asking about what it takes to actually put together WordCamp Dallas, and there have been a lot of questions specifically involving the costs associated with the event.
I’ve been hesitant to share all the details up to this point for a variety of reasons including:
- Confidentiality for our event sponsors.
- No desire for second-guessing from the bleachers. (aka – I could have done it cheaper!)
- Privacy for myself since it involved cost I picked up.
However, I’ve decided that in the interests of the community I will share as many details as possible so that others who are looking to put on an event of this kind will understand what it’s going to take before they attempt to do it. The last thing we need are surprises, especially where money is involved.
Keep in mind that the costs outlined here were to cover around 350 attendees, plus live streaming of the event to a few hundred more around the world. Also know that WordCamp Dallas 2008 had a similar outcome, but at around 65% of the values here.
- Food: $8,750 – Lunches, morning coffee & muffins, and afternoon snacks.
- T-shirts: $3,500 – Two sided, two color shirts, plus filled requests for sizes to 5XL.
- ASL Interpreters: $1,600 – To provide sign language for the deaf.
- Venue Costs: $1,500 (est.) – Misc. costs associated with the venue.
- Welcome party: $1,200 – Friday night bowling party for about 90 attendees.
- Speaker’s Dinner: $1,000 – Saturday night dinner, as a thank you to our speakers.
- Speaker Travel: $900 – To cover speaker expenses only where necessary.
- Name badges, etc: $500 – Badges, signs and supplies.
- EventBrite / PayPal: $500 – Fees for processing transactions.
- Power cables, etc.: $350 – Venue specific needs.
- Other: $1,000 – Miscellaneous stuff that adds up quick.
- Ticket Sales: $8,970
- Sponsors: $6,600 ($2,000 received so far)
Total: $15,570 ($10,970)
So, as you can see, there is about a $5,000 shortfall from the event, plus another $5,000 that needs to make it’s way through from the sponsor’s Accounts Payable departments. This can be handled a few ways:
- Plan the event much farther in advance and give sponsors a hard deadline for payment.
- Be willing to float the deficit until sponsors come through with payments (what I opted for).
- Charge more. A ticket price of $50 would ensure that the event was closer to break-even.
The point of the math here is that an event of this magnitude needs a benefactor. There must either be a company or an individual behind it for decision making purposes, financial responsibility, and accountability. Attendees, sponsors and venue personnel must have trust in the entity standing behind it.
It doesn’t require a huge weekend long venue to get people together for a common interest. MeetUp.com will allow you to organize small groups of people and you could have Meet-ups at a home, restaurant, park, or some other reasonable venue.
There is no need to feed people, or by T-shirts, and indeed you can avoid the majority of the costs from this event. Assuming you can get enough folks together you should be able to attract a few speakers who are willing to come share their experience.
You can also always go the BarCamp route. If you’ve got a group of folks who can go with the flow, and you can forgo most of the niceties such as WiFi and power for everyone, professional A/V recording, tables and chairs for meals, etc. then you can put together an event at any old place that offers to accomodate you, and invite sponsors to contribute whatever it takes to handle the event without any money changing hands.
People have events like this quite often, but keep in mind that someone still has to take responsibility. So if you are going to organize the event you will be on the hook from a liability standpoint. I highly recommend an Umbrella policy from your insurance provider.
Other Costs and Notes
This year we didn’t have to do it, but last year we had to provide event insurance to cover the city for providing the venue. Event insurance for around 200 people ran about $500-600 as I recall. Be prepared to provide this for just about anywhere you go if you are planning on an organized event. For an example, see the Sacramento State University’s requirements.
Often times, certain venues will require that you use their catering service. This can really increase the cost of an event, so double check to make sure you want to go that route.
Finally, you are going to need a LOT of volunteers. You will need people to do all sorts of labor, otherwise you are going to have to pay out the nose for it. These things include:
- Creating / printing / assembling nametags and signage.
- T-shirt / poster / banner designs and creation.
- Organizing pre or post event parties
- Registration duties
- Q&A (running mics) and Time keeping for speakers
- Event setup and teardown
- Staffing a Genius Bar (to answer WordPress questions for free)
- Videography / Photography
- Webmaster duties and inbound question handling
- Registration management and accounting
That’s just the top 10. You may come up with more.
So, this post is not meant to scare anyone from taking on the challenge of organizing a WordCamp, but rather to serve as a sort of blueprint from with to start the planning. You can scale the various elements up or down as needed depending on the size, budget and type of people who will be attending.
As always, I’m happy to answer questions, or if you need someone to give a lecture and my schedule permits I’m always up for a good WordPress party. Cheers!