Think with me for a minute…..have you ever thought, or said, or heard someone say anything like
man, the conference is so expensive! NCECA must be rolling in dough!”
it’s ok, you don’t have to tell me if you have thought or said that yourself. But I’ve heard it, and I understand that it can be easy to think that when you’re forking over so much of your hard-earned (and let’s face it, limited) claycash to attend the conference. I’ve been on the finance committee for NCECA the last 6 years, and I can tell you in none of those years did I or any of my fellow board members or NCECA staff members do somersaults in any piles of cash (if that ever happens, I promise to film it).
As we saw last week, your $200(ish) conference pass is really only about a tenth of your total conference experience cost, but that revenue is the ONLY money that NCECA gets to put on the conference. And the pool of money created from that admission fee covers a lot of things. And as much as I, personally, LOVE my spreadsheets and budgets, that’s probably not true for most of you. Instead, today, I give you
The NCECA Member’s guide to “where the heck does my conference pass money go?”
(although I DID use a spreadsheet to create the pie chart above)
Presenters & other talent- (15% or approximately $30.00 from each conference pass)
First and foremost, NCECA wants to pay its people. $300, a full year membership and a conference pass go to each of our presenters. Demonstrating artists, Closing and Distinguished Lecture, plus the roundtable participants are paid a bit more. The Dance Band and Randall sessions also can have higher pricetags, and of course, for our Keynote, we try to attract a really exceptional speaker to spark our interest and open our conference with the best possible message. You can imagine that carries a pretty high price tag, especially if we have to work through an agent or speakers bureau. How high? It varies, but think in the range of thousands…more than a few of them. The total budget for honoraria is over $75,000.
The “THINGS” we need- (27% or approximately $54.00 from each conference pass)
There is a lot of hardware & equipment that goes in to putting on this conference, and none of that comes cheaply, especially when you’re renting it from the convention center. When you go to a session at the conference and you see the stage set up with the microphone, table, podium with presenter computer/display and of course, the big projection screen with the folks in the back controlling the big soundboard, keep in mind that each of those elements costs probably 5 times what you think it should cost. (An 8′ table rented for 3 days of the conference probably costs more than it would cost to go to Office depot and BUY one. I think it’s about $80/day…PLUS the tablecloths) Just the other day, I was chatting with Ben Carter about the Clay Stories session and how it would be recorded this year. He said it would be great to have the professional recording equipment and engineer to record that session, rather than just him and his equipment, because then the sound can be balanced on the fly and so on. I had to tell him that to do that would cost well over $1000 for the equipment in the room and the technician…I could almost hear his jaw dropping all the way from Kansas. If you’ve ever been a presenter, you know that we have a speaker prep room with 4 laptops, all connected to the internet and their own projector, just to test your presentation before you actually give it. In the demonstrator room, we have 3 cameras on each artist recording to giant hard drives and also broadcasting onto the big screens, plus all the lighting, the stage, and other setup in the room. (Usually, the actual pottery equipment being used is on loan from nearby schools, or often provided by the manufacturers…be sure to say thank you to them for their part!) In the process room there’s a mobile camera (and operator). There’s also all of the setup in the Resource Hall, the Registration Area, the building of all the stages, the tables & chairs…even the trashcans have to be rented. The total budget for Equipment Rentals is over $135,000.
Travel & Lodging- (14% or approximately $28.00 from each conference pass)
The NCECA staff our A/V Crew and board members who are required to work the conference are reimbursed for their travel to the conference & food expenses. Keynote, Closing & Distinguished Lecturer, Demonstrators & Toundtable speakers are also reimbursed for travel and provided with a hotel room for one or more nights of the conference. Members being inducted as a Fellow, Honorary Member, and given the Excellence in Teaching Award also receive these reimbursements. There are also a variety of other food & beverage expenses. If you go to the member’s meeting on Thursday morning, there is always coffee provided. We also provide coffee for our Resource Hall exhibitors. Shockingly, Coffee at a convention center costs about $150 for a 5 gallon carafe. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to suggest that everyone pitch in $3.00 and buy a Bunn coffee maker and 20 cans of coffee and brew it ourselves. It would cost WAY less…but, rules are rules, and convention centers have LOTS of rules. The total budget for travel & Lodging is $70,000.
Conference Facility- (12% or approximately $24.00 from each conference pass)
A lot of people long for the old days when NCECA was smaller and held at a local college or maybe even a large hotel and their facility could handle us all. But NCECA is growing, and that growth means we take up more space. More tends to translate to more expensive. Convention Centers themselves are more expensive, but then in addition to their own expense, they come with their long list of rules and requirements AND their high-priced partnerships for services. If you followed my Inside NCECA column last year, you may have seen the post on how NCECA selects a city. The conference center costs are a big factor in that equation. For example, Chicago, while a great city, is a heavy union location. This results in a great deal of the costs tripling to pay the union labor fees. For this year, the total budget for the Conference Facility is $60,000.
The rest of the miscellaneous expenses – (32% or approximately $64.00 from each conference pass)
Our temp services include people to work registration, security guards, paramedics, Audio/video technicians, fire martial, setup crews/laborers. (Temp services budget is $60,000) We also have credit card processing fees as well as the phone and internet lines to run credit cards, the computer kiosks at registration and their internet fees. Actually, while I’m on the subject of internet, let me just share with you the costs of a basic internet or phone line at the conference. While it varies from city to city, a phone line, as I recall, is about $75/day. Internet service starts at probably $250/day, and that’s for a slow connection. People have asked why we don’t stream the conference live. In order to get that kind of bandwidth, the cost is into the thousands for the line and the hardware to do it. Insane, right? Convention center costs are real! (Credit Card processing & utilities budget is $35,000) With these big convention centers also comes a bigger need for signage, and as our program expands, so does the size of the program guide. You’d probably be surprised at how much the cost of signs can mount up! Also, good news! This year, we budgeted for some new signage especially for Exhibitions! So those will be more clearly marked this year and for future years! (Printing & Signage budget is $25,000) Not far behind that and what is probably self explanatory (albeit rather large due to the scale of our conference is postage, shipping & office supplies, budgeted at $20,000). For the size of our conference, we actually have a remarkably small budget for Marketing. The majority of the expense in this category is the NCECA App, which costs about $8,000. We also reserve some money for radio spots and local advertising in the city in the hopes of drawing in more curious people (future clay folk!) Our total budget for Marketing is $15,000. Not surprisingly, NCECA also spends some money on social activities….the Expo reception, the Opening Ceremonies, the Friday Night Dance, plus we host a few receptions, such as that for our international attendees, and the members that are being honored with awards at the conference. For Social Events, we budget $10,000. The last two categories are necessary evils. We have conference insurance, so that in the event that disaster strikes and we have to cancel the conference, the insurance will pay for any expenses incurred in the cancellation. And of course, there’s always taxes to pay, even for a non-profit. These two items combine for a budget of $5,500.
Of course, this is just skimming the surface of the expenses, and doesn’t even include the costs of mounting all of the exhibitions that go along with the conference…But maybe that’s a topic for another day. I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s glimpse Inside NCECA’s conference budget. I welcome your questions about this or any NCECA topic you want to hear more about! See you next week!