Front End North 2020 was a year in the making, it cost around £12,400 to run and had over 300 attendees. We didn’t count how many hours we spent on organising it, but I bet it was a lot (apologies again to our families).
We benefited a lot from the support of other conference organisers and our local tech community. We’d never done this before so having information about how other people had run and paid for conferences really helped us in the initial planning stages and beyond. In the spirit of paying it forward we thought publishing the details of how our particular sausage was made might be useful for other current and aspiring conference organisers. Plus, as a community focused event we want to be as transparent as we can.
Starting from scratch
We’re five individuals, each with our own jobs or businesses, so to provide a legal basis for the conference we formed Front End North Ltd. We have no paid employees, we’ve all given our time voluntarily and received no monetary compensation for running the event. We were assisted on the day by a team of 10 excellent volunteers.
As we were a new organisation we started with literally zero money, this initially made it hard to get started until our first sponsors came onboard. In fact, two of us ended up briefly lending the company enough money for the venue deposit so we could go ahead and get it booked.
What it cost
From the beginning we were keen to run FEN as very much a Minimum Viable conference. We budgeted for the essentials (venue and speaker expenses) then - as income from sponsorship and tickets grew - added in the nice to haves like the afterparty and t-shirts for organisers and volunteers.
In total we spent £12,400, this breaks down as:
Includes venue hire, A/V equipment and refreshments.
Speaker & MC expenses: 26.8%
Includes accommodation and travel expenses, plus gifts.
After party: 14%
Includes venue hire and drinks.
Includes wristbands, signage, t-shirts & hoodies for volunteers and organisers, branding, company administrative fees, stationery, bathroom packs, stickers, plus a post conference meal for the organisers to celebrate and retro the conference.
How we paid for it
It was important to us to keep the ticket price as low as possible. Thanks to the generosity of our sponsors we were able to have a flat ticket price of £50 (including fees). We chose to not offer early bird or other ticket discounts, mainly to reduce our admin but also because we felt that £50 was a low enough price to be inclusive.
As this was our first conference we had no real idea of how many tickets we’d sell, frankly we’d have been happy with 100. The Crucible is a large venue with up to 850 maximum capacity depending on the layout, we estimated that with the large screen layout the maximum it would seat comfortably for a conference was 400 (admittedly we did this from counting seats on a photo, so it wasn’t exactly scientific!).
In the end, we sold 296 tickets, gave away three freebies and allocated eight to sponsors, bringing the total attendance to 307. Our total income from tickets was £13,465.86.
Spot the difference
Our income from sponsorship and especially ticket sales ended up being much more than we thought was likely when we started this process and we were able to keep our costs pretty low.
Amazingly, we have around £12,000 left over.
So, what are we going to do with it?
Use it to make Front End North even bigger and better in future!
The money will be reinvested in future events, giving us a lot more options and enabling us to do some of the things that just weren’t feasible for our first one.
We’re taking a break to recuperate now, but watch this space for news on the future of Front End North, or catch us at Front End Sheffield.