by Louise M. Felsher, CMP, CMM | August 01, 2007

Is your budget bloated? Bottom line sagging? Format looking tired? The following exercises will keep your accounting practices in the black.


GAAP stands for Generally Accepted Accounting Principles ( If you don’t yet know them, learn them and put them to use. Following GAAP ensures that each of your budgets will be formatted with the language and logic of nearly every accounting department you could possibly encounter. By using them, you will impress your financial department (and executives) and ensure a level of professional synchronicity.


Is it important to price out every croissant, roll and donut? Not really. However, be consistent with regard to how and where you break down certain line items. For example: Will your A/V section be one lump sum, or will you have each breakout room detailed, with each piece of equipment priced individually?

You always can link more detailed itemization to your primary budget summary on separate, coordinated spreadsheets or in hidden columns. The key is to have clean, easy-to-read summaries with the option for the reader to click on a specific line item to obtain more details.


Should you include hotel rebates and/or commissions in your budget? Accountants and attorneys continue to debate whether hotel rebates/commissions should be placed above or below the line (referring to the area below the official calculations).

Conservative financial professionals prefer not to factor commissions/rebates into profits (when considering profit and loss) for the following reasons: It’s a commission, and some companies have very specific regulations on such practices; commissions are never guaranteed, and the amounts can fluctuate wildly. One thing all financial professionals agree on is that meeting planners should follow their individual company’s policy on commissions and where they should be reported in budgets.


It’s best to work with one budget for each event. If people other than yourself have access to it, be sure they indicate changes they input and have them initial the changes. Be sure each time the budget is changed or updated, the new version of the budget is marked accordingly (for example: “ACME sales meeting budget, version 12”).


A budget should look professional, especially when it is being shared with clients and/or top brass. Be sure it is neat and easy-to-read, which is much more important than trying to make it look good by adding fancy graphic details. If you use GAAP as your blueprint, it will be difficult to go wrong.


Is it OK to use either Excel or Quicken for managing your events, even if everyone else in your company uses a different system for their financial needs? Yes, as long as it is acceptable to your CFO and your documents can be uploaded easily and accurately to your financial department’s primary (often proprietary) software.

Excel and Quicken are powerful tools in their own right and easier for professionals without a background in finance to navigate and maneuver. In addition, they can generate a respectable number of reports, limited only by your own knowledge of the product.

A common mistake a lot of companies make is to attempt to force the wrong accounting software on the wrong project(s). Very often, the software is either too robust or not robust enough.

Louise M. Felsher, CMP, CMM, is senior event operations manager with George P. Johnson Experience Marketing in San Carlos, Calif.