Price: This was an international conference and intended to be an international conference. Compared to La Leche's international conferences, we came in at about 1/4 the cost or less for most things. Compared to Midwifery Today's conferences, we came in at about 2/3 the cost, but they *never* do childcare, rarely manage housing, and almost never do food. We were cheaper than DONA as well. We managed to provide low cost options so that anyone who could get their buns over to campus could get help with babywearing at some level. Those who wanted to take classes with some of the best babywearing instructors in the world could pay $10-$15 per class (and yes, we let walk-ins buy tickets for individual classes but only advertised the fact on Saturday). Those who wanted the whole experience paid more. We had people who put up to $2000 into the conference without even *coming* they thought it was so important.
It is flat out impossible to do a conference for $12 per day that involves flying speakers in. Most babywearing classes are either done free by someone selling slings, or cost at least $10 and up to $40 per class. The fact that someone could walk in and have Kelley from Kozy help with a mei tai in the conference booth was pretty dang awesome if you ask me.
And yes, we got a ton of advertising revenue, but the conference itself... let's put it this way. Those who paid attention and are an active part of the babywearing community had an option to get an early price of $50 per day. Those who found out later, paid more, and that's the way it is--we had bills to pay.
So what costs money in a conference?
Flying teachers in: $2800, including Jeni Norton, who founded thebabywearer.com, Barbara Wishingrad of the Rebozo Way project, Vijay Owens of Nine In, Nine Out, and Maria Blois. I also helped two others because both needed to be there to teach and help and could not come without help. For the first international conference, those ladies *needed* to be there. A regional event can get by on people who can drive or who are willing to pay their own way. MOST of our teachers got their own travel expenses.
Dorm: At $33 per night, a complete bargain. But we provided those who taught with room and board ($24 per day) for each day they taught. Most of our teachers could not or would not have come had they not been helped that way. Take the number of classes we had and multiply it by about $50 per class. Worth it to get the people we got teaching. But cheap? Not particularly. Those who attended felt it was worth it.
Venue: Reed is *cheap*. Seriously cheap. Our rooms cost us less than $4,000 which is just incredible if you know event planning. Food was $24 per *day* per person--LLLI and DONA freuqently get dinged $24 *per person per meal* for food. And $100-$150 per night for hotel rooms.
We could have done it on the cheap, made people find their own lodging, not provided food, not offered childcare...and how many people could have come from out of town? How many people *would* have come? How would they have felt when they got there?
What we did:
We picked people up from the airport: 2 vans and 1 car and something like 20 trips, with people just chipping in what they could do for gas. Broke even.
We had childcare available for donations... people paid what they could afford, for top notch care that I'm told kids were begging to go to. Broke even.
We had baby bouncers who kept herds of small children entertained and happy to the point that my daughter earned something in the vicinity of $150+ worth of *tips* she was so busy with it. Not a cost to the conference.
There was organic/free range food available 3 times per day on campus for less than $10 per meal, totally flexible for crazy food issues like I have and *healthy* if one chose. Even the burgers were free range beef. This is one of our largest "costs"...the teachers meals were paid for, their families meals were mostly not.
People could stay on campus, and did, and we worked hard to make it work for people. Teachers were mostly paid for, support people and attendees paid for themselves.
We offered a wide range of classes which will probably be significantly tweaked and rearranged next time to make them most user-friendly. But they covered a gamut. This was part trade show, part conference, part convention, and part retreat. It hasn't been done before in this community in this way. We had nothing to base it on for *our* specific demographic.
The general mood was that we took care of each other. That we helped each other. When my day fell apart on Monday when my daughter was not able to board her plane as scheduled, people came together and packed me up when I could not be on campus. People who were not scheduled as volunteers, who'd paid the full amount, just pitched in and helped anyway because they wanted to. We were all tired. We were all dealing with longer walks than we were used to, often with being alone with kids when we were not used to travelling alone, or being without kids for the first time in years. But even through that, I saw more grace and gentleness and kindness in one spot than I've ever seen.
Even so, the conference *may* break even. Barely. Or we may be a few thou short, which we have a backup plan for.
Can things be done cheaper? Sure. If I'd had more help, sooner, a whole lot of things that were relatively expensively done would have been done cheaper, better and more gracefully. I didn't tap into the PDX community fully anywhere near as soon as I should have, but we know better now for next time.
But please don't undervalue babywearing. I see this a lot... people think it should all be cheap or free. Well, there are a lot of free and cheap resources out there. But if you want someone else to make it happen, be it a carrier custom made or a class they're teaching, please value their time and energy and what goes into the product. We did have free and cheap options, and a lot of people made use of them and I'm *glad* they did. But the parts of the conference that were not cheap or free were worth every penny, every drop of sweat we put into them. Would we do some things differently later? Sure. But this was the first one. It needed to come from the whole community, be for the whole community, not just Portland. We learned a lot. Had I priced it any lower, we would not have had more people. We could have had fewer.
Our conference will end up costing between $20,000 and $25,000. Most conferences cost $30,000-$50,000. We brought in about $21,000 from all sources.