Getting Extra Transparent on Your Costs and Benefits (And Ours) for CMX Summit

Erica McGillivray
April 19, 2017
November 3, 2023

Nothing gets us more excited than to see your faces at CMX Summit, happening September 19-20 in Los Angeles. It’s the power of community that we’re always talking about. That we, as community managers, always strive for.

When you join us for CMX Summit, we want you to feel that love. But we also want to share conference costs and benefits. I’ve run several different types of conferences, and there are always costs which surprise non-event runners. We want to make sure you are able to make your case to come to CMX Summit, whether that’s understanding costs or making sure you’re able to relate all the benefits back to your team.

What’s your benefit or return on investment of attending CMX Summit?

Applicable insights

Our speakers are some of the best in the industry. We’re specifically curating our CMX Summit stage so you’ll take away insights to apply to your community work. We’re not pitching you products and we don’t allow our speakers to either. As a result, you get to travel home and back to the office with a list of to-dos and ideas you want to try with your team and community.

Professional community management is at a tipping point. We’re moving into new spaces and taking new steps as a discipline. Many of us have now been community managers five years or 10 years, and we’re looking to move our conversations forward and deeper.

Each afternoon of CMX Summit will feature breakout sessions specifically tailored for deep knowledge in specific disciplines of community. We partner with speakers to deliver relevant talks from practitioners doing the work. Whether you’re deep into support forums and trying to scale your team or heading into internal employee engagement and galvanizing people behind movements, our speakers will bring you fresh case studies, applicable insights, and guidance on best practices.


After Scott Shigeoka talked to us about snowflakes and fires at CMX Summit 2016, I felt as if the whole room walked away feeling like we too could conquer the world. Building community is never boring, but sometimes, we need that extra spark. We need to remember what we love about our profession. We need to remember that our communities are bigger than us and bigger than ourselves. Our incredible speakers at CMX Summit will put the spring in your step and the “tra-la-la-la” into your Lady Gaga karaoke routine.

You may find yourself learning about an aspect of community management you didn’t even know existed. You may discover a direction for your career path. You may find that new challenge that gets you up every morning and what you want to tackle next. You also just may find yourself incredibly refreshed.

Building connections and community

(Yes, I refuse to call this “networking” as that’s too stuffy for a room full of community professionals.)

These are your people. This is your squad. These are the people who understand on a deep and personal level what you do day in and day out. These are the people who don’t need to have explained what “community management” is or that, yes, you have an important job.

These are also the people who will help you better explain what you do to the rest of the world. Who’s had their dad say that you do customer service on Twitter? (That can’t just be me.) We’ll share the stories and the experiences. The good ones and the bad ones.

We’re the squad who’s incredibly interested in what each other is up to. We’re the ones who have your back when you’re stuck on a problem, need cheerleading for getting more budget or a new title, are looking for a new role, or an understanding shoulder when it’s time to vent.

Because we want to know what you’re up to, I’m not saying you’ll walk away with lifelong friends (though it’s happened plenty of times before), butchances are you will meet someone with whom you connect on a deeper level. Or at least someone that you will enthusiastically hit the post-conference follow back on non-work social medias. Our community comes from all over the globe. (Shout out to Australia, who’s already representing!) And we work with tons of different communities.

1:1 time with CMX and speakers

This is a mutual benefit for all parties involved. As we build a global network of community professionals and businesses looking to invest in community, we need this face time with you, our community. And we are always listening, learning, and wanting to take the next steps to help you.

Additionally, all the speakers we’re inviting are coming to directly interact with you. Many of them are working on interesting problems and looking to hear your experiences. Plus, one-on-one time with them means you get to directly ask them about your community with confidence.

We’re even building experiences into the programming to further your connections with speakers and other wise industry professionals. Our speed mentorship went wonderfully at CMX Summit West 2016, and we’ll be building on that foundation. Stay tuned!


CMX Summit 2017 features a few changes to our gatherings (read: networking functions and parties). But don’t worry, we’re leaving the fun intact.

Tuesday Night features a networking gathering after our show wraps up day one. You’ll be able to grow those seeds of friendship you planted when asking someone if this seat’s taken. Mingle, mix, and spend some time with our sponsors. We’ll have light h’orderves and drink options.

Wednesday Night is the official party. Venue TBD. But in years past, our after parties have twice featured one CMX CEO David Spinks jumping on top of the bar. (To his credit, one time was to take care of an emergency and save someone’s life.) This afterparty is your chance to relax after two days and a workshop of learning. There will be food and drinks, alcoholic and non-alcoholic, including our friend H2O. We’re also building in some surprises.

Limited workshop with David Spinks

Since seats are limited, not everyone will be able to participate, but those of you attending the half-day workshop before CMX Summit kicks off will be dazzled. Whether you’re new to community or looking to build upon your community’s foundation and success, David will show you how to turn your community dreams and ambitions into business cases and valuable assets for colleagues, clients, and customers. This four-hour workshop gives you the opportunity to dive deep into your particular challenges and get advice from David and other attendees. You’ll also have a snack break and a mixer afterward to solidify those bonds.

Sunshine and fun

Fun is just a natural part of everything above. If you don’t have fun at CMX Summit, I will buy you a tea or coffee and we’ll have a serious conversation about improvements.

One of the many reasons we chose Los Angeles as a new home for CMX Summit is due to the sunshine and the access to an international airport. As dedicated community professionals, we too often find ourselves with an inability to break away from our communities and take care of ourselves. While we’ll be busy learning, we hope CMX Summit allows you have a little self-care time.

Buy your CMX Summit ticket!

The numbers that keep CMX Summit humming

I previously shared our budget and expected revenue for CMX Summit 2017, plus historically numbers from 2016. Here’s a refresher, if you missed it:

CMX West 2016:

  • Income (tickets+sponsorship) $255,409.54
  • Budget $118,037.86
  • Total Profit/Loss $137,371.68

CMX East 2016:

  • Income (tickets+sponsorship) $157,162.73
  • Budget $94,122.55
  • Total Profit/Loss $63,040.18

As we combine CMX Summit forces, our projected 2017 budget will be somewhere between $234,419 – $341,037, depending on ticket sales. We have a profit goal of $220,000 that will go back into our business.

This only includes landed costs for the conference. For example, this doesn’t include any free tickets we give away — speakers, volunteers, etc. — or my salary. (Or work David, Carrie, and Katie have put into CMX Summit.)

There are some parts of this budget where we can pull back. I can, say, spend less on Marketing. But other areas such as Speakers, Catering, and A/V, there’s little-to-no wiggle room. For example, if we’ve promised $400 in travel coverage for speaking and are expecting to have 36 speakers. That’s $14,400 I’m committing to.

The full breakdown of your ticket costs (aka where the money goes)

Our average ticket costs $849 for the 2-day show. This breakdown is around that price point. This means if you took advantage of our pre-sale or the current early bird deal, your ticket doesn’t quite cover all these things.

Food & Beverage — $233

For any conference, food and beverage is the biggest line item. We were priced out of a few venues due to catering contracts. CMX Summit feeds you breakfast, two snacks, and lunch each day. These costs also include an afternoon snack and small mixer for workshop attendees and a networking party with hors d’oeuvres and a couple drink tickets on Tuesday night.

That’s a lot of food!

We also are working hard to make sure that those of you with dietary restrictions — for I am among you — are well-fed. At past CMX Summits, this has been hit or miss, and it’s definitely an area we’re working on leveling up.

While sure, there’s a McDonalds across the street from the Magic Box, and that’d be cheaper than this cost in your ticket, you can’t talk community management while eating food with Ronald.

A/V — $101

Audio and Visual really makes or breaks a conference experience. This is another area where at CMX Summit, it’s been hit or miss. Not only do we want to provide you with the best speakers, but we also want to make sure you can hear and see them clearly. No one likes microphone feedback.

We also want to make sure speakers have a great experience on the stage giving their presentation. Bad A/V can easily derail a speaker, and great A/V can be an added confidence booster.

Plus, we’ll be recording these talks, so later you can watch them or share with your team or colleagues who weren’t able to join us.

Events contractor — $96

AKA someone to help me. Conferences are a lot of moving pieces, and being a bootstrapped startup, we can’t just hire all the people. One of the deep internal learnings from past CMX Summits and Evan Hamilton’s work is that details are highly important for experience, but conference runners can lose sight of the bigger picture when in the weeds 100% of the time.

I’m incredibly luckily to be working with the fabulous Charlene Ditch, whom I’ve had the pleasure of running conferences with previously. You may see her answering all your CMX Summit questions when you email us or onsite making sure things like registration are running smoothly.

Venue — $91

The Magic Box at the REEF is a fun new venue for CMX Summit. We hope to continue to host the conference in this space for many years to come. Besides rental, venue fees include staff like security and janitors, electricity, and more. The REEF is home to artists, fashion designers, and many startups, including Postmates.

Marketing — $60

As we grow CMX Summit, marketing becomes incredibly important to reach new audiences. Marketing also includes costs like hiring a videographer to wrangle the promo video and a paid advertising person to get the word out there. We’re looking to have 600-700 attendees this year. The biggest CMX Summit yet means getting more eyeballs on our site and buying tickets.

Speakers — $60

Speakers make or break a conference. I wrote extensively about CMX Summit’s commitment to speakers and to diversity and inclusion on our stage. We will be covering up to $400 of travel costs for our 36 speakers. We also hold a nice VIP dinner for them and get them special thank you gifts. As we continue to grow CMX Summit, we’ll only be expanding these costs.

Afterparty — $52

Most of the afterparty costs go directly to food and beverage. (Though you might’ve guessed that already.) We want to ensure you have a great, comfortable time and say goodbye to all your new friends properly.

Design — $52

Have you seen the incredible new CMX Summit logo? We’re giving the conference a facelift this year. Design costs also cover things like swag design, social media banners, signage, and more. It also goes toward expenses like lounge furniture, chairs, and tables. We want you to have fond memories of this unique experience and a smartly designed professional conference.

Ticket processing fees — $46

We all hate when you try to buy an event ticket only to end up with huge hidden fees tacked on. To make your budgeting easier, CMX pays those costs as part of what you pay us. That money includes credit card processing fees and Picatic fees for using their platform.

Swag — $36

I don’t know about you, but CMX Summit swag lives on in my house. While I don’t have any swag items to tease you with just yet, it’s important for us to provide nice looking and unique swag. Shout out to ladies t-shirts that actually fit!

Scholarship — $20

This year, we’re launching a need-and-diversity-based scholarship program for those who cannot afford CMX Summit. We’re a community who will be literally supporting each other and lifting each other up. Heck yes! Shopify, one of our sponsors, will also be putting sponsorship dollars down for travel for these folks. ?

CMX Staff Travel — $18

We’re so excited about Los Angeles. However, none of our 100% remote team actually lives in Los Angeles. This covers our travel, transit, and meals. This is probably one of those costs that will end up being less than budgeted for because we’re a happy, scrappy bunch.

Register now

We’re looking forward to seeing you in Los Angeles!

I hope this transparent dive into the value and hard costs of CMX Summit gives you insights into how we operate and what to consider when talking to your boss or team about your CMX Summit ticket and travel. Or help you make that decision to send yourself or send your employees.

CMX Summit is truly a celebration of community professionals. I hope each and every one of you will be able to attend our conference. We can’t wait to meet you. I love nothing more than seeing you inspired and ready for the next step in your career and your journey as a community builder.

Attending CMX Summit should provide you with great value and return on your investment.

Erica McGillivray
April 19, 2017
November 3, 2023

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