Virtual conferences are likely to be here for the next six months (or maybe longer). And the speaker-led conference format works better on virtual platforms than either large scale exhibitions or small group networking.
But in the first rush to pivot to virtual, most organisers made their events free to register. This is totally understandable; they had no idea whether delegates would show up. But then attendance was at least twice and often up to ten times that of a paid conference, so organisers started to become more confident about the value they were delivering.
And everyone discovered that it was still quite expensive to put on a virtual conference. Good platforms aren’t cheap, and the effort involved in creating a programme and marketing even a free event is significant. Plus sponsors were wary of investing as much as they might do in an in person event. So profitability was much lower than before.
The “second wave” of virtual conferences are becoming bolder in trying to charge delegates to attend.
10 ideas: charging for virtual conferences
Here’s ten ideas that other organisers are testing that could be worth putting in your tool box for your next event.
Ignite offered free tickets for delegates to watch their sponsored sessions live (and a few selected keynotes) and charged people for a full-access pass to the editorially led sessions plus 6 months of on demand access. They were able to convert some of the free ticket holders to full paid passes (even on the day) but the free attendees gave sponsors a sizeable audience.
2. Fair price points
Don’t try to charge the same price for virtual as in person. Delegates know you haven’t had to pay for venue and catering. The benchmark seems to be about 30-50% of an in person ticket. The Festival of Marketing is charging £249 for a three days pass (the in person edition is over twice that). Other popular price points are £95 and £195. https://www.festivalofmarketing.com/buy-your-pass
3. Corporate/ group tickets
This is where digital has an advantage – companies don’t have to choose just one person to send to a conference. Festival of Marketing offers a rate of £199 per person for 5 or more. Other organisers have found that packages of say 5 logins for £250 have been very successful.
4. Tiered tickets
Maybe part of your audience will pay more than others? Techcrunch ran an event with a basic pass at $45, and a premium pass at $350 including a CrunchMate networking feature. https://digiday.com/media/layer-of-data-and-efficiency-how-techcrunch-took-disrupt-virtual-and-grew-for-its-tenth-anniversary/
5. Paid but apply for free
A soft approach to charging is to have a nominal ticket price but invite people in certain organisations or roles to apply for a free pass. Automotive Logistics had a ticket price of £99, but invited staff in senior roles at OEMs to apply for a complimentary ticket. https://www.automotivelogistics.media/automotive-logistics-and-supply-chain-live
6. Bundle with other events
If you already run a series of paid events, consider bundling access to these with a ticket to your new virtual event. ABM offers premium ticket buyers access to two of its scheduled subscriber only editorial round tables. And they include a discount on online learning and a 1:1 “therapy” session with an ABM expert. https://b2bmarketing.abm-conference.net/tickets/
7. Add in content
Include on demand access for six months or a year, and maybe also a digital magazine subscription or access to premium reports.
8. Include in paid membership
Premium membership packages may also include access to virtual events and conferences that usually carry a ticket price. Marketing Week’s membership package includes access to Econsultancy’s Briefing webinars. https://www.marketingweek.com/sign-up/
9. Reduced rate for sponsor meetings
The Associations UK Congress has a standard rate for its four day event of £345. But if delegates agree to five sponsor meetings they can gain access for a discounted rate of £145. https://www.associationexecutives.org/events/associations-uk-congress-2020/attendance-options-fees.html
The MarTech Alliance’s conference this November charges a reasonable £99 for a ticket. And they are offering a chance to gain reward points for attending sessions that can be cashed in for access to future events and swag. https://www.martechalliance.com/events/anti-conference-online
Experimentation is the key – each audience may have different characteristics, but these ten ideas should provide organisers with plenty of ways to test delegate revenue for their virtual conferences.
If you are aware of other pricing strategies, or have experiences to share, or just want to discuss your own plans to charge for your own events, please get in touch.
About the author
Carolyn Morgan has bought, sold, launched and grown specialist media businesses across print, digital and live events. A founder of the Specialist Media Show (sold in 2014) she now advises media businesses large and small on their digital strategy through her consultancy Speciall Media.