One of the most complicated decisions of the virtual event planning process is determining how to price your virtual event.The price of your virtual event needs to be low enough to offer value to your target audience but also high enough to convey that your event provides an experience worth having. And, perhaps most critically, tickets must be priced so that your event turns a profit!
But what happens if you are planning a virtual or online event? You are not offering the same type of experiences to attendees so can you charge the same amount? The short answer: not quite. However, this does not mean you need to sell admission or registration at rock bottom prices either. It is all about striking the right balance. Here’s what you need to keep in mind when determining how to price a virtual event.
The good news for event planners is that virtual events have less overhead than a face-to-face or live event. Virtual events save costs related to:
Because there are few expenses associated with hosting a virtual event, it can be priced much lower than a physical event and still allow for a profit. The benefit of money saved by the organizers can be passed on to attendees.
But, event organizers are not the only ones who incur fewer expenses with a virtual event. Attendees can dramatically reduce their costs as well. A virtual experience requires an internet connection and can be accessed from anywhere in the world, meaning attendees do not need to travel. This saves airfare, car rentals, hotel bookings, meals, and other incidentals. With these savings, the price of a virtual ticket or registration becomes a lot more accessible and a lot more affordable.
Despite all of these savings for attendees, it is unlikely that they will be willing to pay the price of a live event without also getting the live event experience. However, it is important to remember that with the right virtual event platform, participants will feel like they are sitting live in the audience or deeply engaged with other members of the community. Virtual events can offer live sessions, webinars, chats, lectures, and networking events. You are still providing a unique experience. Instead of bringing attendees to you, you are coming to them and doing so provides a lot of value to both vendors and attendees.
All events are different and, obviously, pricing will depend on what you are offering. Virtual conferences, for example, will require a different pricing model than a virtual fundraiser. To help you strike the right balance and find the proper pricing for your virtual event, consider the following:
Before you can turn a profit, you need to know exactly what is required for you to do so. This means creating a detailed budget and looking closely at your expenses. How much are you paying for virtual event software? What are your marketing costs? Will you pay for ads on social media and/or pay influencers to market your event? Will there be swag bags or giveaways that you send to attendees? What is your sponsorship revenue?
Once you can answer these questions, you can get a better sense of what you will need to charge in order to break even and create a ticket pricing strategy.
Just because a virtual event does not take place face-to-face, it does not mean there isn’t real value added. An event’s perceived value is the value that guests receive by attending. This value can come from learning, being entertained, contributing to a valuable cause, or feeling part of a community.
Unfortunately, the perceived value of virtual events is already lower than that of other events even though the perception is false. One of the most valuable things about attending a conference is the opportunity to network with other individuals in the same industry. Going online doesn’t change any of that. Event technology can enable breakout sessions and foster discussions between participants. Similarly, live streaming, even through Facebook Live or YouTube Live, can deliver keynote addresses and presentations directly to the audience. A virtual trade show can provide virtual booths to vendors and exhibitors, allowing the audience to experience their products or services in real-time and in a way that is far more direct and personal than wandering a showroom floor in a crowded convention center.
In other words, focus on what an attendee will get out of your event. You are still providing an experience and you are still providing knowledge and expertise, you’re just doing it online. Do not drop your prices to the floor simply because it is a virtual event. If the primary value to the attendee remains the same, you need to find a way to convey that without lowering your price too far.
If this is your first event, online or otherwise, keep pricing in the mid to low range. Without a proven track record or a great deal of buzz, people are unlikely to pay top dollar to attend a virtual event. It might be smart to start low as a way to attract your audience. Then, as your event grows in popularity over time, incrementally increase the price until you have hit the “sweet spot.”
One way to make your virtual event attractive to attendees is to implement tiered pricing. Obviously an online VIP package is going to look much different than it would at an in-person event, but it is still possible. Perhaps you charge a low (or free) admission fee and guests will have access to certain sessions. But, if they pay a little more, or register for a particular ticket type, they will have access to exclusive content. Fireside chats, small group meetings, or private networking sessions can offer additional value to an attendee.
Find the value that attendees would be willing to pay for and determine what that value looks like in an online setting. With an event platform like Accelevents, you can easily provide ticket-based permissions to a variety of sessions and video streams.
One idea that is being tested is events offering free admission, which is underwritten by the event sponsors. When individuals register and attend a virtual event, they give up a larger amount of data making them even more valuable to sponsors and vendors. This data allows sponsors and vendors to more effectively target specific segments of the registrants. Targeting in this way will provide a better experience for everyone involved. Vendors will capture better and more qualified leads and attendees will have a more impactful, personalized experience.
Another similar option suggests charging registrants a nominal registration fee, like $199, and give them the opportunity to register for free if they are willing to provide sponsors and vendors with additional data.
Pricing any event, let alone a virtual one, is no easy task. There are a number of things that need to be considered, such as the cost of software and hosting platforms, event specifics, special offerings, and marketing costs. All of this means pricing your virtual event requires a little bit of trial and error. Offer a price that is fair and comparable to other, similar events.
To find the right price, follow the tips laid out above. And remember, as long as pricing stays below your event’s perceived value and above your expenses, it is likely that you’ll not only sell tickets but also turn a profit.