by Ashley Neal
As the world adjusts to the “new normal” brought about by COVID-19, organizations everywhere are coming to terms with shifting to virtual distribution of content rather than at in-person events. With organizations preparing to follow through with these shifts, one question seems to be at the forefront of everyone’s minds.
How should I price my event?
The short answer: that’s up to you.
The long answer: it’s a very complex decision that is influenced by many factors.
“What you ultimately want is to be able to monetize the event,” said Michael Tatonetti, director of certification and education for the Professional Pricing Society. “You have to consider what’s best for your members, your sponsors and your strategic goals and missions as an organization.”
What are the factors at play?
Even while logging in from home, your audience should be receiving similar, if not the same, information as they would in person. With that being said, pricing should follow the same concept.
“A virtual conference is not simply back to back webinars,” said Arianna Rehak, co-founder and CEO of Matchbox Virtual Media. “There’s a lot of production value, there’s a lot of planning and there’s a whole art and science to putting on virtual conferences.”
Taking in all the parts and pieces required to produce your event, and determining the cost, can give you a basis for your pricing. In this instance, the ability to compartmentalize will be your biggest ally. Separate your event into three parts: operating budget, value proposition and sponsor contributions.
Part 1: Operating budget
There are so many factors that should be looked at when budgeting your events. Direct costs, indirect costs and your revenue expectations are major influencers when determining your budget.
- Do you need to purchase new technology to accommodate lighting, audio or visuals?
- Does your staff know how to produce video content? If not, consider the cost of training your existing employees, or hiring a consultant or external team.
- Are you having to halt any other projects or innovations that produce revenue to accommodate this shift?
- Are your speakers volunteering their time or speaking at a cost?
Using your operating budget as a baseline in your pricing decision guarantees the ability to cover production costs, pay your employees and even the ability to use sponsor donations to increase the value of your event.
Part 2: Value proposition
Considering the value of the information you provide is also essential to determining the price of your event. The higher the value of the products and services your event offers, the higher the price should be. Factors such as continuing education credits, downloadable content, flexibility of scheduling and the amount of sessions offered increase the value of your event exponentially.
So, what are some benefits a virtual event can offer?
- “You’re not limited to the size of the ballroom and the meeting space of a hotel, conference or convention center,” said Tatonetti. This allows you to reach a larger audience.
- We now have the ability to bring in experts from anywhere. Time and distance are no longer factors when the ability to converse digitally or pre-record sessions is applied.
- You are also benefiting your audience in that they now have the opportunity to watch content at their leisure, from the comfort of their own homes or offices.
Keep in mind that even though watercooler conversations, book signings, catering and swag bags cannot be translated into the virtual realm, your audience is potentially saving a lot of money and inconvenience on hotels, airfare and more.
Part 3: Sponsor contributions
Mirroring in-person events, the addition of sponsorships can have a large effect on your pricing decisions. With a large sum from a sponsor, your organization can increase the value of your content to provide an event that is “really optimizing for community and optimizing for the connections and relationship building,” Rehak said. “Because, right now, that’s what people need more than ever.” The addition of sponsorships also introduces the ability to offer certain ticket types for discounted costs.
Your sponsors can also benefit from supporting your operating costs.
- With free or reduced pricing, there will be a much higher attendance rate, therefore putting more eyes on your sponsors.
- Having a disclaimer such as “this event is free thanks to our sponsors” creates not only a platform for larger engagement rates, but also instills a sense of appreciation to your sponsor from attendees.
Pricing a virtual event is not a one-size-fits all model, but by keeping in mind your operating budget, value proposition and sponsor contributions, you can be one step closer to producing an amazing event — and increasing your revenue from it.