One of the most frequently asked questions I hear as we pivot to virtual events is how much to charge for them. Should you charge the same as you would for the ‘real’ event?
Or should it be free, especially for the first one as you tentatively navigate your way through this new world? What are the other income streams available to you from a virtual event?
As with any event, it is important to start with a realistic estimate of your costs. Yes, there will be cost savings such as catering and venue hire, but don’t assume that your expenditure will be massively impacted. You will have to factor in the cost of your event platform, speaker and entertainment costs, as well as technical production if you want to really give your event the edge.
By knowing exactly what your expenses are you'll be better equipped to calculate the return on investment of your virtual event.
It's also important that you keep the goals of your event in mind. What do you expect to accomplish with this experience? Are you looking to educate your audience? Increase brand awareness? Or do you have a specific call to action/donation moment?
Only by knowing what the ultimate objective is can you successfully know which metrics you'll be using to measure the success of your event.
Research beyond the obvious
As with all events, you will no doubt be familiar with researching what your competitors are doing. But think about this - instead of looking at what other events are costing, take a look at online course platforms. A great way to get a benchmark is to see how these online courses are priced. If you discover for example that the average price for a three hour course say on compelling copywriting is £150. If your virtual event will offer six of hours of expert content on a subject, along with extra perks and state of the art speakers and trainers, you can charge double or more, so £300 and above. It’s a useful illustration of how much an audience was interested in a particular field, and how much they are willing to pay to be provided with in depth knowledge on the subject.
Providers like Udemy are a great place to start.
Knowledge has value
It can be very tempting to charge nothing, or very little for your events to ensure people will actually attend. After all, you won't be able to offer the same experience you would in a normal event, so why would people bother showing up?
Wrong. Remember that you have worth, and you're providing your attendees with a valuable experience that will enrich their lives in some way, offering yourself for free or selling yourself short will do you no favours. You should ideally charge the same for your virtual event that you would charge for the in person experience. After all you're bringing your attendees something that has value, and that they will benefit from.
Your attendees aren't going to an event for the excellent catering, they're going because of your expertise, because they believe their time and money are worth it. So don't convince yourself that charging less or not charging at all will help you achieve your goals. Remember the knowledge you are sharing is valuable!
Subscription models - a continuous stream of income
Subscription models are also very useful if you think you will be running a series, or even more than one or two virtual events. It can help both when it comes to pricing and attendee engagement. These models are becoming increasingly popular with consumers everywhere. You may slowly introduce your audience to these by starting with some great free content that demonstrates the quality of what you are delivering.
I am a great fan Adriene Mishler, the YouTube phenomenon that is ‘Yoga with Adriene’. Her story (below) is a very interesting one. She started back in 2012, so was way ahead of the curve, with an idea to give access to yoga to everyone, free of charge.
From this, of course came the income from advertising as she progressed, but more interestingly, she was building a community. This community took her and her content to their hearts and in fact actively started to message her to offer payment. It was from here that she developed her ‘Find what feels good’ subscription model, offering more in depth and exclusive content, and access to classes with Adriene and guest instructors.
She continues to hold strong to her promise to deliver free yoga content to all, but has developed a further following of fee paying clients out of this huge community.
Think creatively about what your charity or organisation could offer as a series of talks, building up a library of video content. Perhaps it is talks with eminent health, conservation or political figures? Call on some of your ambassadors to help with this – doing a pre-recorded talk with them is an easier ask than an in-person attendance at an event.
This content can then be offered to your supporters or customers as a monthly subscription model. The great thing about this is that it can represent a continuous source of revenue for your charity or organisation. Not only will you be bringing in a continuous revenue from some quality, educational material, but you will also be promoting future live virtual events.
Engaging sponsors and advertisers
Don't forget the additional income streams available from your online event.
Digital platforms also include the possibility of advertising spaces - you can leverage this to your advantage by selling banner and pop up ad space to potential sponsors of your virtual event. As frequent consumers of online content, we are subliminally being sold to all of the time, just think about Facebook ads, purchasing suggestions on Amazon and so on.
Sponsorships in the world of virtual events are an amazing source of revenue in themselves.
You need to start thinking of this as a viable income stream as you would for an
in-person event and create a compelling sponsor pack just as you would for that.
Use your event platform to promote sponsors through your speakers slides; logos and branding embedded into videos; social media channels; sponsored Q&A sessions and breakout/networking rooms to name but a few. Many platforms also offer gamification opportunities incentivising delegates to connect with sponsors during the event.
What is more, the content is evergreen and has longevity beyond the event - so it is a great resource for your sponsor to share to a much wider audience.
I will cover some of the creative ways to engage sponsors and advertisers in a future blog, so keep an eye out for that!
In the meantime, if you would like to get in touch for a no-obligation chat about how to host your virtual event, get in touch.
Denise Yeats is an events director, communications consultant, endurance athlete and avid adventurer.