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As hybrid models start gathering momentum in our industry, many event planners are getting increasingly concerned about one issue that has no clear answers. How much should they charge their attendees?
At first glance this might appear to be relatively simple. But is it? Should they charge more for in-person attendees as they have the added value of the on-site experience (think networking and group activities)? Or is the event more about professional development and the same price should be set for all regardless of how they choose to attend? These are critical questions, and the answer can only be determined by the individual’s own perceived value of attending an event.
To help, we have come up with six key questions that will help you determine what pricing model you should use around hybrid events. Let’s take a look.
1) What is the Make-Up of My Hybrid Event?
When you produce a hybrid event that combines in-person and virtual attendees, you have choice in where you place your emphasis on pricing. This will be determined in part by your communications strategy and what level of profit (if any) that you wish to make.
It is likely that many hybrid events will attract more virtual attendees than in-person ones. And this is because people today have far more choice on how to attend events than they did pre-Covid. And whilst there are health and travel considerations that are factored into the attendee decision making, the huge reach that webcasting provides means that it is easier to attract virtual attendees (if your content is top notch).
Related Read: Hybrid Events – Which Model is Best?
If you decide to hold a multiple hub hybrid event, you will be looking at a different pricing structure than for the other hybrid event types. This is simply because, multiple hubs mean your pricing decisions will be affected by the local costs of hub location. For example, the pricing for a hub in New York will be different to that in Abu Dhabi or Adelaide. Being clear on the make-up of your hybrid event is your first task on your pricing journey.
2) Have I Included the Basic Ingredients?
You decide that you want to cook a meal for your friends. Maybe it is for a special occasion. You want to make an impact and for it to be remembered. You start by making a list of ingredients you will need and usually the most obvious ones will be first on your list. They are the basics, the essentials. After the basics come the ‘nice touch’ ingredients to make your meal special.
The same thinking can be applied when it comes to pricing your hybrid event. You must make sure the key building blocks of costs are covered. For the in-person part, the building blocks are likely to be familiar territory for many event planners. Ensuring costs for the virtual production element are also included can be the trickier part.
For example, will you need a separate registration system for your virtual attendees? Hopefully not, as you will be dealing with the complex task of collating data from two systems at the end. And don’t forget that you will have additional crew costs for the webcasting. It is best to go through the in-person and virtual elements line by line to check you have all the basics covered.
Related read: How Covid-19 is Changing the Role of Your Event Data
3) How Will I Allocate Production Costs?
The production of a hybrid event involves more costs than for a stand-alone in-person or virtual production. You have options of how you set your attendee pricing. For example, you could take all the component costs of the in-person event experience and then add an element on top to set the price you charge for your in-person attendees. You could take the same approach for your attendees too.
This works well for making sure your attendees pay for precisely what they have. For example, virtual attendees would not be paying for food and drink. And in-person delegates would not be paying for the livestream.
However, that approach can be too narrow for some planners. For example, it doesn’t deal with the fact that in-person attendees benefit from being able to watch the content on-demand. That content was only captured because it was livestreamed. And the in-person attendees didn’t pay towards it. Or perhaps there is an opportunity to charge extra for access to this content after the event?
Your other option is to calculate the costs of the hybrid event, add a profit element (or not) and then you have a total figure which you need to get to. Once you have that you can then decide how much to charge for in-person and virtual attendees. This provides you with more flexibility.
4) How Will I Allocate Sponsor Revenue?
You can skip this question if your event has no sponsorship revenue attached to it. But for those planners that offer sponsorship opportunities at their hybrid events, this is another question that needs careful consideration.
The familiarity of sponsorship at in-person events can easily mean that sponsors may need educating in the benefits of also sponsoring your virtual component. You are really looking for sponsors that understand the benefits of a hybrid event. That way you can charge more for your event and perhaps it will impact on the decisions you make on your attendee ticket prices. Organizations today are looking more a lot more closely at the benefits of virtual sponsorship. This is set to grow as buyers understand more clearly the strong ROI that can arise.
How you decide to apportion sponsors’ revenue is of course entirely your choice. You could charge a sponsor money for promoting their services to the virtual attendees. But you may use their money to pay for costs for the in-person element. What matters is that you know where you want to use the sponsorship income and how it will affect your pricing decisions.
5) What Should I Charge My In-Person Attendees?
Before we look at this question, it is worth remembering that it’s important that there is consistency in your approach otherwise you may damage your brand. For example, your hybrid event is at a premium level offering which means you charge good money. Therefore in-person and virtual attendees will expect to pay premium level prices.
If you charge a premium amount for your in-person attendees but a cheap rate for your virtual delegates, there will be a disconnect. People that know your brand will question why there is a difference. They could fear that the virtual component will be sub-standard. You could easily confuse the very people you are seeking to attract. There is no reason why you cannot charge a premium level for your hybrid event.
We recommend charging your in-person attendees for venue hire, catering costs, specific entertainment and for any networking that cannot be accessed by virtual attendees. Once you have decided on the ticket price calculation, you can go further. You can consider additional options that you may be able to provide. For example, early bird discounts, association member rates and so on.
6) What Should I Charge My Virtual Attendees?
This is usually when things get more complicated. The biggest challenge is that for many event planners, it is still relatively early days to get to grips with the virtual offering. And some even feel that there should not be a charge for virtual attendees. Whilst that may sound a lot simpler, it also means your hybrid event will be paid for by the in-person attendees, which seems unfair.
Some planners on the other hand take a different view and charge the same for virtual attendees as in-person ones – especially if the focus of the event is more educational. The only difference being that they do not charge for the food and drink costs.
This means there is a real mix of opinion when it comes to virtual attendee pricing. You will know what’s right based on the objectives of your event and the objectives of the individual people attending your event. A bit of common sense helps too. For example, if you are arranging for the virtual attendees to receive food and drink parcels to enable them to join your hybrid virtual awards – would it be right for the in-person attendees to pay for such parcels? Not really.
Conclusion – Always Be Flexible in Your Approach
The reason why this blog post has a series of questions and no definitive answer to how much to charge attendees for hybrid events is simply because there isn’t one. And if you think about it, there is no magical formula for the charging of any event.
And every hybrid event that you price will be different. Some hybrid events will have more sponsors and more in-person attendees than others. Some will be for attendees that earn more and therefore have deeper pockets than others.
How much you charge attendees will ultimately come down to how your organisation wants to be seen, how much it wants to earn in terms of profit (if any) and how that aligns with overall organisational goals.
Be flexible in your approach to attendee pricing. Write down what you learn along the way as that will help you in your future pricing of hybrid events.
Considering hybrid events? Eventsforce offers a fully integrated technology platform that makes it easy for you to create engaging experiences for both on-site and virtual attendees – from registration and agenda management to audience engagement tools, live streaming, networking, contactless check-in and event apps. Learn more.