How to Make Money from Your Virtual and Hybrid Events

how to make money from your virtual and hybrid events

The current situation around the COVID-19 outbreak is forcing many organisations to move their events online.  Some of these events are paid-for affairs but the majority remain free to attend.  And this is partly because many organisers become a bit stuck when it comes to thinking how they can charge for virtual events. In fact, a new poll from Eventsforce this month found that 40% of event planners are concerned about charging people for their online events.

The reality is that virtual and hybrid events both present a perfect opportunity for event organisations to increase their revenue – whether it’s through ticket sales, bookable items, exhibitors or sponsorship.  And it doesn’t have to be as complicated as you think.

Let’s take a look at some of the proven ways organisers can make more money from their online events:

1) Highlight the Value

One of the key steps in generating revenue is to show value. Whether it is to encourage delegates to book tickets or whether you are looking for sponsors. You must demonstrate that they will gain value from their investment.

In the early days of the internet, all sorts of free content was created. Some was good, some was bad and some content was neither good nor bad. Since those days, people have become more used to paying for content on the web. Of course, many people still look for free content but the idea that because content is online means it’s free, is now no longer an argument.

You decide whether the online content for your virtual and hybrid events will deliver value that your delegates, sponsors and exhibitors will pay for. A series of sales pitches disguised as talks will fool no one. But content that is new and valuable is a completely different matter.

Related reading: Coronavirus – How event planners can use this time to stay competitive

2) Decide Your Pricing Strategy      

Strategy comes into your pricing deliberations. Just as with an in-person event, there are strategic decisions you need to make for your virtual and hybrid events. How much money do you want to make – or do you want to simply break even? Who will you charge? And when to charge are all key considerations.

Of these, when to charge, is something that some planners struggle with.

Putting on a virtual event takes as much care, consideration and production as an in-person event. Therefore the same care and deliberations over releasing of tickets is just as strategic. Don’t fall into the trap that because it’s online, you can throw everything together at the last minute.

When it comes to hybrid events, some planners wait until the venue has been sold out before releasing tickets for the virtual delegates. This is a mistake as it reduces the options that remote delegates could be offered. In the same way that in person delegates have all sorts of options so should your virtual delegates. Treat them the same.

Related reading: 7 pricing strategies to drive event ticket sales

3) Ticket Pricing Basics  

The basic techniques you use to price your live (in-person) events can be used for your virtual and hybrid events.

It’s important that there is consistency in your approach otherwise you may damage your brand. For example, your in-person events are a premium level offering which means you charge good money. But you decide to price your virtual event at a very low level. People that know your brand will question why there is a radical shift. They could fear that the virtual event quality 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 in-person and virtual events.

Back to basics also means that you have considerations of costs vs revenue to help fix your pricing.   You may be spending more on your speakers for a virtual event than you do for an in-person one. But you will not have the venue and catering costs to consider. Go through your virtual event budget line by line and then you have a start point for understanding how much profit or not, you want to make on top.

Once that calculation has been made you can think about the other options that you may be able to provide. For example, early bird discounts, association member rates etc. Remember you do not have to generate all income from ticket sales as you could use funding from sponsors and exhibitors as well. We look at that a little later on.

If you want to go into more detail on the different kind of pricing strategies you can use for your online events, we would highly recommend reading this article from the team at Event Manager Blog.

4) Ticket Pricing Decisions    

When it comes to generating income from tickets, you have lots of options available. And of course, you will need to decide what to charge for on-demand content.

Some event planners may not be used to charging for content, especially if they don’t capture it at their in-person events. Here are some decisions open to you:

  • Price for attendance as a virtual delegate at a virtual event
  • Price for attendance as a virtual (remote) delegate at a hybrid event
  • Price for on-demand content for attendees at a virtual event
  • Price for on-demand content for people that didn’t come to the virtual event
  • Price for on-demand content for in-person and remote delegates at a hybrid event
  • Price for on-demand content for people that didn’t come to the hybrid event

Some people will just not be able to attend your event due to travel, health or other reasons – and this is something we all need to bear in mind for the foreseeable future. But you can still offer them the on-demand content. This can be a major revenue generator for you.

Even if delegates have attended, some will still buy the on-demand content to refresh their memories and take a look at sessions they couldn’t get to.  You could charge for all the on-demand content as a bulk buy or you could price for specific sessions only. There really are many choices you can make.

There is no correct answer for any of this. These are pointers to ensure you maximise the ROI of your event and the on-demand content.

5) Additional Delegate Offers     

So far, we have looked at the pricing for the event and on-demand content.  This will include things like the opening plenary session, the break- out sessions and the closing of the event. The content is captured as the event unfolds. But you could also look at providing other content and opportunities for your delegates that will help you raise revenue.

For example, you could charge for master classes on a specialist topic area. These master classes could be provided either before, during or after the event. Similarly, pre-appointed buyer appointments could also be offered for a price. Some planners also provide Mastermind groups as another means of offering value to their delegates.  And you can also offer paid for exclusive VIP only activities and sessions.

Anything that has an extra value beyond the event content is worthy of consideration. Some things will appeal to you, some will not. But finding out what your delegates really want and then providing it for them would be a good way to look at this, especially if you are doing it for the first time.

6) Opportunities with Sponsors    

Sponsors offer another way of making money for your virtual and hybrid events. Sponsorship can be used instead of asking delegates to pay for tickets. Or you could charge delegates and have another revenue stream with sponsors.

How does it work? Who do you target and what do you charge?  Basically, it works in the same way as for your in-person event. You create an offer, discuss what analytics are going to be used so that sponsors can calculate their ROI and away you go.

Related reading: 7 key steps to successful event sponsorship

For virtual and hybrid events, the sponsorship process does not change. What does change is the fact that you have new elements for sponsorship.  At a virtual event, there will not be a need for lanyards to be sponsored or tea and coffee breaks etc. But there are different opportunities with online events and maybe the lanyard sponsor would be happy to sponsor one of the educational sessions.  At the same time, your tea and coffee sponsor could be interested in encouraging virtual delegates to check out their offering by means of a special discount code for their product – which is also part of a virtual goodie bag.

In other words, your traditional sponsors can sponsor your virtual and hybrid events and gain promotion. It just takes a little bit of creative thinking.

A key benefit you should emphasise for sponsors is that on-demand content is visible long after the event has ended. Therefore, the visibility for them goes way beyond the event duration. Sometimes this benefit can be overlooked by planners. But it is a big selling point and is worth money.

7) Opportunities with Exhibitors    

Revenue from exhibitors could also provide you with another source of income. The same rationale and comments made on sponsors’ revenue apply here.

Exhibitors pay for their virtual booths and you encourage your delegates to go and check them out. In addition, you could charge for providing a time slot in your programme for the exhibitor to take part in a Q&A session. And you could provide an opportunity for them to hold buyer appointments. Some virtual event platforms like Eventsforce allow for automatic lead capture (similar to a badge scan at a live event).  They also make it easy to set up live 1:1 or group video calls within the platform for enquiries, demos and meetings.

Again, you can be very creative with the offers you make. If there is added value for your delegates, then that is great as well.

Final Questions to Consider  

A few final questions for you to consider as you make your plans to earn revenue from your virtual and hybrid events. Remember, everything should be in aligned with your organisational goals.  Have a think about:

  • Who are your likely attendees?
  • Who do you want as sponsors?
  • What exhibitors do you want?
  • How competitive is your pricing?
  • Are you too cheap?
  • Are you too expensive?

Once you have the answers to this, you will know whether your strategy will work to earn revenue from your virtual events.

Considering a move to virtual events? Eventsforce can help you deliver your sessions online and engage with audiences in the same way you would for your in-person events. Click here for more information or get in touch for a chat.