Pricing your association’s virtual events can be tricky business.

Here are six considerations and five steps that will help you find the right pricing strategy.

Michelle Schweitz, YourMembership Marketing Manager

By Michelle Schweitz, Marketing Manager, Community Brands

This year, many associations have moved their in-person events to virtual events. Or, they’ve created all-new virtual or hybrid events for our socially-distanced world.

One of the most common questions that pops up when planning a virtual event is “How should we price it?” It’s a good question to ask – especially for associations with limited budgets and small staffs. How you price your online event can make a big impact on its success.

Here are six things to consider as you think about how to price your association’s virtual events:

1. What are the costs of your virtual event?
At a minimum, it’s important to cover your costs. For example:

  • Speakers – Consider any fees you might need to pay to secure speakers.
  • Software – Look into the cost of virtual event management software. Using one vendor, versus multiple providers, is typically more efficient and cost-effective.
  • Internet – Make sure you have excellent internet service.
  • Marketing – You might incur costs for creative development (design, writing) to promote your event

At the same time, remember that online events don’t carry the same level of costs as in-person events. Think about the cost per person for your on-site events, and what costs you are saving (food, venue, etc.) by a person attending via livestream or on-demand.

2. How can you offset costs of your virtual event?
Selling sponsorships and virtual exhibit booths can be a great way to offset the costs of your virtual event and generate additional revenue. It also gives your association’s sponsors the opportunity to reach a broader audience.Just like at an in-person event with signage and banners, there are many ways to incorporate sponsors throughout your virtual event. These include:

  • Sponsor announcements
  • Branded networking and breakout sessions
  • Sponsored VIP rooms
  • Recorded commercials

TIP: It can be tempting to make your event free to attend so you can drive more registrations. However, people who registered for free might not show up, which can make it more difficult to secure sponsorships for next time. Consider charging at least a small fee so registrants have more incentive to attend.

3. What is the value of your virtual event?
You might want to offer online content at a reduced price (based on your hard costs compared with your on-site events) to drive more registrations. Also, your members likely expect to pay less to attend an online event versus an in-person event. But be sure not to undervalue the event.

The content is useful, whether it’s provided in-person or online, and you’ve made an investment in speakers, software, marketing, staff time, and so on to provide a great online event experience. Be sure to reflect these considerations in your online pricing.

4. How are your competitors pricing their virtual events?
Your association and your events are unique. But it can help to look at pricing for similar virtual events at similar small associations to make sure your event attendance price is in the same ballpark. This approach does not guarantee that you will cover your costs or not leave money on the table, but it does serve as a benchmark to make sure your event is competitively priced.

5. How is your content made available?
Consider offering online content in various ways and price it differently for each option. For example: Offer various options for virtual events, or for learners who were unable to attend a hybrid event (in-person/virtual event) in person. You could offer a per-course price, a track price, a full-conference price, and a post-conference on-demand price.

6. How can you refine your virtual event pricing?
After each virtual event, ask your attendees for feedback. Did they feel as if they got their money’s worth? Are there some aspects you should scale back on and reduce the price? Or, are there features your attendees would like to see added and would be willing to pay more for? Don’t be afraid to change your pricing based on feedback. Just be sure to let your attendees know why you’ve made pricing changes, and that you’ve done so based on their feedback.

Pricing your virtual events can be tricky business. But it shouldn’t keep you from finding the right approach for your event.

Here are five effective steps for pricing your event attendance rate:

  1. Work out the breakeven price for your online event.
  2. Benchmark the cost of the virtual event against one of your similar in-person events.
  3. Create a “draft” price that falls between the breakeven cost and the cost of an in-person event (a good rule of thumb is around 25 percent less than the price of the physical event).
  4. Benchmark your draft price against one or two competitor virtual events.
  5. Consider creating a tiered pricing structure that provides different levels of access to content at different prices.

Your virtual events are a valuable member benefit and can be a great source of revenue for your association. The considerations and steps in this article will have you well on your way to finding the right pricing strategy for your next event.

Learn more about how to pull off a successful virtual event.
Watch the on-demand webinar, Virtual Events Lessons Learned: The good, the bad, and the ugly.

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