Virtual conferences have dramatically increased in popularity in a Covid-19 world. However, we’ve been helping brands host virtual conferences for over 15 years and have helped over 1,000 brands host virtual events. Over the years we have observed what works and one of the things we see a lot of is brands monetizing their virtual events.
In this post, we will explore how to monetize virtual conferences based on tangible evidence that we have gained from learning through our customers. There are many different ways to monetize virtual events successfully and we are going to go over all of those.
Over half of our customers have monetized virtual events in some way successfully. Some do it to offset the cost of executing a virtual conference to break even and some do it to make revenue. So, let’s dive in!
Put the Pieces in Place to Make Your Conference Appealing
Monetization doesn’t happen right away. You need to organize a virtual conference that looks appealing to sponsors and attendees. Once the right pieces are in place, you can start monetizing it. Don’t know the pieces to put in place? Here is a list:
- Event theme
- Goals need to be defined
- Create a timeline
- Recruit speakers early
- Create a landing page with speaker headshots and brand logos with a teaser blurb of what people can expect from your conference
- Pick the date that your virtual conference will stream
- A plan for vendor booths
- The marketing plan for maximizing the amount of attendees you will have
Define Your Goals to Determine How to Monetize
Our customers come to us with a variety of goals they hope to achieve with virtual conferences. We’ve helped people with a variety of goals and coach them on how to create a conference that achieves these goals. Here are some common goals that we see and the type of event that accommodates these goals:
- Thought leadership: In order to position your brand as a thought leader in your industry, hosting an event with expert speakers is in order. Find the best speakers and leverage them to get like-minded brands to pay for a vendor booth at your virtual conference.
- Networking: Interacting with attendees who are also potential consumers is one of the most common goals that we see. Make your event free for attendees so you maximize the amount that you have and monetize your event through sponsored commercials that play in between presentations. Emphasize to your attendees that they need to check out the networking lounge so that you can interact with them.
- Make a profit: Some of our customers cite their main goal of making a profit. If this is you then you should consider charging attendees, charging for vendor booths, charging speakers to present, and charging for commercial style clips in between presentations.
- Lead gen: Another common goal we see a lot when it comes to virtual conferences is lead gen. In order to gain a lot of new leads you’ll want to make your event free to attend. But, you can monetize by charging presenters to speak and/or charging for vendor booths.
Once you have honed in on your goals, it’s time to explore the options you have to monetize your virtual conference.
The Rundown on Charging Attendees
We see a lot of companies charge attendees for their virtual conferences. It’s very doable but it yields a smaller amount of attendees. So if your goal is lead gen, this is not a good option for you.
A good tactic to try is to offer some presentations and features of your virtual conference for free and then have a premium ticket option for attendees to purchase where they have access to more presentations and resources. It’s a balanced approach and we highly recommend it.
About half of our clients have charged attendees and they usually charge $300 or less per ticket. If you plan to do this, make sure that your landing page and marketing materials convey a lot of value.
Commercial Ads Are Always an Option
Commercial ads are simple to incorporate and are an easy way to monetize your virtual conference.
When making your conference schedule, leave 5-10 minutes in between presentations to play commercials.
After you start getting attendees to register and you have an awesome lineup of speakers, pitch the commercial slots to like-minded brands who would want to be in front of your attendees.
Charging for Vendor Booths
Vendor booths are arguably the best way to monetize a virtual conference.
Our platform offers the functionality for attendees to do video sessions with the booth owners and allows them to be super engaged.
Consider offering your vendors a slot in your virtual conference lineup so that they can encourage attendees to visit their booth.
Speakers and How to Make it Appealing for Them to Pay to Present
Charging speakers to present is a little less common than the other monetization strategies that we’ve explored but it’s doable.
If you’re going to charge speakers, you have to make your virtual conference extremely valuable. You need to set aside the marketing budget so that you can gather thousands of attendees. You should also consider offering them a robust package like a vendor booth to compliment their presentation.
If you are going to charge speakers, it’s smart to offer them the list of attendees who view their presentations so they can email them and spark a conversation.
Offsetting the Cost of Producing a Virtual Conference
While virtual conferences are cheaper to produce than in-person conferences, they still come with some costs. You need the budget for a virtual conference platform as well as a marketing budget to promote it. We see a lot of people monetize pieces of their virtual conference to break even with the costs of running a successful virtual conference.
How Virtual Conferences Compare to Monetizing In-Person Conferences
View virtual conferences as the new norm and think about how they are replacing in-person conferences. The virtual conference environment was created to mimic in-person events.
Think about how in-person conferences are monetized. Attendees pay for tickets, brands pay for booths and there are sponsors providing swag. Virtual conferences can accommodate all these components and cost a lot less to produce. Win-win.
Whether you want to break even and offset your virtual conference costs or make a profit, there are a few ways you can monetize your event. From charging attendees to vendor booths and more, you have a lot of options.
Be sure to outline your goals before deciding to monetize your event and create a virtual conference plan accordingly.
Do you have any tips or insights when it comes to monetizing a virtual conference? We would love to hear all about it in the comments below!