How to Monetise Virtual Events

In the last two years, people have gotten comfortable with the idea of attending a virtual event from home. However, what is the chance that we will transition permanently to the online medium? When asked about the virtual events taking over the in-person ones, Sara Lieber,  Event Marketing Manager at Drift said that ‘’While we are looking for the in-person events to be back in 2022, the virtual component is going to be there to reach larger audiences’’. 

Flipping the coin, do attendees see the value of paying for an online event?

Freemium vs. paid tiered model: which one to opt for?

When talking about monetisation, the question is often whether you should charge or not for the conference; the next question is what type of pricing model should you adopt. 

While organisers are trying to balance out the paid and the freemium model, they are also trying to bring into highlight some incentives the attendees can enjoy, such as getting access to special networking sessions.  

However, are people ready to invest in an online event when they are feeling they are not getting the same experience as in person?

In 2021, GEVME‘s internal research showed that respondents who believed in paying for a virtual event has gone up by 27%, compared to 2020; with the majority of people being happy to pay for tiered pricing. 

What are the challenges when trying to monetise your virtual events?

When switching to online conferences, the challenge for event professionals was getting attendees to pay for online conferences. At first, many organisers chose a freemium model, and the registrations have been on a rise by 400% since switching to virtual events. Free conferences with on-demand content were trying to get people to consume the content they were producing. 

Drift started to organise quarterly free events so it could appeal to the masses, build their community, and allow people to attend for free. Moving into 2022, they plan to establish tiered ticketing options to contribute to the company’s ROI. According to Sara Lieber, ‘’as an event planner, you have more flexibility to provide different offerings and different unique experiences with a paid ticketing model’’. ‘’Previously we offered a different tier package and always included a freemium option. To have the sponsors engage and interact with the audience and get the most value of it, we are trying something different and still offering tier options, but they are all paid. When we build our sponsor packages, we are looking to create distinct differences in the packages’’, said Sara Leiber. 

On the other side, Dimash Kunayev, CEO & founder at Engamio, is putting into perspective the importance of understanding your business model, your objectives, and your sponsor’s KPIs before you start monetising your virtual events. 

Usually, the sponsors want a bigger audience for higher exposure, and adding a paid barrier might limit the number of attendees.  ‘’If your revenue depends heavily on ticket sales, the tier model is the perfect solution. It is all about the perceived value for the attendees, thinking what they will get out of it’’, said Dimash Kunayev. 

When asked about the most challenging part of monetising their virtual events, Sara Lieber did not shy away from saying how they had to change the model and keep creating exciting content for people to come back for more.

How can event professionals monetise their events?

Event professionals can monetise their events by optimising the collected data. The move to the digital world opened up a new possibility of metrics that you should keep an eye on, such as attendance rate, what attendees did during their time there, how much engagement they were getting in a sponsor booth, and a gamification activity. If you are offering a freemium model you can have a high registration number, but the key is how many people attended your event so you can understand how to scale your company’s ROI.

‘’Understanding what’s keeping them in the event so when you look to plan the next one, you can either change up the content or provide more unique opportunities and networking’’, said Sara Lieber. Drift prioritises attendees’ feedback and turns it into actionable conversations to make sure those are leading them down the sales funnel, so they can start closing deals and achieve their event goals. 

Dimash Kunayev advises that you have to try different approaches to pricing. Create some offerings to a limited number of people and learn from the experience of other peers across the industry. Be innovative and do not be afraid to bring a variation into your events. 

Virtual events are here to stay, and it’s all about creating new experiences for sponsors and attendees. 

On the topic of monetisation, Drift decided for each virtual event they organise to change their offering and do their research to see what’s out there. From a business perspective, this is the perfect opportunity to do something different and think outside of the box. 

Dimash Kunayev highlights the importance of designing different sponsorship packages with different tiers based on gamification. According to him, gamification can increase activations, events, and sponsorships.  By selling each gamified activity as a separate sponsorship you can prove to your sponsor that you can increase their ROI. Each gamified activity will have the metrics and analytics so you show your sponsor what drives results. In this way, monetising your events using sponsors becomes an easier task. 

Monetising your events while having sponsor packages, organisers believe that it’s vital to develop your skills in engaging with your sponsors. From diversifying your offerings, Sara Leiber believes that to be successful you have to challenge yourself.

While the tiered pricing model seems the right solution in 2021, it is worth experimenting keeping in mind the perceived value for the attendees.