Virtual events have become an important part of the event industry and beyond. And while the COVID-19 pandemic has made virtual events a necessity to a certain degree, they will probably continue to be important for the foreseeable future.
Whether that means entirely virtual events or a more hybrid model, remote engagement will likely continue. Even after the virus is eradicated, many people will be more conscious of the environmental impact of travel and safety. Thus, they will demand a virtual option for events that were once only in person.
As a result, it is important to learn how to maximize revenue from virtual events. While this has been a challenge, as many events have scrambled to re-think their business models, there are several things event planners can do to take advantage of a new paradigm.
Produce value you can charge for
Perhaps this seems too obvious, but one of the first things to consider when putting on virtual events is charging for them. These events have started the way most things did during their internet infancy—everything is open to anyone who is interested.
But there is no need to make everything free, especially if you are providing value to participants. In the business world in particular, if participants are making business connections and closing deals thanks to your event, they can likely recoup more than the cost of admission.
Plus, they aren’t incurring travel expenses to attend an online event, making the cost of admission an even easier pill to swallow.
If you are providing valuable content or experiences, charge based on what you're offering.
Use sponsorships for virtual events
Sponsorships are always a key part of maximizing event revenue, but virtual events should not be exempt from this idea. The problem is that COVID-19 has negatively affected sponsorship revenue for events, which creates an enormous question mark.
A report from the Events and Entertainment Management Association showed that 63% of companies have suffered a revenue loss due to COVID-19. Even if events can continue virtually, sponsorship is still necessary for them to be a success.
But things have changed (perhaps permanently) and that means re-thinking sponsorship will be necessary. Sponsorships across the country and even across the world may be a better fit for your virtual event as geographic barriers disappear.
And there are quite a few ways you can leverage sponsorships for your virtual events. For example, you can have goodies delivered directly to your participants provided by your sponsor that become part of sponsored sessions. This is similar to sponsored sessions online, but you bring it directly to your attendee’s door.
Provide content for multiple channels
COVID-19 has changed so much about the way we communicate, and that will likely continue well into the future. Many of us became self-proclaimed Zoom experts, but that is just the first phase. As the pandemic wore on, many people grew tired of the endless Zoom meetings and other webinar software.
This is understandable.
People need more options than just being plugged into a video conference, and those who can provide those options will reap rewards. That is perhaps why Clubhouse has taken off during the pandemic, going from 600,000 active users in December 2020 to 10 million active weekly users today.
Thus, more options, such as audio-only participation, recordings after the sessions, or perhaps even articles only available to event participants. This can also go with the membership model (more on that shortly).
The larger point here is that giving people a single way to engage with your content is too limiting for many. Whether it’s because of video conference fatigue, visual impairment, or many reasons, these must all be considered. Thus, offering people multiple options will lead to higher engagement and thus, more revenue.
Have an event marketing strategy
Event marketing is important for any event, and that is especially true if you have a brand-new event. Attendees must know what your event is about and why the cost of admission is well worth it. This means that, depending on the size and scope of the event, it must be properly marketed in the weeks and even months leading up to it.
If you have an adequate email list, you might email those who have expressed interest in telling them about the event. If you have panels and keynote speakers, one strategy is to send emails announcing panels and separate emails for keynote speakers. You want to keep the idea fresh in people’s minds, so emailing periodically with different bits of information is helpful.
Of course, there are many types of content marketing strategies, and you may already have someone managing yours. Perhaps you decide to run some ads on social media, Google, and other avenues.
In addition, post-event outreach can be an important way to keep people engaged. As critical as pre-event marketing is, it’s equally important to retain people. No matter how excellent your event is, people have a tendency to put it in the back of their minds until the next event rolls around. But if you can keep your attendees engaged, there may be a potential for a membership.
Build a membership model
The membership model is a great way to maximize revenues—if you can keep people’s attention. Some events that have been only in-person events in the past have tried to do this with varying degrees of success. While some in-person events can be incredibly lucrative, you are leaving a lot of money on the table if you only bring in revenue during a single week-long event.
However, with people more open to virtual networking these days, you may find it easier to keep customers virtually than it was in the past. This may also be easier for small, more niche-based events, as they are likely to be more focused and cohesive.
If you can create valuable content year-round, you may be able to charge people a monthly fee for access or cost per content. This can come as a mastermind group, exclusive digital content, or virtual sessions with industry leaders. This extra money can lead you to a good investment decision. There is always much to be learned—it’s about taking the right angle for your industry.
Ask for feedback
Anyone who runs a successful business knows how important it is to take user feedback. And people won’t always speak up unless you ask, so it’s important to do this. Perhaps you thought one session was extremely valuable, but you find out most your attendees disagree.
As part of this, you can share attendees’ information with sponsors (with their permission, of course). Just like you, sponsors can benefit from knowing their audience. Having that information allows better targeting which can increase sales.
The bottom line
The world is transforming, and COVID-19 greatly accelerated many of the trends that were already in motion. Many of those trends are likely to become permanent, including the need for virtual and hybrid events.
While we have the technology to deliver on that demand, whether we can properly monetize virtual events remains a question. However, keeping in mind some of the things mentioned in this article will help ensure your virtual and hybrid events continue to be sustainable and profitable.
After all, the world is changing, and “the way things used to be” may never fully return.
Author: Bob Haegele
Bob Haegele is a writer and business owner who earns a full-time income working virtually. He also loves to travel and attend events in his industry. He has been featured on MSN Money and Yahoo! Finance.