Organisations are excited to make the most of opportunities in the new event landscape. Yet, they must choose from a dizzying array of formats, ticketing options, and pricing strategies.
Events remain a great way to engage with customers, partners, and prospects. But how do you create an event that generates the most value for your business? How do you price it so that people will pay the right amount without leaving money on the table? Our partner Cvent share their top tips in this in-depth guide.
The New Event Landscape
Although the pandemic has made it more challenging to monetize events, organizations are finding innovative ways to drive value. On the one hand, planners and marketers are struggling to recoup costs in a world where many events are not only virtual but free. At the same time, the tectonic shift to virtual and hybrid events brings the opportunity to reach more attendees than ever.
This new event landscape has changed how organizations and professionals plan, market, and sell their events. However, some things remain unchanged. It is still critical to know your customers deeply and tailor your value proposition to them. Understanding your audience’s challenges, motivations, and aspirations is the key to engagement, revenue, and more.
Now, with unprecedented access to new and larger audiences, event marketers have a chance to rethink their strategies around monetization and develop new ways of creating and capturing value. There are now more opportunities than ever for event planners to think beyond ticket sales and recognize the hidden value within their events.
Events have evolved into three distinct formats: virtual, in-person, and hybrid. Understanding the benefits and limitations of each event format helps you contextualize the potential value you can deliver to attendees, sponsors, and your organization. You can then translate that value into ticketing and pricing that is right for your event.
The two key factors to weigh when considering event formats are the depth of engagement you can create and the breadth of your potential audience. Let’s explore what that looks like for each event format.
Virtual events can provide exponential reach and scale. They are powerful tools to attract attendees from a variety of backgrounds, roles, and functions—thousands of people can attend an event from all across the globe. They also offer organizations the opportunity to extend the value of event content beyond the event itself. While the audience may be larger, virtual events have less depth of engagement than in-person events. People may multitask, direct connections can be harder to forge, and attention spans are limited. The audience may be less willing to pay for the event since their commitment to the experience is lower than if they were to attend in person.
Virtual Events Offer More Breadth, Less Depth
In-person events are a tried and true format and will continue to be a staple in event programs. By nature, they foster meaningful relationships with and among attendees and sponsors. These relationships can lead to stronger business partnerships and lasting connections between people who share an experience at the same venue. In-person events offer greater depth of engagement with a more limited breadth of engagement—as they are limited only to those who can make the trip. The audience is typically more willing to
pay for a ticket to attend in person for the depth of engagement the event will provide.
In Person Events Offer More Depth, Less Breadth
Hybrid events provide planners the best of both worlds. Combining virtual and in-person formats offers a depth of engagement in person while reaching a broad audience virtually. The result is a flexible experience for any attendee, with more ticketing options. The challenge is to deliver value to all attendee groups since virtual and in-person experiences will be unique. Producing effective hybrid events increases complexity and requires more resources. At the same time, planners can tailor event content to each audience to maximize both engagement and ROI. Hybrid events also provide flexible ticketing options depending on the experience an individual chooses. For example, some in-person attendees of a hybrid event may be willing to pay a higher price for access to on-demand content to complement their onsite experience.
Hybrid Events Maximize Breadth and Depth
Finding Value and ROI
Think beyond ticket sales to maximize value and ROI
To price and ticket your event optimally, you must first define its value—for attendees, sponsors, and the organization itself. You can then maximize that value by mapping it to relevant attendee, sponsor, and organizational goals. Maximizing value leads to higher ROI for your organization and a more rewarding experience for your audiences.
ROI is more than ticket sales
Many organizations focus on ticket sales as the key driver of ROI, but ticket sales are just one slice of a much larger ROI pie. Cvent has identified five benefits that contribute to event ROI:
- Direct revenue – Ticket sales, sponsorships, advertising, merchandise sales, exhibitors, government grants
- Attributed revenue – Revenue after the event that was influenced by product demos or interaction with sales staff during the event
- Attributed sales pipeline – Leads and opportunities generated at the event that eventually become sales
- Brand equity – Attendees’ positive experience and impression of the brand as it relates to the event
- Knowledge exchange – Information and insight shared between customers, prospects, and the organization
When assessing the full value of your events, you must look at all the benefits they provide to the organization along with the costs. There are many things beyond direct revenue that impact how much money an event will make. It can take time for these to come to fruition, but it’s important to include them in ROI.
Remember to view value through the eyes of all key stakeholders. While you can highlight event value in objective terms (e.g., number and type of sessions, speakers, exhibitors), what matters most is how your stakeholders perceive the event. Imagine yourself in the shoes of attendees, sponsors, and internal stakeholders. By asking about their needs and desires before and after the event, you will discover how your event can help them succeed and achieve their goals. To expand your thinking and uncover hidden value, answer the
following questions with as much detail as possible:
- What will attendees get out of the event?
- What are the benefits to sponsors?
- How does this event bring value to the business or organization?
The best way to maximize value for attendees is by understanding their interests and motivations. Use historical data, surveys, feedback forms, interviews, and other tools to help you craft the most valuable attendee experience—from the first moment they interact with your brand to the moment they leave your event. Look for ways to address their pain points and provide value through education, entertainment, networking, high-touch support, status, convenience, or other business benefits.
Sponsors support events when they help their organizations achieve higher goals, such as increasing revenue, driving sales leads, positioning them as leaders in their industries, or gaining media exposure. The best way to find hidden value is by understanding sponsors’ business needs—e.g., building brand awareness, increasing reach or engagement, strengthening loyalty with existing customers, acquiring new customers, or raising funds.
Find internal value by aligning your event to your organization’s key business objectives. For example, if the company’s goal is to build a sales pipeline, an event may aim to gather leads from qualified prospects. If its goal is to drive revenue, an event may target existing customers with a high-value item or service they can purchase onsite. Internal goals are not always related to direct revenue or ticket sales. An event’s purpose could be to enhance brand identity and awareness, showcase product innovations, or highlight corporate culture. Be sure to factor intangible benefits, knowledge exchange, sales pipeline, and attributed revenue into the equation when looking for hidden value.
Once you have defined what value means to each group, you can use this information to build value propositions that are unique, authentic, and compelling. By focusing on value for all three groups, you can price your event accordingly and maximize ROI.
Value-based Ticketing & Pricing
Now that you’ve defined the value you want to provide, let’s look at how value-based ticketing and pricing can help you translate that value into packages attendees and sponsors will love. Ticket price is not just about calculating costs and adding a profit margin; it’s also about how much people want what you’re selling. A value-based ticketing strategy finds ways to ensure each buyer’s perceived value of the experience equals or exceeds the price they pay. Perceived value is the impression that a person forms about your event’s worth based on their perspective. It exists only in people’s minds—as you solve their biggest problems or satisfy their most important desires, perceived value goes up. Let’s explore some
techniques that can influence perceived value, and consequently, ticket demand and price.
Use a tiered pricing system to add flexibility to your events. Offer packages ranging from free to super-premium. Meet the audiences where their pocketbooks are and where they’re willing to invest— maintaining reach but also earning depth of engagement. Tiered pricing helps you find the right balance of supply and demand and match ticket costs to perceived value levels.
Premium content and training
Differentiate your event by offering exclusive content that costs more to produce. Gate this high-value content behind the paywall. In this scenario, perhaps plenary sessions are all-access, but more niche or specific content requires an upgrade. This approach lets you grant high-value attendees access to content more suited for their needs while still satisfying more budget-conscious attendees with standard content. The vast majority of event attendees join for the educational experience. By offering a variety of course levels for content, you can intermix free and paid programming.
Training materials, tools, learning guides, or the ability to receive certifications or continuing education credit can incur costs that you’ll want to recoup with ticket fees. If the value of the content is transparent, audiences will be willing to pay no matter the event format. Not only that but delivering great content showcases your event expertise, which can be a huge draw for future attendees.
Special perks and VIP experiences
Consider delivering perks—gifts, tangibles, swag items, or meals—as a way to uplevel experiences and encourage engagement. These may be something you choose to include in your tiered pricing plan or a way to capture more attention from attendees and ultimately drive the intangible value of your event.
Give super-premium ticket holders access to exclusive experiences not available to basic ticket holders. These could include additional networking events, VIP speaker sessions with Q&A time, catered meals in unique settings or venues (gift certificates for meals if digital), or increased levels of access to exhibitors or sponsors. You can offer these experiences before, during, and after the event. For virtual events, VIP experiences can include more interaction options or private breakout sessions for attendees who purchase higher-priced tickets.
Offer time-based incentives that allow audiences to capture a lower ticket rate before it increases over time. Audiences will lock in discounted rates in favor of securing registrations early on in your promotional plan. You can similarly create discount codes or conduct flash sales. Urgency is a powerful driver that you can use to encourage audiences to register sooner rather than later. You can also include exhibitors and sponsors in limited-time offers. Incentivize your audience with exclusive sales and offers from your partners while creating buzz around new products, services, or information. This approach not only adds value for attendees but can also increase ROI for sponsors and exhibitors.
One great thing about new event formats is that you can give sponsors more access to different audiences. Aim to create packages that provide access to all audiences at varying tiers of investment. This lets sponsors reach different levels of exposure and attendee engagement. The potential benefits are many and extend far beyond the typical practice of lead generation. Communicate value clearly, so they know they’re getting more bang for their buck with your event. Sponsorship opportunities might also include events before or after the main event that aren’t included in your registration or attendee experience. Selling sponsorship opportunities outside of your core ticketed activity can open up new revenue streams and strengthen relationships with sponsors.
Want to find out more? Read the full guide from Cvent here.