But you’re not giving me lunch, why should I pay?”~attendee who fails to see the event value
Have you had that question yet when posting about virtual event pricing? Or have you held off on setting a price because you’re not ready to face that question?
Just because your events are digital, doesn’t mean the benefits aren’t real.
This article will help you confidently charge for your virtual events including tips from how to set pricing to getting in the right mindset to respond to cost complaints.
Overcoming Imposter Syndrome
If you read Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, you might remember her writing about Imposter Syndrome. It’s an issue that plagues a lot of professionals who feel they’re in over their head, that their reputation as a professional far exceeds their abilities. They worry that at some point they’ll be found out as an imposter.
It causes all sorts of anxiety and causes people to sell themselves short. People often keep from taking professional chances or challenges because they fear the added exposure will only bring ridicule.
Maybe deep down you feel that way about your event.
Perhaps you don’t think your events are really that good. Maybe you don’t feel like they’re worth charging for because subconsciously you are questioning their value.
If that is the case, you have a bigger issue than trying to decide what a ticket should cost.
Assess Your Event
Before hosting and pricing your virtual event (and charging for it), ask yourself if this is a really good event by working through the following:
- Will the formerly in-person event translate well to a virtual environment?
- Am I bringing value to my audience by hosting it: aka will they get something important from it?
- Why should they want to attend? What’s in it for them and how will I communicate that to them?
- Can I add any special touch that will make it extra enjoyable for the audience? Is there something the chamber can do to get people talking about it after it’s over or will it end up being “just another Zoom call?”
Be honest about your event. It’s possible that not every chamber event will translate well to a virtual environment or maybe the face (or needs) of business in your community has changed and your event no longer serves your audience.
Make a strong decision based on a very real value and proceed confidently.
Design a Strong Marketing Strategy Around the Event
Have you ever needed something in such a way that you would pay anything for it? Or are there things in your life that you pay for every month and you’ve written them into your budget because they’re that important. Sometimes we don’t even like those things but we need them.
I feel that way about DropBox or PayPal. I don’t necessarily like paying for those services but they have become an essential part of my business.
Think about Disney Parks. Tickets are in the neighborhood of $100 per person. A trip to Disney could cost as much as a trip to Europe but families pay it. They do so because there’s no other place like Disney. If you want to see the Mouse and the Palace, you’re paying.
You want your event to feel the same way (except not begrudgingly so). You want to give your attendees so much value that people don’t think about paying that ticket price. Maybe you’ll never reach cult status like Disney but you need to give them something:
- no one else is offering; or
- no one is offering for the same convenience/quality you are offering it; or
- no one is offering at the price point you are
Your marketing needs to reflect how you are giving them something that no one else is and/or how your event helps them or solves a professional or personal problem that is holding them back from their end goals. And you need to show them just how easy it is for those events to help.
Very few people question the admission price to Disney properties. If your marketing strategy helps your audience in a way nothing else does, you can name your price and do so confidently.
Part of your marketing strategy should involve a plan for word of mouth marketing. While you can’t control that or reviews, you can make sure that when positive things are said about your event that others see and hear it.
Retweet and share comments made about your event. Solicit testimonials from supporters. If someone tells you how much they enjoyed an event, ask them if you might share their words with others. Most people will agree or share it themselves and tag you.
There are a lot of options when it comes to virtual event pricing strategy. Some people believe your virtual event should cost less than an in-person event because of…
Is your lunch really worth that much? Isn’t the value in the content and the presentation? Aren’t people paying for the knowledge or know-how they will be absorbing?
Or are they paying for the chocolate mousse?
Said another way, do you give discounts to people who want to come to your event but plan not to eat?
And besides, they might be the very same people who complained about what was served. Now, they have only themselves to blame if they don’t like the chicken dinner!
Does food have a value? Yes, there’s a cost to you to supply it at an in-person event but does it really have that much value for the attendee?
Avoid Giving Money Back
The value shouldn’t be in the meal choice, unless it is. If the whole reason for your event is that dinner, give a discount if they’re not getting the dinner.
But before you do try these other options:
- make it known that you will not be giving discounts on the meal but you will be donating the cost of it to a local nonprofit or the catering company to help keep them in business or help their furloughed employees.
- have the event food delivered to ticket holders or available at a central location for contactless pick-up.
- replace the meal with another equal perk for virtual attendees.
- give attendees a choice about how the meal cost is spent by designating a cause or program that could benefit from it.
Most people who find value in your event won’t be put off by paying for your event when its marketed to their needs.
Should I Give a Discount?
Some chambers have been forced to lower ticket prices at the request of their board.
If you go this route, please don’t give the reason as being “since we’re not serving lunch” or “because it’s virtual.” Lunch and being in a room together shouldn’t be the only value in your event. You shouldn’t be sending the message that without those things our event is less valuable.
Instead, if you feel the pressure to discount your event make it about helping the community and its business people. Go with a message that says, we know some people are struggling so we’re rolling back our event ticket prices temporarily to help people afford this great opportunity. If you want to have some real fun, you can give a decade and say you’re rolling them back to 1990 prices (for instance) and then use a 90s theme or encourage people to wear 90s fashion at your virtual event.
While ultimately you’re still giving a discount, you have flipped the message from one of devaluing your worth to helping your community. People will respond to that.
Consider Event Sponsorships
Assuming your marketing is on target with community needs, there is no reason why you shouldn’t rework your sponsorship packages to include virtual event options. In fact, some chambers have offered free virtual events because they decided to have the events 100% paid for by sponsors!
Calculate the Price of the Ticket
Now that you know how quickly your words can devalue the importance of an event when you mention discounts because lunch isn’t served, let’s talk about how to price your tickets.
You are no longer looking at costs of hosting and using it as a basis for the ticket. Instead, you need to think about value. If there’s an education component, what are similar seminars worth? If this is an entertaining event, what do people usually pay for a similar night out like what you’re offering?
Value should be at the center of any price discussion when it comes to a virtual event, not what you’re paying to host it.
A Final Thought About Event Pricing
I’ll leave you with a final example of another industry that has not devalued their offerings based on physical presence or lunch–education.
Private schools, universities, and technical schools have switched their offerings online. Few have discounted tuition.
Because the value is in the education, not in where that education takes place. Some schools will see a drop in attendance if they aren’t seen as being worth the money. But as long as the value is there, they will not likely drop the cost of admission and education.
As a chamber professional considering the pricing of your virtual event, have an honest–even if it’s difficult–conversation about the value of your event. When you understand the value, you’ll have a better idea of how to set your pricing.