As hybrid models gather momentum, many event planners are becoming increasingly concerned about one issue that has no clear answer: pricing.
Here are five key questions to help you determine how to price your next hybrid event.
1. What is the hybrid event makeup?
When producing a hybrid event that combines in-person and virtual attendees, you can choose where to place the emphasis on pricing. This will be determined in part by your communications strategy and what level of profit, if any, you wish to make.
Many hybrid events will attract more virtual attendees than in-person ones. This is because people have more choice today than they did pre-COVID regarding how they want to attend. While health and travel considerations are factored into attendee decision-making, the huge reach that webcasting provides means it is easier to attract virtual attendees (so long as the content is top notch).
If you decide to hold a multiple hub hybrid event, you are looking at a different pricing structure than for other hybrid event types. Multiple hubs mean your pricing decisions will be affected by the local costs of hub location. For example, the pricing for a hub in New York will be different than Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, or Adelaide, Australia.
2. Have you included the basic ingredients?
You decide to cook a meal for your friends. The first thing you do is make a list of ingredients you will need. Usually the most obvious ones are listed first. They are the basics (or essentials) followed by the ‘nice touch’ ingredients that will make your meal special.
The same thinking can be applied to pricing your hybrid event. You must make sure the key building blocks of costs are covered. For the in-person part, the building blocks are likely to be familiar. Ensuring costs for the virtual production element are also included can be trickier.
For example, will you need a separate registration system for virtual attendees?
Hopefully not because it means you’ll have the complex task of collating data from two systems at the end.
And don’t forget there will be additional crew costs for the webcasting.
It is best to go through the in-person and virtual elements line by line to check you have all the basics covered.
3. How will you allocate production costs?
The production of a hybrid event involves more costs than a stand-alone in-person or virtual event simply because there are two components. It’s up to you to decide how you set your attendee pricing.
For example, you could take all the component costs of the in-person event experience and then add an element on top to set the price you charge in-person attendees. The same approach can be applied to virtual attendees. This ensures they pay for precisely what they receive. In this scenario, virtual attendees would not pay for food and drink, and in-person delegates would not pay for the live stream.
But this approach can be too narrow for some event planners. For instance, it doesn’t address the fact that in-person attendees benefit from being able to watch the content on-demand. That content was only captured because it was live-streamed. And in-person attendees didn’t contribute to this cost.
Another option is to calculate the costs of the hybrid event and add a profit element (or not). This creates a total figure you need to reach. It provides more flexibility in deciding how much to charge in-person and virtual attendees.
4. How will you apportion sponsorship revenue?
You can skip this question if your event has no sponsorship revenue attached to it. But for those planners that offer sponsorship opportunities at their hybrid events, this question requires careful consideration.
The value an in-person event will deliver to a sponsor is better known, so you’ll likely need to educate organizations on the benefits of also sponsoring the virtual component. Once they understand the return on investment, you can charge more for sponsorship opportunities, which, in turn, may influence attendee ticket prices.
How you decide to apportion sponsorship revenue is entirely your choice. You could charge a sponsor for promoting their services to virtual attendees or you may use their money to pay costs associated with the in-person element. What matters is that you know where you want to allocate the sponsorship income and how it will affect your pricing decisions.
5. What should you charge attendees?
Before answering this question, it is important to note that consistency in your approach is key. Otherwise, you may damage your brand.
If you charge in-person attendees a premium price while virtual delegates are offered a much cheaper rate, it could easily confuse the very people you are seeking to attract. People familiar with your brand will question why there is a two-tiered price structure. They may think the virtual component will be sub-standard.
It’s recommended that you charge both in-person and virtual attendees a similar price if your hybrid event is at a premium level and the focus is primarily educational. Any difference in pricing should reflect items only in-person attendees will enjoy, like the venue, catering, live entertainment and any networking opportunities that cannot be accessed by virtual attendees. Once you have settled on the pricing, you may want to explore offering discounts for early bird registration, groups, association members and so on.
How much you charge attendees ultimately boils down to how you want your organization to be seen, how much profit you want to make, if any, and how that aligns with overall organizational goals.
Ian Webb is head of business development at Eventsforce. The company’s customizable web-based software provides a complete end-to-end management solution for virtual, hybrid and in-person events, from event planning, marketing and registration to on-site check-in, virtual content delivery, mobile apps, abstracts and awards management, reporting and data management.