Your Virtual Events May Engage—But Are They Profitable?

By: Anna Boggs
videographer filming a virtual event

The immediate transition to virtual left many marketers feeling the pressure to produce an event that could engage even more attendees and drive the same amount of revenue.

With plenty of opportunities to experiment, there have been some great examples of how event professionals have truly innovated, including 48-hour moderated chat sessions, intimate executive roundtables and tablework for thousands of attendees across 17 times zones (simultaneously!).

But the unanswered question from many of our clients: Was it profitable? According to Event MB study, 39% of event professionals say, “no.”

In addition, most planners (about 70%) said they expected to be able to recoup no more than 25% of this year’s revenue through virtual events—and many will recoup significantly less.

A Tool to Help: Virtual ROI Calculator

With all the new details to figure out in a short amount of time, planning pricing scenarios for an unknown future can be an overwhelming process.
As one of our clients was planning a virtual user conference, we uncovered the need for a tool to help them analyze various breakout package scenarios. To help them uncover the best path forward, we developed a virtual event pricing calculator that used client-specific historical data, flexible inputs for fees and projection modeling to show revenue comparisons among eight different pricing models.
The calculator can be modified for different scenarios and considerations for any fee-based conference or event. Based on budget inputs and audience data, clients are able to model the impact of various scenarios on overall ROI of the event.

Running the numbers ahead of time can help you to better understand and predict future ROI and breakeven numbers. For example, consider the minimum viable attendee number at each price point and how you would address potential impacts (e.g., last minute cancellations, no shows, etc.).

Related: Even in the face of a changing business environment, demonstrating event ROI to leaders and stakeholders is possible—and it’s vital to the future of your event. Download our white paper to learn how you can measure engagement against your objectives.

Pricing Considerations to Achieve Positive ROI

While there are some commonalities when it comes to planning any event, each event has complexities. As you are thinking through scenarios for your event and how to achieve positive ROI, consider these options as well:
  • Premium content upgrades (training/certifications, exclusive access to breakouts with leadership)
  • Attendee segmentation (overall audience size, global/regional differences)
  • Appetite to pay (value of past events vs. virtual experience)
  • Historical data (gain insight from past registration, CRMs, mobile apps to inform likely scenarios)
  • Sponsorship fees
  • Bundling/Tiered pricing strategies
  • Access to pre- and post-event content

Future Questions to Consider

As the industry continues on its recovery path and hybrid events become the next norm, there will be even more challenges to consider to achieve positive ROI. How do you price your virtual event to encourage in-person attendance, but also provide value to virtual attendees? How will you collect, manage and analyze the data from both audiences? Is your target audience the same or different when hybrid attendance models are in play? What is the impact of cancellations? These are just some of the questions you’ll need to answer.
Anna Boggs
Anna Boggs

Anna graduated from Purdue and has 13 years of experience in the industry. Eight of those years have been with ITA Group split between the Event Operations and Analytics and Decision Support teams. Solving puzzles with data is her jam, using the lens of operations and industry knowledge as a guide. She’s passionate about creating new things—currently making homemade bread and quilts from her home in Minneapolis are top of the list.