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A lot of discussion took place over the past week about free vs paid, reality is that there is much more out there than just charging a fee to attend.
It's no new topic, we know. But lately Chris Anderson re-introduced it, Malcom Gladwell made a big deal out of it and Seth Godin gave the final word. On our end, Jeff Hurt asked us all a question and we are here to do our small bit.
Reality is event professionals are challenged by the current market conditions. The 'I charge you 800$/€/£ entry ticket' superb marketing technique apparently does not work anymore. Possibly because attendees are increasingly empowered to blog, tweet and share how crap an event was. That was not the case before social networks and media.
I was asked by Cece Lee about an alternative model for (virtual) events rather than charging a fee. Although I felt an urgency to keep it for myself, I subsequently thought that sharing results of a 3 hours brainstorming session could benefit our industry, even if 2 event planners will change their rotten practice and take action. Hopefully starting tomorrow.
One condition. And it is not about safeguarding my butt. What follows is the result of a small brainstorming session with few friends and event experts as well as weeks of reading. It's not meant to be a guide. It's not necessarily applicable to all sorts of events. It may not refer to what you do.
The idea is to think out of the box for once and stimulate your business practice to be innovative and disruptive. If you can think of more please do comment and add your perspective.
Borrowing the term from Trendwatching, have a look at how Bacardi goes to the source, pushes the boundaries of a close one-to-one relationship. In a user generated web 2.0, going personal is mandatory and could result in healthy business.
This is possibly the most used technique to reduce the cost impact on attendees yet not fully taken advantage of. Linkedin, Xing, twitter and tools like Make Your Mark Connect are just few of the available hundreds.
If you really need to sell and cannot make a revenue in any other way, consider layaway. The Coachella Festival implemented it successfully.
Find a relevant and interesting fil rouge. A meaningful and compelling connector. Start an association, a conglomerate, an online group or a social network. Charge for membership and give events for free. Combine with external sponsorships for better results.
You don't have to abruptely give up your compelling desire to sell tickets. You can have a mix of free and paid events. Usually free events are great tools to promote what you do. You can aim big for free events and go smaller for paid ones. If you combine both and create an online community to manage engagement, you'll be up and running soon.
Being in the VIP is always a cool thing isn't it. Trade show Masters understand that quite well. Most trade shows open up access to the large audience and sell ridiculously priced conference schemes. At least you are not denying access and you are selling premium only to those masochistic enough to pay super premium for content.
Collaborative event planning is becoming a reality. On the wave of crowdsourced initiatives the power of the collective is gonna be increasingly relevant and challenge the big guys. Use events to generate compelling, shared knowledge. Use the vast amount of readily available technology to capture that content and then sell it in forms of audio, video or text.
Conceptualize a cool idea. A very smooth, innovative and 'contaminated' form of event. Create a website next to it. Start a community around your website. Sell the idea to sponsors and franchisees. Two great examples are Pecha Kucha and StartupWeekend
Event professionals' attention to details is usually devoted to utterly useless and irrelevant matters. A sound merchandise strategy identifies the relevant item at the right time. Oversimplifying the concept, in a networking event earning a revenue from the bar seems obvious. Digging further, Orange and its Glastonbury Power Pump looks like a damn cool idea.
We learned by now the power of flash mobs. Capitalizing on having no fixed structure can cut costs tremendously on venue and overheads. Southern Comfort Pop up Night Clubs are a great example.
Note 2: Ranking is not relevant - make your own ranking if you want!