The learning curve for still-new virtual events is steep, and many eventprofs have struggled to profitably shift their events online. However, there are events that have not only succeeded, but exceeded their live event profits — here's how.
Earlier this year, EventMB research found that many eventprofs hadn't yet cracked the code of profitable virtual events — only 25% of planners were able to pivot profitably, and of those, only 7% exceeded the original expectations of their physical event.
While these percentages are small, they prove that it's possible to not only make a profit from a virtual event, but to make more than a physical event. Digital events offer many benefits, such higher attendance rates and opportunities for evergreen content, that can be powerful revenue generators if leveraged correctly.
Let's take a closer look at some events that are doing just that.
Hosting Profitable Virtual Events
Setting ticket prices — and justifying the cost by delivering the value your attendees expect — is an important part of monetizing virtual events.
However, as discussed by William Thomson, Managing Director of Gallus Events, during our Future of the Event Industry virtual event, ticket prices aren't the be all and end all when it comes to making money from online events — revenue streams such as sponsorships and subscription models are just as important to keep in mind.
VentureBeat Offers Same Sponsorship Tiers as for Live Event
Every year since 2015, VentureBeat has organized a game industry event, the GamesBeat Summit, which was supposed to take place in LA this past April. However, they were inevitably forced to pivot to virtual, with only three weeks to make the switch.
In the end, the virtual GamesBeat Summit 2020 was more profitable than the 2019 live event. VentureBeat's VP of Strategic Partnerships, Gina Joseph, explains that this was possible in part because of higher profit margins, but also because they didn't lower sponsorship costs for the virtual event. And the event more than justified that cost, as sponsors actually walked away with a higher ROI.
Virtual can be a powerful lead generation format, as planners can provide more tangible data on impressions and engagement. Joseph also mentions that virtual events give "sponsors the opportunity to hold more one-to-one meetings and have access to Slack channels to have more direct and engaged lines of communication."
On-Demand Content Fuels More Revenue for Insider Inc.
Insider Inc., Business Insider's parent company, has been using on-demand content to bring in revenue since moving its events online this year. Although its online events are free, and its virtual sponsorships cost less than its physical ones, the company has generated eight times more revenue this year than it did last year.
It has done so by putting on more events, and by implementing on-demand programs that can be accessed after the events are streamed. This has led to increased ROI for sponsors since this type of content can still generate awareness and engagement long after the event has ended.
Virtual and hybrid events will be around for the foreseeable future, but the industry as a whole still hasn't mastered how to deliver value and sustainably generate revenue from these formats. Providing robust lead generation opportunities, as well as exploring on-demand content and ongoing community engagement, are proven strategies that can help boost profitability for online events.