Vector of a large group of diverse people from different country standing on a world map

More audio and video, better data, global audiences and… wine? What we’ll keep post crisis.

Orson Francescone, head of FT Live, said that their virtual event numbers “are kind of blowing our model out of the water in the sense that we are bringing in a huge funnel of new subscribers into the FT machinery.” Virtual events, in some form, are not the only things we’ll keep post-pandemic. Audio and video have taken off. Crisis hubs have multiplied. Even sommeliers have been the stars of events. What will you be keeping of everything new you’ve tried?

Last week, The Washington Post published a story for their Outlook section titled What We’ll Keep. “The pandemic made us change our lives. Here are 11 ways we won’t change back.” Those ways include soft pants, spending time with pets, online ordering at in-person restaurants, appreciating essential workers, spending time outdoors, telecommuting and better home cooking.

Here are a few of those “keepsakes” for our industry:

Build more hubs.
Coronavirus news hubs brought large new audiences to publishers. Spidell’s was replete with special tax information, and they added webinars to address that further. Coleman added their Coleman Report Live daily videocasts to answer small banking and loan questions and hasn’t let up since (a show is pictured here, with a survey question, something else to keep). These shows have increased their audience, providing a bigger pool for their revenue-producing initiatives. MedLearn Media doubled its audience through new and expanded podcasts. Does the idea of a hub for expanded coverage only have to be around COVID? It wouldn’t be as universal, but for your specific niche a temporary hub on another vital topic could work well.

Offer more audio.
Text to audio has accelerated during the crisis. Dutch news website The Correspondent recently launched a new audio app for members. “We were a text-based site mostly, and our members asked us if we could also provide audio, because it’s easier to combine it with different activities like traveling or working out,” CEO Ernst-Jan Pfauth said. “We figured, well, it’s not our mission to provide text. It’s our mission to be a daily antidote to the news grind, to give an insight into how the world works. The medium isn’t that important, so if voice works better, let’s introduce that.”

Keep virtual events, in some form.
The global ease of attending a virtual event will not be going away. Last July, Questex produced the first REMOTE: The Connected Faculty Summit event. They hosted 26,000+ live attendees from 155 countries and 722 universities and colleges, with 2500+ questions asked to presenters and 47,000+ networking chats. It was such a success that they quickly scheduled the June 2021 all-virtual edition. “We can do SO much better for our students NOW than we could in January 2020,” writes David Levin, the event’s producer. Said Francescone, head of FT Live: “[In 2019] we had 24,000 delegates at our conferences. [In 2020] with 223 online events—that’s webinars, conferences and award shows—we’ve had 160,000 ‘digital delegates.’”

Satisfy a bigger thirst for data.
“There’s definitely more data that we were able to collect with the virtual event than with an in-person event,” Enit Nichani, vice president of marketing for North America at IGEL, told TechTarget. A reporting feature in vFairs—their digital platform of choice—enabled their marketing team “to see how many times a user visited a particular booth, what sessions they attended and how long they stayed for those sessions.” Before all this, maybe we counted the number of people in a session or at a keynote. But, of course, no one is watching when they leave or counting their visits to a booth. Must be a way to do more.

Double down on content.
When the pandemic hit, Morning Brew launched a guide telling readers how best to work from home. It quickly became a pop-up, three-days-a-week newsletter, The Essentials, with tips on how to be active, healthy and happy during quarantine.” It attracted more than 75,000 subscribers in the first three days. In November, after 80+ issues of The Essentials, the newsletter got a makeover to become Sidekick. Looks like it’s still going strong. “Another example of our mission and how we’re being a resource to readers…,” said Alex Lieberman, CEO and co-founder. “We are thinking differently about the media landscape.”

Provide more value.
“We feel that people are getting a lot more value this year,” said Jared Waters, training director for Business Valuation Resources, after they added bonus sessions before and after their Virtual Divorce Conference last year. There was a 50-minute conference preview two weeks before and three 100-minute, follow-up programs each of the three weeks after. Why can’t those virtual add-ons continue around a live event?

Offer shorter webinars.
The Association of Proposal Management Professionals initiated a Power ½ Hour Webinar Series. They are free for members and $75 for non-members.

Use sommeliers.
One of the most reliable moving parts of virtual conferences is wine tastings. It seemed to check a lot of boxes for the last year: networking, joy, learning, diversity. So why stop? In-person events can easily kick off a networking happy hour with a 20-minute talk from a local sommelier about what we might be drinking tonight. For hybrid events, could be a way to give both audiences a similar experience and would be nice to have her or him around as a resource.

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‘Figuring Out a Happy Medium’; Finding a Balance of Value and Price for Events

In an article last month on the Eventbrite blogAdriana Gascoigne of Girls in Tech was asked the most compelling element to get attendees to attend their virtual events? “…the speakers: high-caliber speakers and content that’s difficult for attendees to access if it weren’t for [us].”

In a normal year, a Girls in Tech Conference costs $300 and maybe their Global Classrooms anywhere from $35 to $150. When the pandemic began, they went to free. “But as the year moves on,” Gascoigne says, “we’re figuring out a happy medium for next year’s event to offer up a fee that keeps them signing up and actually attending the event. We’re trying to figure out what that number is.”

There is nothing trickier than event pricing right now. We’ve seen prices run the gamut from free to $600, and no one seems sure about their strategy—at least until after the fact. Gascoigne looks at the bright side, however. “We’re able to produce more and reach a lot more people globally through digital programming and it’s also less expensive overall to produce.”

That Eventbrite article listed these three foundational strategies to price your event:

  • Create demand with discounted prices for new events.
  • Cover your business costs.
  • Play up your value to attendees.

Let’s focus on that third one: value. The Financial Times put their value on special access and on-demand networking. For their FT Live event in October, they offered three tiers: The Knowledge Pass ($299) gave you access to the live talks and the Q&A and polls. The Professional Pass ($599) added meet-the-journalist sessions and that networking—and video—on demand. The Group Pass ($3,000) multiplied everything by six people.

On the lower end, Christine Weiser, content/brand director, Tech & Learning, a Future plc division, said they charged just $25 for a big virtual event they put on—with good value—and more than 1,300 people signed on! “We had no idea,” she said. “Will they pay more? For education they do have professional development budgets.” She said if you do price low be ready for late signups. I’ll bet they charge a little more next time.

“We feel that people are getting a lot more value [this year],” Jared Waters, training director for Business Valuation Resources, said about their recent Virtual Divorce Conference. “We can do a lot of things to add value to an event. So we figure a price point—[they are charging about half of what they charged last year]—and then throw a lot of value on it. It really is a great deal for our attendees.” That value included pre- and post-conference bonus sessions and a $200 credit on their registration to a future in-person event.

“Consider the value [of] what people are getting in exchange for what they’re paying,” said Darrah Brustein, lifestyle designer and founder of Network Under 40, a series of networking events for professionals in Atlanta, Nashville, and Baltimore. Brustein only charges $10-$25 for her networking events but $97-$297 for her summit because she knows it provides in-depth value.

The National Association of Broadcasters broke pricing down for their big October event, offering a $75 Marketplace Pass, and then content passes that varied in number of days and in pricing—$149 to $499.

“We started off at a lower number when we first offered our classes,” Susie Martin, co-founder, It’s for Charity! Events, said. “Once we saw the popularity, we slowly raised our prices until we found a good spot. It was experimental.”

Experimental is a good word for these times. Your audience is unique so what works for you in pricing may be as well.

Then there’s the Bloody Mary Festival. “The normal in-person festival costs $50 (general admission) and you get two-and-a-half hours sampling Bloody Marys from 10-15 different vendors,” Evan Weiss said. “The virtual event ticket costs $75 and includes five bottles of artisanal Bloody Mary mix from around the country shipped direct to the ticket holder. Then on October 10th, each ticket holder can tune into the virtual Bloody Mary Festival.”

Whether attendees make it that far after getting their swag boxes is a story for another day.

 

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Getting Your Event Price Right May Take Some Experimenting and Adding or Shedding a Few Tiers

There was a famous play in 1924 titled What Price Glory by Maxwell Anderson and Laurence Stallings (made into a 1952 film). Almost 100 years later, the title of a popular play in the publishing world might be What Price Virtual Events.
Up until now, pricing for these pivoted affairs has varied from free to $25 to $75 to half to full price and tiers. ASAE—after starting with a fee to attend—and The Atlantic both made their major annual events free, but with several sponsors. I saw a big 25% off sale for one publisher’s annual event last week. (It started at around $495.)
Here are some of the variations I’ve seen.
Charge low, hope registrations are high. Christine Weiser, content/brand director, Tech & Learning, a Future plc division, said they charged just $25 for a big virtual event they put on, but more than 1,300 people signed on, a number they were very pleased with. “We had no idea,” she said. “Will they pay more? For education they do have professional development budgets.” She said if you do price low be ready for late signups.
Give options but offer a relatively small discount. The American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians (ACOFP) already had 1,800+ people registered for their main event before they had to pivot to virtual. But what they then offered could still be a blueprint for planning a virtual event—a 25% discount for staying registered. More than 50% of the registrants took that deal. Just over 44% asked for and received a full refund. And 100 people deferred their registration to the 2021 conference. If you can provide similar value to your attendees from the in-person event, then don’t be shy about pricing it that way, they advised. Remember, attendees are saving huge dollars on travel costs.
Use pricing tiers. For their FT Live event in October, the Financial Times is offering three tiers: The Knowledge Pass ($299) gives you access to the live talks and the Q&A and polls. The Professional Pass ($599) adds meet-the-journalist sessions, networking and video on demand. And the Group Pass ($3,000) multiplies everything by six people. For its NAB Show in October, the National Association of Broadcasters is offering a $75 Marketplace Pass. There are then content passes that vary in number of days and in pricing–$149 to $499.
Keep pricing similar but you need to deliver similar value. “There had been, at least back in March, a sense that virtual should be cheaper,” Heather Farley, COO of Access Intelligence, said at SIPA 2020 in June. “But people are starting to appreciate the value of what we bring [virtually]. It still has the value of live, and [brings] the experience to connect buyers and sellers. The connections that you’re bringing aren’t all of a sudden cheaper. And the same amount of time that goes into [putting together] live events goes into virtual events. We have to make sure we don’t give deep discounts.”
Keep pricing close to half but provide add-ons. “We feel that people are getting a lot more value [this year],” Jared Waters, training director for BVR, said about their recent Virtual Divorce Conference. “We can do a lot of things to add value to an event. So we figure a price point—[they are charging about half of what they charged last year]—and then throw a lot of value on it. It really is a great deal for our attendees.” That value included pre- and post-conference bonus sessions and a $200 credit on their registration to a future in-person event.
Cut prices in half but get more sponsors. TechCrunch’s Disrupt 2020, taking place this week, cut ticket and exhibition prices this year roughly in half, reports Digiday. Individual ticket prices start at $350, down from $695 last year, while exhibition passes cost $445, down from over $1,000 in 2019. There’s also a Disrupt Digital Pass for $45 that offers access to one stage of programming, but does not include CrunchMatch. (It’s amazing how many names there are for virtual networking now.) TechCrunch expects between 10,000 and 15,000 attendees, close to last year’s attendance figures. However, sponsorship revenue will be up YoY, thanks to more expensive packages (by about 6%).
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BVR’s Virtual Pivot Offers ‘More Value’ and May Yield More Profit

According to new virtual conference benchmarks from Nucleus Analytics, the average daily view time for a live virtual conference is 2 hours, 10 minutes and 56 seconds. In scheduling their upcoming Virtual Divorce Conference Sept. 9-11, Business Valuation Resources has adhered to that, scheduling days of 2 hours five minutes, two hours 10 minutes and 3 hours 20 minutes.
To add even more value to their event and keep within a reasonable daily view time, BVR has added bonus sessions both before and after the main event. So there was a 50-minute conference preview on Aug. 27, and then three 100-minute, follow-up programs will take place Sept. 17, 24 and 30.
It’s a great idea. There are no ground rules to virtual events. As has often been said, we are all wading in uncharted waters. These sessions allow BVR to showcase even more good speakers and then also does something many experts recommend—keep the engagement and community atmosphere going.
“We feel that people are getting a lot more value [this year],” Jared Waters, training director for BVR, told me last week. “We can do a lot of things to add value to an event. So we figure a price point—[they are charging about half of what they charged last year]—and then throw a lot of value on it. It really is a great deal for our attendees.
“We have also shortened everything down as far as length,” he added. “There will be three lighter days [than last year].”
That added value includes:
A strong speaker and content lineup with a constant nod to COVID-19. Virtual does often allow for easier high-quality speaker gets—in this case matrimonial lawyers and financial experts. Most of the content will have a crisis influence to it. “Maintain your competitive edge with a wealth of sessions focusing on the issues most impacted by COVID-19, taught by top experts in the profession.”
Extra credits. An opportunity to earn up to 16.5 CPE/CLE credits. “This year no one’s really taking on a lot of new initiatives,” Waters said. “It’s not about personal growth. It’s ‘What do I need to know to survive?’ All COVID-19 related.”
A known and respected partner. They’ve partnered with the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML).
Money off a future in-person event registration. Attendees will receive a $200 credit on their registration to the next in person AAML/BVR event. Why not? It’s a generous incentive that can be price-adjusted later.
Those bonus sessions. The Aug. 27 preview was free, which makes sense as it is still a time when they are trying to get registrants. The three follow-up sessions in the weeks after the main three days are all quite substantial.
An attractive sponsors page. The Divorce Marketing Group has a marketing guide available for download. Soberlink includes a link to a video presentation.
Another good point that Waters made is that because virtual events can work with live or recorded sessions, why not ask the speakers how they are at their best. So it will be about half and half for the divorce conference. (I would also advise that, if possible for recorded sessions, have the speaker/s available for a live Q&A after.)
BVR has used the platform BigMarker for their virtual events. “We’ve been using it for about a year,” Waters said. “It works for mobile phones and computers. There’s no software to download. You can drop a video in there, or use slides and screen share.”
Waters is optimistic for the success of the conference. “We won’t have to pay a Las Vegas casino,” he said about the event’s previous locale. “There are no travel expenses. We think our profit may be higher. We’re shooting for 100-plus paid. There was about 320 paid the year before.”