Whether you are a seasoned virtual event organizer or a beginner, Balloon is built with virtual events' endless opportunities in mind, including monetization. We allow event organizers like you to expand participation reach beyond your usual attendees, grow your network, and increase your event revenue through multiple streams, which we will cover in this article. The pandemic is an extreme situation, but think of all the people you can reach globally, thanks to virtual event platforms like Balloon. And you have so much latitude in being creative with your vendors and sponsors when it comes to monetizing your event.
Virtual events are booming because people begin to realize the convenience and diversity of virtual events and their potential to bring value to everyone involved, including measurable monetary value to organizers. This article will cover top to bottom how to make money before, during, and after your virtual event, and which event practices are income-generating and you should say yes to.
1. Highlight the Importance and Value of Your Event
Preliminary to your analysis about how you will earn money from your event, you should be able to recite the reasons attendees, exhibitors, and sponsors would be keen on investing in it. To do so, ask yourself and your team what is that you offer that is of value to your target audience. Do you offer knowledge and insight that is not being offered elsewhere? Are you also giving tools and resources (e.g., guides, data, tutorials, networks) rather than plain theory? If the answer is yes, you should be confident that attendees and sponsors will feel they got their money’s worth from your event.
After you have taken stock of your purpose, mission, vision, and values, turn to your audience. Engage with your audience before the event, and ask them directly about their wants and needs. They may not give you definite answers, but it is crucial to keep the conversation alive and show them you care. By allowing them to know you, you will easier convince them to open their wallets to someone they trust and have aligned values with.
2. Create a Pricing Strategy
A fair pricing strategy will help you monetize your virtual event reasonably without falling into the trap of underselling or overselling your event. To build a sustainable ticketing policy, you should consider the following: type of virtual experience you are offering; current affairs nationally and globally (depending who is your target) — and especially the state of the economy; exhibitors’ and sponsors’ reputation and influence; your competitiveness; expenses, and desirable profit. Regarding competitiveness, a universal rule is to price (in this case) your tickets in relation to the value your offer.
If you are starting now in the virtual events industry, you may want to consider a middle course until you establish your events’ value and transition to fixed prices. Hence, in addition to a suggested price or multi-tiered prices, you may give attendees a pay-what-you-want option. Whatever pricing strategy you go for, it’s imperative to be consistent and clear on what you offer.
3. Sell Discounted Tickets
A foolproof way to boost your event’s sales and attract more attendees is to lean on the most tested and effective marketing strategy: a discount on event tickets. Discounts work on consumers’ psychology of urgency and fear of missing out, as they are available for a limited time and quantity. However, before you jump to any discounts, think how many tickets you want to sell from deals, for how long you will run the sales, and when on the event’s timeline. On Balloon, you can create your tickets with great flexibility. You can determine free or paid tickets, tickets being sold for a limited time, capped tickets, and unlimited tickets.
Selecting the right type of value for your virtual event depends on whom you want to attract. For instance, an early bird discount will help you spread the word about your event. Promo codes for students and trainees will draw younger attendees, and group discounts will win corporations over. If you worry that discounts may underestimate your event’s value, bear in mind that people who benefited from a discount will have only positive feelings for your name, which can add to building long-term rapport with your audience. Yet, discounts must be applied thoughtfully. Otherwise, you may lose revenue, and even worse, fail to cover the costs of your event.
4. Sell Premium Tickets
Another great online event idea to generate more revenue is to incorporate premium tickets in your virtual event planning. More expensive tickets don’t only mean more revenue without increasing prices for everyone but also imply that high-profile attendees will have a unique and personalized experience. To defend the cost of premium tickets, you can offer reserved places at limited capacity sessions, VIP-only networking opportunities, attendance to a product launch, and/or an award from one of your sponsors. On Balloon, you can give access to individual ticket holders to ticket-specific breakout sessions such as ask-me-anything meetings with high-profile speakers.
5. Offer Premium-Only Content
Among the best ways to make money from events is to offer premium-only content, which doesn’t necessarily have to be merely for premium-ticket holders. Premium content can be purchased on-demand — before, during, and after the event — and should go in-depth about a topic touched upon at the event. You should also include different kinds of content (e.g., videos, webinars, e-books) to entice all types of learners (e.g., auditory, visual, interpersonal).
Premium-only content can be a selling point for your exhibitors and sponsors-to-be and can help you get sponsorships for your event. For example, if the content is related to a sponsor’s product or service (e.g., a masterclass), and it is downloadable or indefinitely accessible, the sponsor’s visibility doesn’t end with the event. This information is worth sharing with your sponsors or potential sponsors in the pre-event conversations. They will be humbled to be involved in such a thoughtful way. On Balloon, exhibitors can create videos or downloadable PDF files, great for brochures, product overviews, and company presentations.
6. Organize Live Games or Competitions
A fun virtual event, which shouldn’t be confused with lacking seriousness, can attract more attendees and more revenue. Live games and competitions help attendees overcome shyness and connect while being creative and applying critical skills. You can stir up excitement and get sponsorships for your event by giving sponsored prizes. For example, the game can be to sign up for X sponsor’s newsletter in the next 24 hours to enter a draw for a 30-day free trial of the sponsor’s service. You can also launch social media competitions where attendees must use the event’s hashtag or follow the event’s social media accounts to enter a pool and be possible winners of an award.
7. Do Pre-event Marketing
It’s never too early to start the conversation around your event for promotion and audience engagement. Pre-event marketing is crucial to event planning if you want to build anticipation and excitement and increase ticket sales. The best way to start is with a teaser on social media about what’s coming soon. Remember to reveal just enough, so people stay tuned for more information until they register for the event. Make sure at every post the registration page is clear to click on and easy to navigate. Of course, never omit your event’s dedicated hashtag about which you can read more in our blog about how to improve engagement at virtual events.
Continue marketing your event with blogs that profile key speakers, introduce themes that you will discuss further at the event, or lead to your sponsors. Even if they are an amateurish production, videos are more immediate and perform exceptionally well on social media. The more content reposts and shares you achieve, the more you will attract new attendees and increase your revenue. Of course, it goes without saying that the companies and individuals you feature on your social media will love a shout-out, so don't forget to tag them to amplify your reach and turn your partners into event ambassadors. Email marketing is also an excellent way to promote your event, advertise different types of tickets and discounts, present the reasons for buying tickets now, and send reminders.
8. Organize a Pre-event Sponsor Consultation
Undisputedly, sponsors will help you cover much, or at least some, of your event’s cost and promote your event to a broader audience through their marketing. To get to know the companies that are willing to sponsor your event and learn about sponsorship opportunities, organize a pre-event sponsors’ meeting with shortlisted sponsors. To select sponsorship candidates, ask yourself how their presence in the event will benefit attendees and what they will bring to the event. Sponsors should be at your event not just to convert attendees to leads but help you achieve your goals and build your event.
Of course, sponsors expect things in return. Take advantage of your pre-event meeting to walk them through the event’s why and how. One of virtual events' most significant values is the power of data and analytics, which you can use to persuade hesitant sponsors. At physical events, sponsors have limited visibility on numbers of people visiting and lead generation. But with virtual events, sponsors can gain advanced analytics and insights on booth visits, leads, customer behavior, and much more. Hand in your audience’s profile, exhibitors’ names, registration stats, and the event’s agenda, as well as your online event sponsorship package with features and prices. Also, provide sponsors with some context of the value they should expect (e.g., a new business that previous sponsors generated). Being proactive with your potential sponsors should help you find the most suitable (and generous) sponsors for your event.
9. Organize a Post-Event Sponsor Evaluation
The sponsorship financial benefits have been pivotal in your event’s success. But as an event organizer, you did your bit too, to say the least, to support sponsors. You engaged with sponsors, integrated them into the event, respected their investment, and aligned your event with their objectives. Ideally, to save yourself time and money and to gain the trust of your attendees, you want long-lasting relationships with your sponsors, who will keep coming back for more. So, to have more sponsors for your next event, and therefore compete for higher rates, you can share with your sponsors your upcoming event's schedule, and invite them to run a campaign together highlighting your event's best moments and what non-attendees and companies that didn't take part missed out.
The event may be over, but make sure shortly after you provide sponsors with a personal thank you note or video and later on with an event report, which also includes sponsor-specific success points and inadequacies. What were the event’s best practices, and what should you do differently next time? What does the data reveal about the audience and popularity of sponsors? Take this opportunity to ask your sponsors’ feedback on what worked for them and what needs improvement. Most importantly, were their expectations met? Ideally, sponsors would like to increase sales, but there are other goals, too, such as trying out new marketing methods, engaging with the audience, and receiving feedback.
10. Create Online Stores
Online shopping and e-commerce are booming worldwide, so why not adopt online stores in your virtual event to double down on revenue strategy. At the event, you have your target audience gathered in one place, so grasp this opportunity to communicate the benefits of using your product or service, or supporting your cause if you are a non-profit. This can be done through an online store, hosted by the virtual event platform, where attendees can make purchases and contribute towards your event’s revenue. Your online store can be something as simple as a store with your event’s logo printed on t-shirts and mugs or a place to launch a new product. You can also host your sponsors' products and services, and track the value you have generated for them to help them have a clear picture of their investment benefits. Either way, customers will feel special, and the income from purchases will go towards your revenue.
11. Sell Banner and Pop-Up Ad Space on Your Live Stream
You can earn money and increase your event’s visibility by selling advertising space on your event’s website to relevant businesses or your sponsors. If banners host sponsors’ logos, you should include the cost in the package your sponsors have purchased. The number, size, and location of banners depend on the layout of your website. However, you should be cautious with the presence of banners because too many can distract your audience from the content of your website, and even urge them to leave the site without taking any action. Pop-up ads on your live stream can act in the same way as banners do. Again, you have to incorporate the ads artfully because the last thing you want is to obscure the content and upset participants.
12. Use Sponsored Intros and Video Ads
Video ads take the lead among marketing practices, and sponsors cannot turn a blind eye to their efficiency. Hence, they are willing to pay more for video ads, which is great news for your virtual event’s revenue. Incorporate sponsored intros and video ads into your event’s media kit, and sell them to your sponsors and other relevant businesses wishing to showcase their brands, increase traffic on their website, and see a rise in demand.
Sponsored intros and video ads can play before the start of event sessions or in between sessions, meaning that you don’t have to wait for people to click. Instead, attendees are exposed naturally to the ads’ content, which is part of the holistic event experience they have chosen to participate in. On Balloon, if you use software for video recording and live streaming, such as OBS (free/open-source), you can incorporate video reels with a sponsor's service or product before the main content begins and send them to Balloon's event stage via RTMP. Remind the companies willing to sponsor your event for an exchange of video ads that attendees will only watch ads that are relevant, valuable, and cause an immediate emotional reaction.
13. Allow Branded Breakouts and Break Areas
The relationship between you and your sponsors is like never-ending circles. You need their money to deliver an outstanding experience to attendees, and they need your success to make more money through new leads so they can sponsor you again or someone else. The more visibility you guarantee to sponsors, the more money you can make from them in the process.
Selling breakout sessions to sponsors and exhibitors to run contests, moderate sessions, or introduce their products and services works for everyone. They keep your attendees motivated and entertained during breaks, allow sponsors to talk about what they do, and secure revenue for your event. On Balloon, sponsors can increase their ROI and better monetize your event through sponsor-dedicated stages, networking sessions, sponsored-run talks and panels, livestreaming, and lead-generation call to action buttons. Attendees can join by invite-only or with an access link if you want this to be part of a premium ticket. Otherwise, you can make the session public without attendance restrictions.
14. Promote Sponsors on Social Media
Start engaging sponsors on social media before the event even begins, and encourage them to do the same using the unique event hashtag. With the right social media practices, both sides can benefit from audience anticipation and engagement and build long-lasting relationships with attendees and beyond. Encourage sponsors to create special content for the event, such as blogs, infographics, and digital flyers, which you can cross-share on social media. If sponsors organize contests, have special offers, run giveaways, or launch new products, promote these on social media through reposting.
You can classify sponsor social media promotion and make the sponsorship more expensive if, for example, you mention the sponsor’s company in your blogs and newsletters too. The idea is to encourage event’s followers to act on and engage with sponsors’ content through mentions, tags, and shoutouts before, during, and after the event.
15. Convert Subscribers
One of the most significant privileges of virtual events is that you can easily obtain data regarding your attendees’ demographics and behavior during the event with the help of the virtual event platform. How many sessions did they virtually attend? How much time did they spend in each session? How many breakout sessions did they check-in? Did they engage in chats or Q&As? Did they navigate the virtual event platform beyond the event? Did they click on sponsored banners and watch the video ads? Did they purchase premium content? On Balloon, we offer advanced, real-time analytics, which you can access during and after the event, and which are continuously being updated with new metrics and insights. You can also add your own Google Analytics tracking code to your event to monitor real-time traffic.
Depending on their action during the event, attendees have the potential to become your customers (and your sponsors’ customers) and loyal supporters of your event’s brand, if they aren’t already. Post-event, deliver sales conversion surveys to attendees to measure the sales resulting from leads generated during the event. How fast did leads or trial users begin to purchase your brand or your sponsors’? To what extent did their participation in the event influence their behavior? You can use this data to continue engaging attendees after the event and help sponsors with their marketing techniques.
Now, you have a clear picture of how to generate more revenue from your virtual events, and even though we acknowledge that it’s easier said than done, our Balloon team is here to support you through your virtual events journey.
Are you looking to host your next virtual event but need more information on how to monetize it? Check out Balloon’s tips and resources for organizers, chat with our team on Balloon’s homepage, or contact the team via email to guide you through.