How to Monetize a Virtual Event: The Marketer’s Guide

Virtual events come with a whole lot of benefits, but with that they bring their own set of challenges. One of the most popular hurdles seems to be revenue creation. 

Physical events are a major revenue stream for many organizations, but when it comes to replicating the monetary aspect in a virtual event setup, it’s common to get cold feet. In fact, research from 2020 revealed that 32% of event organizers do not earn revenue from their virtual events. 

The prevalent uncertainties include: 

  • “How do I earn revenue without the sale of physical booths and square meters on a venue floor?” 
  • “How do I charge for admission from my attendees?” 
  • “Why will they be willing to pay if my event is hosted online rather than at a physical location?” 
  • “Should I even consider monetizing my virtual event?” 

But not to worry – we aren’t here for hypotheticals. By the end of this article, all of these questions and more will have an answer.

Why should you monetize a virtual event? 

Whether you are hosting an event offline or online, your business goals need to be achieved. Furthermore, it is important that your exhibitors and sponsors recognize the value received from your event. And the event ROI (return on investment) proves to them that your event was successful, giving them the confidence to invest again in future events hosted by you.

With virtual events coming into the picture, the good news is that it’s possible to reproduce the financial opportunities of an in-person event; an online environment provides a larger creative scope to experiment with various virtual event monetization strategies; and all metrics have trackable results.

Regardless of this, there are still many unexplored ways with which you can get the bang for your buck from online events. So we created this guide to give you a glimpse of the endless possibilities of virtual event monetization.

How to monetize a virtual event

Before we delve into best practices of how to monetize a virtual event, let’s go back to the basics. Essentially, there are four major types of revenue streams when it comes to any event:

  • Registrations: When attendees sign up and pay for an event in exchange for access to the event. 
  • Exhibitions: When exhibitors pay for a booth at the event, in order to display their product and services.
  • Sponsorships: When sponsors invest their funds in an event in return for brand visibility.
  • Advertising: When sponsors, exhibitors, and other parties pay for branding opportunities at the event.

While a majority of the virtual event monetization strategies are based on these four pillars, the virtual space opens up even more boundaries within the existing sphere of revenue generation.

Here are some of the best ways to earn from your online events:

monetize virtual event

Offer different pricing tiers for tickets 

There’s nothing better than hearing “tickets are sold out”. Not only does it motivate you and your team, but it also portrays to your attendees that your event is in high demand. But how do you increase the chances of such an occurrence? By creating multiple ticket types. 

Setting up a tier-based ticketing system is a great tactic to drive up registration numbers, as it gives attendees different ticket options to choose from depending on their need and financial capacity. The best part is that you can easily limit access to the virtual event components when someone purchases a free ticket and add on various benefits as the ticket price increases.

You can also offer discounts based on when someone purchases the ticket, how many tickets are being purchased, or for what length of time (one day, three days, etc.) for the event.   

Here are some of the most common ticket types:

  • Regular tickets: Free tickets or tickets charging a nominal amount in return for limited access to the event. For example, just an access to watch the online sessions in real-time.
  • Early bird tickets: Contains a discounted ticket price for early registrants. It might even include delivery of some form of physical event swag, that is scheduled prior to the event.
  • VIP access tickets: A ticket that gives exclusive access to various aspects of the virtual event, in exchange for a higher price. For example, exclusive virtual lounges to facilitate networking for VIP attendees (that may be hidden from other attendees). 
  • Single-day passes: Tickets applicable for events that last for more than one day and which provide access to only a specific day of the event.
  • Multi-day passes: Tickets applicable for events that last for more than one day and which provide access to more than one day of the event.
  • Group passes: Offers a discounted ticket price for bulk purchases. Often the applicable group sizes are pre-determined, for example, a pack of six tickets for one price with 20% discount. 

By strategically setting up a differentiated ticketing structure, you can not only attract the right kind of audience but also increase the sales for paid tickets. Additionally, it allows you to collect category-specific attendee data, with the help of which you can send targeted follow up mails.

Provide sponsorship opportunities 

There are several ways to provide exposure to your sponsors and to enable them to meet their ROI goals. But for that you must review the different opportunities that your virtual event platform can offer and design your sponsorship deals accordingly. Here are some sponsorship opportunities that you can offer to your partners:

  • Sponsored sessions: Amplify sponsors’ visibility through branding on the agenda page, branding around the live session, playing the sponsor’s video during ongoing sessions and breaks, asking the event host to give call-outs, ensuring all speakers use branded presentations, bringing on your sponsors as speakers to share thought leadership content and sharing sponsored documents for specific sessions.
  • Virtual booths: Provide sponsors with a listing in the virtual booth section. Offer different booth size options, wherein they can use their assigned virtual booth to display customized information in the form of company details, images and videos of products, contact details, app/website links, digital vouchers or discount codes, branded swag, and brochures. Also enable interaction between the brand and attendees by 1:1 chat, 1:1 scheduled meetings and business cards dropping features for lead generation.
  • Online breakout rooms: Let sponsors use online meeting rooms for conducting demos and engaging in a general interaction with their prospects. Also, host sponsored workshops, games and activities in exclusive rooms by setting up coded breakout rooms or ones that are only visible to selected ticket holders. 
  • Networking lounges: Assign virtual lounge tables to different sponsors, to facilitate open discussions and query handling between attendees and sponsors.
  • Sponsorship in gamification: Organize branded games on your virtual event platform, in the form of online quizzes, contests and raffle draws. Also mention the sponsors in all relevant marketing communication (emails, event feed, and push notifications). Interweave interaction with sponsors with the event’s gamification activities. Additionally, you can ask partners to sponsor prizes for contest winners and top three leaderboard position holders to give them added brand exposure.
  • Mentions in posts and notifications: Regularly post sponsored content on the event feed and pin the post regarding your headline sponsor on top of the feed, to give them extra coverage. Also, give shout-outs to your sponsors and exhibitors via push notifications, reminding attendees to visit their booths.

You can create curated sponsorship packages by combining the aspects mentioned above. This will not only help your sponsors derive maximum value but ensure you are able to reap significant financial gains. More details on this will be available in further sections of the blog.

Sell ad space on your virtual event website and in your marketing communication

Apart from the traditional sponsorship and exhibition packages, you can also sell virtual ad spaces to showcase sponsor logos, banners and videos. For this, list out strategic locations on your website, virtual event platform and in your marketing communication and club them as an offering for brands seeking additional visibility. 

For example, the available spaces on your website, registration page, event login page, event app, web app, event-related mails and social media can be utilized to offer 24×7 exposure (unlike in physical events) to those sponsors and exhibitors who are willing to shell out a few extra dollars. 

Similarly, you can provide horizontal and vertical ad banners on the event landing page and within the virtual event platform, which could either be omnipresent or located in different tabs. These could be of different sizes depending on the size of the sponsorship amount.

Additionally, these can be made clickable, either leading…

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