In these belt-tightened times, savvy event organizers are looking for new ways to up their revenue. Selling tickets to your in-person or virtual event is only the beginning. Here are five proven ways to make money at an event.
1. Sell sponsorships
Selling sponsorships is the most popular method organizers rely on to generate additional event income. Sponsorship deals are also the most mis-executed. So where do organizers generally go wrong with sponsorships? They’ll commonly fail to provide prospective sponsors with the necessary level of detail and specificity in advance of the event, which makes it hard to properly evaluate results after the event.
It’s difficult for an event sponsor to pin down their ROI, so any help you can give them in measuring results will be greatly appreciated. Understanding data-driven ways to boost your event’s ROI will help your sponsors, too. This can make the difference between engaging a sponsor and not — or a sponsor who’ll come back next year and one who won’t. While there are many ways to give your sponsors more visibility, start by describing the sponsorship’s benefits in terms of cost for the visibility they will receive — in other words, the cost per impression (or “CPM”).
If you expect that a banner placed in a venue will be seen by 40,000 people, then say that. If you will be sending an email invitation with a sponsor logo to 10,000 people, tell them. Those kinds of details help the prospective sponsor justify the expense, especially if they’re considering other alternatives (whose ROI may be more readily measured). For help putting together a winning sponsorship pitch and, as a result, host the most profitable events, check out this free sample prospectus.
2. Facilitate commerce between parties
Business events bring people together who have at least some expectation of doing business with each other. As a result, it’s not inappropriate to take a more active role in referring customers to businesses who are willing to pay for those leads. You’d be surprised how well received this kind of activity can be, since it may save people the trouble of having to find each other through networking alone. Allow customers and businesses to network in other creative ways, from virtual coffee breaks to speed dating-style networking events.
As the event organizer, you’re in a position to know not only who’s attending your event but also what business goals they may have. Social media marketing allows you to reach various businesses and showcase them to other attendees before your event. Use social media management tools to simplify this process, boost engagement, and generate interest before the event.
Then, distribute surveys to collect additional information from your attendees when they register. You can deliver targeted offers to the people who’ll be most interested in receiving them. If you’re on Eventbrite, you can use the post-event attendee messaging tool to do this, and the messaging tool allows for full HTML so it’s easy to add banners and links.
3. Put ads on your event website
When event promotion and events happen online, they can generate considerable online traffic. The purpose of an event website is to support the event, provide all the information prospective attendees may need to make a decision, and describe the event program in full detail. But, you can also easily turn your event website into one of your sources of event revenue, upping your event planning profit margin, with a few well-placed and thoughtfully chosen ads.
Work with companies that have relevant products or services to offer and are likely to be of interest to those attending. “Online-only” sponsorship packages, which resemble ad buys, allow you to engage companies that weren’t interested in being traditional sponsors. If you don’t have the time or energy to sell ad space on your event site, you should consider contextual advertising options, like Google Adsense, that make it easy to display and monetize relevant ads.
4. Sell premium attendee experiences
Most organizers who create “premium” or “VIP” options for attendees do so by bundling and discounting. For example, in a multi-day conference that has multiple workshops, they may offer a package of three workshops — and offer a discount on the package. While this may boost overall attendance, it generally does not create incremental event revenue, which is the goal here. Instead, consider creating special experiences for which some of your attendees will be willing to pay extra. To apply an airline metaphor, think “first-class” versus a two-for-one coach.
One example is an event ticket that also includes admission to the after-party. While bundling food and booze may drive sales of these premium tickets, you have to be careful of the costs incurred by providing these extras, as they can rapidly erode (or even completely eliminate) your profit. Better ideas involve experiences that don’t require additional budget but have clear value for the attendee.
For example, offer a limited-capacity workshop with one of the featured speakers from your event. Include additional one-on-one time and a more comprehensive program than was presented during the general event. For a virtual event, consider offering exclusive tickets to a Q&A livestream with the keynote speaker, which offers a more intimate experience for event-goers.
You can also work with sponsors to offer special event attendee experiences like a tour of their facilities. Most event sponsors would be delighted to welcome a limited number of VIP attendees and provide refreshments in exchange for the opportunity to engage with them on their own turf. Win-win.
5. Sell merchandise
As the large bags of swag after many events can attest, people like to come home from events with stuff. For the most part, these giveaway items wind up in the trash a few days later (along with the promotional hopes of the swag sponsors). A better way to capitalize on this desire is to sell merchandise before and during the event. This approach works especially well if your event supports a business that already sells things. You can use the event as an opportunity to better familiarize prospective customers with your offerings, or motivate them to buy on the spot with discounts or special deals. Hosting your event online? Sell merchandise on your event website for delivery before the event.
Another idea is to use ticket types to create attendance options that include merchandise. This method works very well, as it allows you to sell merchandise to your attendees at the moment they are deciding to attend the event. Authors (and Eventbrite customers) Tim Ferriss and Seth Godin have used this tactic to sell books and create revenue from an otherwise free-to-attend event.
Ready to generate that event money? Start by learning how to create an event on Eventbrite, and then use these strategies to increase your revenue.