Online events offer an opportunity for event organizers to try out new things. Take June’s annual global Pride festivities, which quickly shifted online so people could still come together to celebrate, connect, and fight for change in the queer community — even in the face of COVID-19.

Unsurprisingly, many Eventbrite creators have used this moment as a way to make their online Pride events even more inclusive by offering different classes of ticketing, including free tickets and donations. 

For We’re Still Here, Eventbrite’s all-day pre-pride festival, 12 of the 14 event organizers used pay-what-you-will donation and free ticketing types to give their attendees options — without sacrificing revenue. In fact, these creators still raised money over the course of the festival, much of which was donated to various charities and causes.

Online event attendees want options

In these difficult economic times, people are thinking twice about how much money they spend on events. When you offer either a free option or a pay-what-you-will donation option, you still make your event accessible without placing a financial burden on attendees. 

“We are in an era of experimentation,” says Vivian Chaves, community director at Eventbrite. “And during this period, we’ve seen some creators who’ve managed to find success by just including a free ticket and a donation option with their events.” 

And don’t worry: Introducing these options doesn’t forfeit your ability to make money on your event. For instance, the team from the iconic San Francisco LGBTQIA+ bar The Stud included a donation option during its “We’re Still Here” event, Drag Alive, and it was satisfied by the sales. 

Mica Sigourney, owner of The Stud, says “Close to 80% of our attendees paid the suggested $10 donation.” Sigourney also says that the performers made additional money in tips through Venmo.

How to upsell attendees with ticket types

While creators are finding that attendees are willing to give a $5 or $10 donation for their events, a little push doesn’t hurt. And this encouragement often takes the form of a well-worded ticket description. 

“Really spell it out in the ticket descriptions,” says Chaves. “Grounding the ticket pricing in real-world monetary exchanges is a great way to get people thinking about the value of the event.” 

Chaves uses the example of Juanita MORE!, a drag performer featured at “We’re Still Here” whose $10 donation tier on Eventbrite was labeled “Buy Juanita a drink!” This sort of description is playful, but it also reminds the attendees of how their online donations mirror a customary action (e.g. tipping your drag queens) that they surely would have taken if the event was in-person.

Use the ticket description as another opportunity to market your event to a prospective attendee. The language should represent your brand, give a glimpse of what the tone of the event will be like, and lay out the benefit of that tier of pricing — whether it’s another level of event access or an opportunity to buy your host a drink.

These subtle marketing tactics can go a long way. After all, some consumers are last-minute buyers when it comes to online events.  Eventbrite data shows that tickets to online events sell closer to the event date than in-person events. In fact, online tickets sell at twice the rate of in-person events within 24 hours of their start times. 

Given the last-minute ticket purchasing behavior, a little push in the event description can make a major difference.

Don’t underestimate free tickets

What about those attendees who still opt for the free option? While this might not be the ideal outcome for creators, offering free tickets still presents some key opportunities for those trying to expand their audience. 

“Building community is almost more important than the ticket sale itself,” says Chaves. With Eventbrite’s marketing tools, you can grow your community of attendees with free and paid tickets alike. That free ticket you issue still adds a new name to your database that you can retarget for future events. 

Overall, the free option is a low-touch, high-velocity way to get people in the “virtual door” of your event and start building relationships with fans of your work. 

The key to successfully selling online events in this new world

Ask any creator, and they’ll agree: We’re in new territory when it comes to online events. Now is the time to experiment and think outside the box — especially when it comes to monetizing your events.

“Ticketing tiers are a rewiring strategy where you’re trying to change the behaviors of online consumers,” says Chaves. “We’re readjusting attendees to value art in an online world.” When provided with options, consumers have the chance to pause and consider their choice.

As the creators at We’re Still Here have proven, offering free-ticket and donation options is a creative way to expand your customer base and drive revenue. Better yet, it makes your events inclusive to more people — because a hefty ticket price shouldn’t keep anyone from taking part in the joys of any live online experience.

Ready to sell tickets to your online event? Start here

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