Meeting Mentor Magazine

July 2024

4 Practical Pricing Strategies for Online Events

virtual meetingPricing for registration, as well as for exhibits and sponsors, remains a sticky subject for event organizers who find themselves delving into the online event world for the first time during the pandemic. Adam Briggs, senior vice president, operations, with ConferenceDirect, has had a lot of conversations with meeting planner clients who aren’t sure exactly how to go about it. Some of the options he’s seeing most include:

• Free registration. Free registration sounds great in a lot of ways, and many who are switching their in-person events to online for the first time due to the pandemic are doing just that with the thought that, once participants get exposure to the content, they will be more likely to attend in person, once that again becomes an option. Free registration also tends to pump up the registration numbers, which can help when it comes to justifying return on investment (ROI) to exhibitors and sponsors. The downside, said Briggs, is that it can tend to devalue the content you are delivering. “You have to balance between whetting their appetites and giving it all away.”

• Do the math. One option he’s seen event organizers take is to take the budget for last year’s in-person event and deduct the percentage that went toward tangible experientials, like food and beverage, that online participants won’t get. “This gives you a rationale for what you charge,” said Briggs. “We deducted what we would have provided you that you’re not getting in the online event. The remaining fee covers all the rest, which we are still delivering, just in a different medium.”

Adam Briggs, senior vice president, operations, ConferenceDirect

Adam Briggs, senior vice president, operations, ConferenceDirect

• Go “freemium.” If you want to expose more people to the event without going totally free, one way could be to use a freemium model, where you offer a ticket that gives access to a certain percentage of the content but require registrants to pay to access the full range of offerings. Some event organizers are just charging for the education and providing full access to the exhibition portion for free to drive more engagement to exhibitors and sponsors. Others are providing free access to a selected number of sessions and/or keynotes and charging for access to the rest of the agenda.

• Consider a hosted-buyer model. Another option that had been gaining ground in in-person events that is now shifting to the online environment as well is the hosted-buyer model, where participants get free access to the event in return for committing to a certain number of appointments with exhibitors.

Briggs also had a few more suggestions on how to create an online event that will rock your participants — plus a couple of caveats:

• Include a tangible deliverable. While online meetings will never be the same as being there in person, one way to create more of a sense of community and engagement is to mail a related tangible item to online attendees. Even sending a sponsored pen and notepad to participants can help make them feel more a part of the event. Briggs said that there are companies, such as PC Nametag, that can pull together a packet and ship it for you, so all the event organizer has to do is provide the list and pay the per-person cost.

• Amp up engagement. Online events can’t count on those casual hallway encounters, so organizers need to find other ways to build in networking opportunities. Many platforms include some type of native messaging system capabilities that enable people to search attendee lists to find participants of interest and schedule a time and place for a private meeting.

• Consider pre-recording sessions. One trend Briggs is seeing is pre-recording sessions and then having the speaker available during the live session slot to answer questions in real time. Not only does this free up the speaker to engage more with participants, it also reduces the bandwidth requirements and the potential for technical glitches that can happen in real time with live streaming.

• Understand that you may need a production company to get the effect you want. Event organizers who want to take some of what they saw at the online U.S. political conventions this summer to their own events need to be aware that most virtual meeting platforms and services provide more basic live-streaming feeds. If you want a sponsored wrap, cool transitions, multiple camera action or other more-involved production values, you’re going to have to hire professional production services — just as you would for an in-person event.

• Start early. Particularly if you do want to hire a production company, understand that right now there is a lot of compression in the industry. “You need to get started sooner rather than later. If you don’t, the choice of vendors that have availability over your dates may be slim,” said Briggs. — Sue Pelletier

For more on ConferenceDirect’s virtual events services, contact Adam Briggs at, or go to’s virtual events page. 




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About ConferenceDirect
ConferenceDirect is a global meetings solutions company offering site selection/contract negotiation, conference management, housing & registration services, mobile app technology and strategic meetings management solutions. It provides expertise to 4,400+ associations, corporations, and sporting authorities through our 400+ global associates.

About MeetingMentor
MeetingMentor, is a business journal for senior meeting planners that is distributed in print and digital editions to the clients, prospects, and associates of ConferenceDirect, which handles over 13,000 worldwide meetings, conventions, and incentives annually.

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