Everyone understands the value of attending an industry event, especially since conferences continue to be the de facto best experience to network with and hear from industry thought leaders. However, the trouble with a traditional conference is that they are expensive to run and attendees need to travel to attend. This creates a fixed cost for both attendees and conference managers.
A bi-product of the rapid change brought on by COVID-19 is an increase in people’s willingness to participate in virtual conferences, which means there’s been a sharp rise in the market for providers who offer virtual conference platforms. With that in mind, here are the basic costs and revenue expectations to consider when putting on a virtual conference.
First off, understand that when we talk about a virtual conference or a virtual annual meeting, we’re not talking about a webinar series or virtual conference software that facilitates a series of conference calls. Instead, a virtual conference is typically a multi-day event that accommodates sponsors (exhibitors), presenters, and facilitates networking opportunities.
In order to achieve this, a simple Zoom license is only a small piece of the overall puzzle you’ll need to put together. In fact, the cost of Zoom is typically one of the lowest costs of a virtual conference. The bulk of time and effort comes from organizing the event, promoting it, and configuring Zoom accordingly.
The Fixed Costs Typically Associated with a Virtual Conference
1. Zoom Licenses: $350 & Up
Zoom licenses are typically based on attendees and the number of “rooms” or sessions you’ll need to run simultaneously. For example, a conference that is physically held in one room will have much fewer Zoom requirements than a conference with hundreds of sessions and/or several sessions running at the same time.
2. A Virtual Conference Platform: $15,000 & Up.
Virtual conference software is the administrative workhorse that creates a hub for essential administrative needs like a dedicated website to promote and configure the attendee and presenter experience as well as manage registrations and restrict access.
Here are the most critical components to consider when shopping for a virtual conference platform:
The virtual conference platform integrates with a CRM or registration software so only attendees can attend the sessions they have paid for through a single sign-on.
The virtual conference platform auto-configures Zoom by session needs and facilitates the option for a pre-recorded live model. This allows the presenter to upload a pre-recorded presentation and then focus on the audience interaction by answering questions in real-time.
Allows presenters to upload materials and login to sessions with Zoom settings already configured.
Has a public-facing website with a homepage, session gallery, sponsor (exhibitor) gallery, and a dedicated page for each sponsor and session.
Supports session networking and allows attendees to comment or live chat about a session on the dedicated session page.
3. Promotion & Administrative: $10,000 & Up.
Additional costs primarily depend on the size of your event and the level of staff needed to pull it off. These costs include the administrative workload, promotion, and offering technical help throughout the conference. Each organization must take into account their strengths and weaknesses to better estimate these costs, but a safe bet is that the conference administrator will need some level of help before, during, and after the virtual conference.
In summary, if your organization is considering a virtual conference of a reasonable size, be prepared to spend $25,000 and up.
4. Revenue Opportunities
With a better idea of the costs associated with putting on a virtual conference, here are some of the revenue opportunities you can find:
Charging attendees for access
Continuing to charge for access even after the conference is over
Sponsorship mentions on the website which includes a dedicated website page containing a video, materials and a clear call to action to schedule sales discovery calls
Allowing sponsors to co-host specific sessions
Giving sponsors participation data like surveys, chat logs, and email addresses
Overcome Networking Obstacles With Proper Messaging and Tools
Perhaps the largest drawback to virtual events is the loss of in-person networking. Virtual conference software can help overcome this by educating attendees and providing simple tools through your virtual conference platform.
For instance, each session should have a dedicated session page that allows presenter slides to be downloaded, host the session replay, and, most importantly, will enable attendees, sponsors, and presenters to comment about the presentation. By encouraging attendees to network over sessions, you’ll enable them to find others with similar interests or questions and create opportunities to exchange contact information and network offline.