16 Ways to Monetize Virtual Events

Consider these best practices for connecting attendees and sponsors, and extending audience reach, during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

Monetizing Virtual Events Coronavirus

"How will my virtual event meet our financial goals?"

This question is top of mind for meeting professionals converting face-to-face meetings to virtual events in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Virtual events have come a long way since they arrived on the scene two decades ago. Platforms today offer lots of tools for improving return on investment. Here are 16 best practices to monetize virtual events -- and drive value for all participants.

Connect Virtual Attendees with Sponsors

So much of event revenue comes from sponsors and exhibitors; keeping buyers and sellers connected is absolutely essential for event success. 

Best Practices

  1. Deliver an immersive showroom experience. Create a virtual exhibit hall, where attendees click on exhibitors for live demos and conversations. Using simple booking tools, they can arrange one-on-one meetings with suppliers, like they would in a face-to-face exhibit hall.
  2. Drive traffic to exhibitor booths. Invite sponsors to send push notifications through your mobile event app. They can reach segmented groups of attendees regardless of physical location.
  3. Maximize sponsor recognition. Generate revenue with sponsored directories, sessions, content pages, online networking events, posts, product brochures, chat lobbies and more. 
  4. Optimize space. Spotlight sponsors on your event platform and session pages. Rotating ad banners on key content pages are a powerful way to reach target audiences. Sponsors can promote products, services, demos, live chats with experts and other opportunities.
  5. Shine more light. Increase exposure with interactive, full-screen ad bumpers before prerecorded content plays, like you see on YouTube.
  6. Leverage event apps. They bring people together with value drivers for sponsors, such as:
    •    Virtual social space for networking over shared interests
    •    Ask-a-question modules, providing real-time answers from suppliers and speakers
    •    Conference bags, delivering quick access to favorite session and exhibitor content
    •    Gamification like digital scavenger hunts that drive attendees to exhibitor booths
  7. Prove value with robust ROI reports. Virtual events capture a goldmine of data. You can share analytics on virtual booth traffic, leads captured, session attendance, shares, downloads, keywords, languages, geographical locations and more.
  8. Provide insights. Let sponsors and exhibitors see how their content is consumed -- where and by whom. This business intelligence will contribute to more personalized event follow-up. What’s more, it will prove useful for developing products and services that meet customer needs.

Extend Event Life and Reach

Why limit sales to the day of your conference? A big advantage of virtual events is you can continue to sell access as long as you want. 

Digital libraries and continuing education (CE) stores put virtual-conference content in one place. These online marketplaces make content easy to buy for professional development and accreditations. 

Best Practices

  1. Sell individual access to sessions or entire conferences. You will grow your reach with a virtual experience for people who want a lighter-touch version. Plus, you will increase appeal to those who could not travel and would otherwise miss your event.
  2. Offer group access. Many corporations, hospitals and other large organizations make content available to employees for CE credits.
  3. Drive more sales. For lots of organizers, combining free session content with paid ticket upgrades is a proven way to strengthen ROI.
  4. Expand your reach. Features like automated multilanguage subtitles bring your event to a large global audience.
  5. Personalize promotions. Draw on data-driven insights from attendee registration and past purchases on your site. Then, create specialty packages for targeted audiences.
  6. Keep it simple. Provide the same ease and convenience as the online consumer shopping experience. For instance, leverage cross-selling and upselling opportunities. Let buyers know, "If you liked this session or conference, you may also enjoy these."
  7. Curate speaker content. Virtual event content is already online, meaning it’s easy to repurpose. Share compelling speaker content on social media. This is another way to build awareness across geographic regions and industry segments.
  8. Create new revenue streams. Savvy organizers use online event content as an audience development tool. They find it brings in incremental dollars through new prospects and members. In fact, by spreading the word, great content also boosts awareness and registration for face-to-face events.

Follow these best practices, and you will add value for constituents and help ensure your event achieves its financial goals.

Brad Langley is vice president of channel and partner management at Aventri. He works with virtual event partners Digitell, Evia and Intrado Digital Media to help organizations salvage events and limit the economic impact of COVID-19.