Setting registration prices for conferences can be a contentious process. It’s a procedure not necessarily enjoyed by planners or committees. It can become an emotional rollercoaster and it usually lacks a strategy. Developing registration prices has to do as much with meeting budgets as offering opportunities for a large number of people to attend.
At Eventinterface we’ve seen a wide-ranging variety of strategies and pricing models. We don’t think we can say that one is better than the other, but we’ve gaged insight into what makes some groups more successful than others. One thing that stands out is the necessity to offer a great program tied to a sound registration strategy.
People attend conferences for a variety of reasons. They come to learn and network, exhibit or buy. One of the most important strategies before setting your registration prices is insuring that you have a conference worth registering for. Aside of a fantastic program, you can build online communities, offer continuing-education credit, and engage cutting-edge technologies pre- and post-conference to involve attendees, speakers and exhibitors. Creating added value will ensure stronger registration numbers.
Before setting registration fees, think about your mission, and then develop your anticipated expenses. Ask yourself if you want to break even or raise money? Once you have a handle on your cost, start building your revenue strategy, registration prices and sponsorship opportunities. Know your audience and the market. If you don’t know where to start, do an internet search for similar projects in comparable markets and discover what prices are like. If you learn that similar conferences average a fee of $350, it is highly unlikely you will be able to charge a $650 fee. If you need to charge a $650 fee but think your prospect attendees can’t manage that fee, then either create additional value, have a more aggressive sponsorship strategy or reduce the production cost of your conference.
EARLY vs. LATE
It seems that every conference offers an Early-Bird registration fee, and it’s guaranteed that every conference will extend the date of this period. So what is the incentive? We’ve never been a fan of this strategy. It creates a precedent for future years. The longer it goes on, the less successful this strategy becomes.
If you really must have it, there are a few things you can do to make this early vs. late concept work for your group.
First develop a registration fee with a significant difference between the early and late fee. A $50 difference isn’t going to entice people to register early. Secondly, do not extend the cut-off date. Heavily promote this date date and stick to your guns by not extending it.
Another technique to boost early-bird registrations, and a favorite of ours, is to make available a limited number of registrations not based on a cut-off date. When they sell out they’re gone! This definitely creates a sense of urgency, and helps in the budgeting process as you know exactly the revenue associated with this type of registration option.
Other incentives could include a more discounted hotel room rate for people who register early vs. late, inclusion of materials meaningful to your attendees or other onsite benefits such as admission to a special session or reception.
It comes down to creating urgency and offering value.
ALL-INCLUSIVE OR A-LA-CARTE PRICING?
Do you offer an all-inclusive registration fee for your conference, an a-la-carte approach, or a combination? Would mixing all-inclusive registration options with an a-la-carte option generate more revenue? Would it generate more attendees interested in just one or a handful of sessions who may otherwise not attend?
Looking at your expenses to produce a session, you may conclude that it costs $25 per attendee to produce it. You could probably sell a registration option for that session at $35 to $50, or more. Onsite management becomes a bit more challenging but offering al-la-carte options alongside traditional registration options could generate significant additional revenue.
GENERATING MORE REVENUE
Today’s technologies offer opportunities to generate additional revenue for conferences. Eventinterface for example offers opportunities to engage at-home attendees by live broadcasting sessions and workshops, allowing attendees to interact with the speakers and each other. This is an ideal opportunity to engage participants who may otherwise not be able to attend a conference, but would be willing to register to participate virtually. Use technology to offer presentations and videos post-conference, give it free to registered attendees, and allow non-attendees to register for access post-conference, again generating more revenue.
Exploring all revenue angles or additional revenue opportunities may allow you to offer an overall lower registration cost by spreading anticipated registration revenue over more options.
1) Define expenses before setting registration fees.
2) Add value to your registration options.
3) Consider alternatives to traditional early-bird registration options.
4) Do not extend the early-bird cut-off date.
5) Engage technology to build value.
6) Although not covered in this post, market your conference.