It may sound like an obvious thing to say but registration fees can be the making or breaking of a conference. Whilst event budgets take every incoming and outgoing dollar into account (pardon the pun), ticket price is undeniably one of the most important and sensitive line items. Not only do you need the revenue to drive the conference but misprice it and you run the risk of turning potential delegates into non-attendees. Here is TAS’ top tips for pricing your next event.
Not too high! People expect to pay a fair value for a conference registration but the higher the price the higher the expectations. Ultimately delegates will ask ‘’is the program worth it and am I getting value for my investment?” The answer should of course be yes. However, event organisers sometimes make the mistake of overpricing. Perhaps they feel they have an exceptional program compared to previous years, or an extra glitzy dinner, or a keynote speaker they think is better than reality. Hiking prices excessively year on year may eventually lead to a decline in registrations even if your event has apparently improved. Everyone has their limit whether it be self or company imposed.
One over-priced pitfall that some committees fall into is increasing registration fees to compensate for a lacklustre budget. This is not a solution, but it may be a recipe for disaster. If you are not happy with the forecast outcome it is important to look at all line items and identify any ‘fat’ that could be trimmed. Could you choose a more affordable venue? Do you need satchels or is a comprehensive app sufficient? Do your members need the extra bells or are the whistles enough? It may be that you do need to increase your rego fees but until you look at the budget as a whole picture you won’t know for sure.
But not too low! We all want delegates to come to the party but did you know that under-pricing your conference could be just as detrimental as overpricing it? If a conference goer is accustomed to paying $900 for a two-day event, releasing tickets at $500 may cause them to ask why – low attendance response, expensive destination etc. In some cases, this can result in a decline in attendance as would-be delegates assume the reduction of fees means a reduction in program value. In addition, the price reduction if not budgeted carefully could lead to serious problem in your bottom line. It is vital to understand the sensitivity of your price structure and what extra delegates at a cheap rate can mean. If you get it wrong reducing your price and increasing your attendees can lead to a bigger deficit.
Research the market! If you have run you conference year on year then chances are you may have already found the pricing sweet spot but if you are a first timer, or perhaps are coming back from an event hiatus then it can be a little harder to determine. Researching likeminded conferences is an excellent place to start. If you are happy to pay a fee to attend a peer conference then hopefully your peer would reciprocate the attendance.
Where possible, be sure to compare apples to apples. A three day conference will usually attract a higher price tag than a 2 day conference, depending upon the target market and the commercial drivers of the organiser. Likewise, be sure to identify what is included in the ticket price – is the gala dinner included or additional?
Get Feedback! Most event managers conduct post conference surveys. Whenever possible survey your delegates about price point. Were they happy with the price point? Would they pay it again? This is a great opportunity to gain insight into your target audience so make sure you use it. Try to word any questions around pricing in a positive manner as people tend to only give one kind of answer to pricing questions!
If you have the time, resources and data, it can also be beneficial to survey previous delegates and / or existing members who did not attend your most recent conference to try and identify reasons they did not attend this year.
Offer Incentives! Early bird ticketing is nothing new. However, it can be a very successful tool in attracting delegates, particularly those working in very budget conscious environments and industry sectors. Explore what other incentives you could offer. Could you target previous delegates with an offer to encourage their return?
Remember the delegates! Think about your delegates. What do they do for a living and how much disposable income do they have? Will their employers foot the bill? It’s also important to consider the additional costs that delegates may incur. Will the majority have to fly or pay for travel? How many will need accommodation? Is it peak tourism season? At the end of the day the actual registration fee may be less than 25% of the costs of attending so factor that in to any pricing decisions.
Keep a record! So many organisations fail to track their response rates and history of event successes which they have often been running for many years. Just knowing where the best attendance figures are achieved can be a huge pointer to what the market can take in terms of price. Keep records, refer to them before every event and update them after!