If this is something that your organization is struggling with, I invite you to join us for this collaborative brainstorming opportunity on Thursday, August 20th. We will aim to tackle this challenge and share insights about monetizing virtual events.
On my calendar for this weekend it says Moraine State Park Regatta. 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of Moraine State Park and we were to be celebrating all weekend. In addition to the traditional live music, fireworks, sailing races, food vendors, butterfly release, car cruise, kids’ activities, educational opportunities, kayak and SUP tutorials and free rentals, etc., we were adding multiple signature events this year. Overall we planned to have 13 signature events within the regatta. Last year’s event had 25,000 attendees and we were planning for even more this year.
When I woke up with the sunrise this morning, I remembered the sunrise at Lake Arthur. We would have been there getting ready around this time. We would have been going over last minute details, coordinating with volunteers, directing traffic for the morning races, getting the final food vendors set up, etc.
A few months ago, the Board of Directors for the regatta made the very difficult decision to cancel this year’s event. Our sponsors had been hit too hard with the economic realities of the pandemic, and we weren’t sure what August was going to bring as far as vaccines, government regulations, health concerns, etc. This 2019 photo might make you squeamish because no one is wearing a mask and everyone is standing close together. I get that, but to be honest it mostly makes me sad because I really miss live events and large gatherings!
I am so grateful for clients like Moraine State Park Regatta who make me miss my work. I’m looking forward to 2021 when, Lord willing, we’ll be able to celebrate 50+1 years of Moraine State Park! Until then, I’ll enjoy sunrises at home and smaller gatherings with family.
As a result of Covid-19, virtual events have become exponentially more popular than ever before. Now that many areas in PA are moving into the green phase, we can expect to see small in-person events again. Even so, my prediction is that we will continue to see virtual events thrive, or even events that are a combination of in-person and virtual for quite some time.
Here are some things to consider when planning a virtual event:
Tired of the same old Zoom events? So is everyone else. Put some thought into how you can make your virtual event more fun. Can you add a game like Pictionary or trivia to break the ice? If a quick game isn’t a fit, then what about a contest for the most creative Zoom background? Even something small will show your attendees that you are making an effort to liven things up a bit.
One of the biggest reasons that people attend events is to meet other people. How can you incorporate networking into your next virtual event? Can you ask everyone to drop their contact information into the chat, or use breakout rooms so that people can virtually meet each other? Maybe you can create a Facebook group where people can continue the conversations later.
Especially if they’re not used to being in front of a computer all the time for virtual meetings, your attendees will appreciate a little movement in the event. Try to incorporate a yoga class or a guided stretch break in between sessions.
Many in-person events offer some sort of swag. Why can’t virtual events do the same? Collect the mailing addresses of your attendees as they register and make it clear that you will be sending them something for the event, so you don’t send something to an office when they are working from home. Mail out the ingredients for a themed cocktail, a branded hand sanitizer, or even a t-shirt for your virtual race. The ideas are endless, and there are plenty of local small businesses that can help with these swag items and packaging. Mailing something like this will show your attendees that you value them, it will make your event stand out from other virtual events, and it might help to encourage social media conversations.
Just because your event isn’t in-person, doesn’t mean that sponsors won’t be interested. Virtual events tend to cost less than in-person events, but analytics and data collection can be more seamless, as well. Sponsors can be recognized not just on slides between presenters, but in pre and post event emails, in the event’s social media presence, or with branded items mailed to attendees. As with in-person event sponsorship, sponsors should be able to tailor their collateral to their goals and needs.
Wondering what in-person events will look like moving forward? Check out Appleseed’s Facebook and LinkedIn pages where I’ll be showcasing some ideas and considerations for the future of in-person events.
Whether you’re planning a fundraiser, a networking event, a conference, or a grand opening, budgeting is a big part of the planning process. No matter what your budget is, you should have a budget outline for initial planning, a working budget where you update income and expenses throughout the planning, and then a budget with actual numbers, so you know where you landed.
Here are some expenses that are often missed:
- Catering Costs: I’m not suggesting that you would forget the food expense, but did you account for tax and gratuity? Did you account for any service charges for servers or setup?
- Printing: Many invitations are now sent out electronically for events, but what about the signage for on-site or the program booklets, if you’re not using a digital app?
- Graphic Design: My planning packages often include graphic design, but if you’re doing an event yourself, be sure to budget for design so that you can present professional-looking marketing for your event.
- Credit Card Fees. While many of your sponsors may prefer to pay with check, chances are you are still going to have quite a few attendees who would like to register with credit card. If you’re not having registrants pay their own fees, make sure you budget for these costs.
- Volunteer Hospitality: Make sure you count your volunteers in the final count for food and swag items at the event. If you have a planning committee, it’s nice to have a wrap-up meeting to show your appreciation and gather feedback. Budget for food for this meeting.
Need someone to help you manage your budget and all of your event details? I’d love to help, and am now booking events for this winter.
How do I make my next event more profitable?
You’ll have to come to tomorrow’s Lunchbox Session to learn the majority of this content, but here are a few quick tips to make your next event more profitable.
- Consider your goals. Are you trying to make more money from an event itself, or are you using your event as a marketing tool or an entry to a sales funnel? Events can be helpful for both of these things, but be sure that you have your goals clearly defined before you move forward in planning.
- Fix your pricing. Tiered pricing can be very effective, but don’t just do early registration discounts because that’s what you see everyone else doing. For example, one trend in events right now is a VIP ticket option with some additional benefits. Your ticket price reflects the commitment level, so with a free event there’s a good chance you’ll have no-shows. Think through your pricing and registration strategy early and often in the planning process.
- Hire some help. Of course I’m going to say this! It may seem counterintuitive to spend money in order to increase profits, but oftentimes by hiring someone it can cost you less. What is your time worth, and do you have extra? A professional can help you to become more efficient with your budget.