We don’t have to tell you that getting attendees to your events is a challenge. It’s always been the hardest part of event planning, but with online and virtual events trending upwards, attendance rates are even more fickle. According to Eventbrite, tickets for online events sell two times faster than in-person events within 24 hours of the event starting. On top of that, only about 50% of registrants actually show up to the live event. However, some sources claim that high percentage only applies to free events; paid events usually see a much lower no-show rate. With high no-show rates and last-minute registrations, choosing the right ticketing for your online event can be confusing.
That’s why we created this handy guide! Below, you’ll discover five types of ticketing for your online event. While you can use more than one tactic to boost registration, we don’t recommend using every method on this list. Instead, you should choose the best one or two that match your audience’s needs and priorities. For example, if your target audience is college students balancing classes, work, and a social life, charging for the event might deter them. On the other hand, charging for a high-end event with VIP guest speakers would be appropriate. Choosing the right ticketing method will increase the number of sign-ups and the overall attendance rate.
Free ticketing is a straightforward method—simply have attendees register online using their name and email address. You may choose to send them a digital ticket to make check-in easier, or you may skip check-in altogether. Although you’re not receiving any revenue from ticket sales, you are still receiving valuable information about your audience. When they register, you get their email address for future communication and any other personal information that you ask for. This will help you determine if they’re within your target audience. Plus, if they attend your event live, you know they’re seriously interested in your product or service.
There are a few different reasons why you would offer free ticketing for your online event. For starters, you can often afford to. It can cost less to host a virtual discussion panel or stream a music event than planning for it in person. This, of course, increases your bottom line, so you can decrease the price of the tickets.
Second, you may want to draw in a new or wider audience who isn’t familiar with your services or product. By offering a free event, they can experience what you have to offer without taking any financial risk. And third, like we mentioned before, your audience might need or prefer a free event. While paid events offer an air of exclusivity, free events can make the attendee feel like they’re getting a bargain.
Pay-what-you-can (PWYC) ticketing for your online event is similar to a free ticketing structure. There is no official cost to attend the event, but guests may choose to make a donation or pay a small amount to attend.
Bonus Tip: You can always set a minimum accepted payment, like $1 or $5.
Typically, this type of ticketing works well when the money raised is going to charity or a similar benevolent cause. But you can also use it the week leading up to your event as a flash sale before ticket sales close entirely. You may not make the revenue you were hoping for from those sales, but you’ll still make something.
The PWYC method is a way to build good faith with your clients. If they’ve fallen on hard times or have a limited budget, an open-ended payment system shows that you care about them, and can build brand loyalty. On the other hand, charging high prices when you know your audience can’t afford it can be viewed as insensitive. (And, quite frankly, it’s impractical because you aren’t properly targeting your ideal customer or client.)
In some cases—like with charity events—attendees will pay more for a ticket than what you would typically charge. Because there is price that they have to pay, attendees may become more generous with what they actually pay. However, we don’t recommend using this method if you have your own financial restrictions or a set profit goal. Usually, PWYC ticket options don’t bring in adequate revenue for businesses who need to make a profit at their events.
Early Access Tickets
Early access tickets let your attendees experience the event before everyone else for an extra cost. Usually, there’s a set number of early access tickets available. For example, if your goal is to sell 500 tickets, you may set 50 or 75 aside, specifically for early access purchases. It’s important to limit the number of early access sales, so that your entire audience doesn’t end up attending early!
To successfully do this, however, you’ll need something special to convince your customers to purchase an early seat. This could include a group chat with the presenter, exclusive listening to brand new songs from the band, or even a 30-minute tutorial from a panel member. Because the number of early attendees is small, this part of the event feels intimate and personal—which is another early access benefit!
Early access tickets cost more than general admission tickets. That makes sense, because attendees are getting something extra that no one else is, so they’ll have to pay extra, too. If you have an exciting early access activity or show, you can sell the available tickets and make an additional profit. Plus, that may educate attendees on a new product or encourage them to attend future events. When you give attendees what they pay for—and then some—they’ll keep coming back to your events.
VIP tickets are similar to early access tickets—you’re offering the attendee a special add-on for an additional fee. Whereas early access tickets grant, well, early access, VIP tickets are much broader. First, you could offer a special session after the event for VIP members. Maybe a virtual happy hour or time to ask the speaker questions.
Second, you could give them something special before or during the event. While general admission is “just” attending the event, VIP guests get a recording of it after, or are available to win prizes throughout the event. Remember, VIP and early access attendees want to feel special, so make sure what you’re offering is worth the extra cost and time!
Once again, VIP tickets are similar to early access tickets—to increase revenue and identify customers who are really interested in your product or service. Most often, attendees purchase VIP tickets because of the perks and add-ons that come along with it. They were already planning to attend, but want some extra special treatment or perks along with their ticket. This works best when you set aside a limited number of tickets, so VIPs actually feel important, and not like everyone else.
Swag Bag Tickets
Last but not least, we have swag bags. Swag bags let you offer one ticket price or tiered ticketing. With one ticket price, each attendee receives a bag of goodies before the event. This might include snacks, t-shirts, and other relevant treats. Although every attendee receives one, they still feel like they’re getting something extra with their ticket.
Bonus Tip: Incorporate the swag into the event. Ask attendees to wear their t-shirts or snack on their popcorn while they watch.
On the other hand, tiered ticketing for your online event means that the attendees get to choose their swag bag. You can offer a deluxe swag bag and a regular swag bet, and let your customers choose which one they want. This is similar to VIP access—but in the form of goods. Of course, you need to make sure that you can accommodate mailing all that swag before the event!
Yes, your attendees are already “getting” something when they watch your online event. But swag bags let them actually get something physical in addition to watching your event. It’s a way to feel connected, without being there in person. Plus, the items in your bags can include sponsored snacks—an additional source of revenue—and company swag that you already have. It doesn’t have to be complicated, just worth the price!
No matter which ticketing method you choose, make it clear to your attendees! Writing a stellar event description is key to filling your online event, and that includes ticketing options. Make it clear and easy for attendees to choose their ticket type. Don’t use too many different methods, and let the attendees know exactly what else comes with their purchase.
Which type of ticket pricing do you find most appealing and why?