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To Charge or Not to Charge for Events?

August 21, 2019

So you are planning your event, you have the venue, speaker, refreshments all planned and you even have the perfect outfit all picked out. The only thing that is puzzling you is whether to charge for entry or not? Well there are lots of pros and cons to charging for events and an equally long list to not charge. The main objective is who your target market is and what you are trying to achieve with your event? I have organised both FREE and paid events so here ere are the pros and cons on whether to charge or not to charge for events.

Pros of hosting a FREE event

Quick sign ups

People are keen to secure their place so they will sign up as soon as possible. Most of our tickets go within two hours.

Very easy way to build a mailing list

Along with the people who have signed up you can also create a waiting list which gives you an already made mailing list of hot leads. This works very well for us when we are marketing our other events.

You can work with influencers

As the event is free, you can aim your event at influencers who have a built in readership. You will also find it easier to attract brands that way because they are keen to get their products into the hands of influencers.

Eligible to host at a free venue

There are a few free venues out there which you can only hire if your event is free to the public. Look at charities, nightclubs, arts venues who will give you the use of their venue in return for some promotion on Social Media.

Cons of hosting a FREE event

Huge cancellation rate

Now this is a bug bear with hosting free events – they always have a huge drop out rate. This is because people have not invested anything so on the day they sometimes decide not to turn up. Especially if the weather is crap or they have a better offer and unfortunately some don’t bother to let you know they won’t be attending.

You attract undesirable customers

Everyone loves a freebie and some more than others. By hosting a free event you stand the chance of attracting people who have zero interest in you or your event. This is not good for business because you will be marketing to a dis-engaged audience and wasting your time and resources.

A loss in income

No ticket sales results in zero income so you will have to look at making money elsewhere.

Setting yourself up to fail

When you offer a service for FREE people put you in a particular bracket aka the FREE one. So when you try to charge for your next event not everyone will be keen to pay because they see your brand as having no value. 

Pros of hosting a paid event

You will make some money

Tickets sales equals income which means you can cover your overheads and make a profit. Quids in – well hopefully.

Attracting targeted and committed customers

People pay for things that mean a lot to them so by charging for your event this means you will attract customers who are serious about your brand. This is the perfect way to build your customer base and eventually a successful business.

You are seen as more professional

People take paid events seriously – look at the difference between a trainee footballer and one who plays in the premiership. Who do you think the brands would rather work with? Who would you rather pay to see?

Cons of hosting a paid event

Slow bookings

Paid events can be very stressful. People tend to leave it until the last few days to purchase their tickets. This is due to factors such as sorting out their diaries, sussing out the weather and seeing if other events are on the same day. I have had sales on the day of my event and some even a few hours before. This can be very stressful especially when you are looking at a 30% to 40% sales figure with a week to go till your event.

The worry of over or under pricing

Pricing your tickets is really tricky – go in too low and you not only lose money but the high rollers will not entertain you. They will dismiss your event as too mediocre for them to bother with. On the flip side if you go in too high you won’t get any bookings. 

The main thing before you plan your event is to have a long term strategy that will lead you to where you want to go. Maybe you have less finance but time on your hands to slowly build your brand. You could look at starting with small events that are free. However, if you have more resources you can kick off with a paid event and really make your mark on the scene. What I would advise is to always have a backup plan – if you are running a paid for event look at organising family and friends who can stand in if it looks like you are not going hit your ticket sales. Much better to have a full room with familiar faces than a half empty one.

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