As your audience continues to expect accessibility and flexibility, digital events aren’t going to fade away any time soon. But with inflation and rising supply-chain costs, that likely means your bottom line is taking a big hit with the added expenses that come with it. During the Convening Leaders 2023 session, “Creative Strategies and Tactics to Maximize Digital Event Revenue,” moderators Josh Butler, COO of Falcon Events, and Julie Ho, CMM, VEMM, AHPP, manager of live learning and event operations for the Project Management Institute (PMI), talked about how to best monetize the digital channel. Here are the highlights with actionable ideas you can implement into your meeting program now.
1. Treat your content like a product and adopt a product lifecycle. The value of your event content doesn’t go away after the live event is over. That content still holds significant value, and it will pay dividends if captured and repackaged into new digital products for audiences to consume later. Two points to consider early on in the process: Every organization is different when it comes to the shelf life of their content — relevance could vary from three weeks to three years — but every organization should consider designating an expert, specifically a content strategist, on their team responsible for the continuation of their event content.
Ho shared an example of how this could work during the CL session: An introduction to baking session is recorded and uploaded as part of an on-demand, e-learning series. The same is done for a follow-up second session on baking, and another after that. Eventually, that series turns into a membership product. Later, a baking competition is added to the live event, turning it into a sponsorable activation, and the digital audience is invited to bake at home and share their recipes online for further engagement.
When you consider the amount of money and effort that goes into putting on a live experience, not recording it is just leaving money on the table, Butler said. “There are an infinite number of ways you can repurpose that material,” he said, including condensing longer sessions into shorter highlights. In this approach, you can take a shortcut by asking speakers to identify (and timestamp) what they think are the best takeaways from their session (odds are they’re going to watch themselves anyway), hand it off to an editor, and you have a video clip that can be repurposed for marketing, social media, and more. “Everyone’s time is valuable, and something that digital does for us is save us time. If you can double down on that, you’re going to increase value,” Butler said.
2. Weigh the pros and cons of your selling strategy. During the interactive session, Butler and Ho debated with audience members on the best time to begin promoting the digital and live versions of a hybrid event, and whether promoting both concurrently can compromise in-person sales. Ho believes it can, sharing that her team at PMI didn’t go that route recently, and instead chose to first promote an in-person experience and then release the opportunity to register for the digital experience only six weeks out from kickoff. “I don’t think we would have had the traction if we’d gone out the gate with both options available,” she said.
Butler said he believes that waiting until a few weeks out can hinder sales for the digital component as well as a positive attendee experience from a customer service perspective. One solution, as Ho pointed out, is offering flexibility for attendees to switch their registrations from in-person to online if they change their mind or get sick. In the end, it may come down to what’s right for an organization’s individual needs and audience.
3. Focus on exhibitors and sponsors. Delivering value to exhibitors and sponsors in the digital space has proven more and difficult over the last few years. One smart idea that stuck out during this session is hosting a sponsored live Q&A session as an epilogue to a pre-recorded session. Make the Q&A available to a select audience and advertise that someone from the sponsor’s team will be part of the panel. “This gives them an opportunity to showcase their thought leadership,” said Ho, “but at the same time get some strong leads.”
Jennifer N. Dienst is senior editor at Convene.