Virtual events offer tremendous efficiency. You can reach an extremely wide global audience with as little as one studio and one software subscription. But how do virtual event costs compare to those of in-person ones?
Unsurprisingly, a live event is an expensive undertaking. You need adequate space, which normally has to be rented. Further, catering expenses add up quickly. These and other costs make event planning and production expensive endeavors.
To paint a complete picture, let’s look at what you should expect to pay towards your virtual event budget. We’ll even provide a price range for each major virtual event type to help you estimate your total costs.
What Factors Influence the Cost of a Virtual Event?
Virtual events are open-ended and versatile. As such, their budgets can vary substantially. You could launch a basic virtual event and create on-demand content from it at an affordable rate, for instance. Or, you can cater to thousands of attendees, pull out all the bells and whistles available to you.
Let’s break down each of the major expense categories for virtual events.
👉 Virtual Event Platform
The first thing you will pay for is the platform where you’ll hold your virtual events.
Virtual event platforms are software solutions designed to enable users to host a wide range of online events for audiences ranging from less than a dozen to up to 10,000 (and possibly more).
The cost of these platforms is based on several factors. Normally they offer multiple pricing plans, as virtual event needs vary widely from business to business. With this in mind, the main considerations are:
- Live streaming video and audio quality
- Audience capacity
- Virtual event duration
- Built-in features
- Customization and branding options
- Third-party integrations
- Data and analytics
- General compatibility with supplementary software
- The quality of customer and technical support
There are many variations within each of the above categories, so you need to make sure the service package you choose provides the value that you need.
👉 Pricing Models
The virtual event platform pricing model you choose affects how affordable it is to host.
Most platforms have multi-rung pricing models to appeal to businesses of differing sizes. Although there may be additional costs for extra features and services, the primary expense is the price of the subscription.
In general, pricing models are simple: There’s usually a basic or “starter” plan intended for small businesses that see lower attendance at their events and have simpler needs. Then, there may be one or two plans for medium-sized companies with more complex needs. Lastly, it’s standard practice to offer an “enterprise” plan, which is the most expensive option and includes all of the platform’s bells and whistles. You typically have to talk to a sales rep to receive a custom rate for those plans based on specific requirements like audience capacity.
Production costs also differ depending on the scope and production value you want. This category can be broken down into several subgroups:
First is content creation. This includes the costs of preparing a virtual event’s content, including (but not limited to):
- Pre Recording
- Hiring voice and technical talent
You also have to consider what tools and software you’ll use to achieve these aims. The “virtual event platform” category covers the costs of subscriptions, licensing fees, and usage charges. But you also need the infrastructure to create virtual event content, namely:
- High-speed internet (high capacity)
- Video streaming services
- Cloud storage
Conduct a thorough estimate of your production costs ahead of time. Expect to go over budget at least a little; rarely will you come out under budget. With some research and frugal decisions, you can keep these costs well below those of in-person events.
👉 Additional Tools and Add-Ons
Be aware of extra costs from third-party integrations, add-ons, and similar expenses.
👉 Marketing and Promotion
Many marketing strategies for virtual events are free or extremely low-cost. However, you’ll likely spend more on promotion to boost both your ROI and the profitability of your next virtual event.
Similar to the “production” expenses, a lot can vary here. However, certain pieces are common across virtual events, allowing you to anticipate the price tags on some professional equipment.
The basics include:
- Audio interfaces and mixers
- Dedicated streaming hardware
- Professional lighting equipment
- Green screens and virtual sets
- Video and production switchers
Prepare for a higher overall cost though, as you’ll likely need more specific equipment for certain event types (you want to make a high-quality presentation, after all).
Tips and Strategies to Optimize Virtual Event Costs
Event organizers should monitor the company’s virtual events budget and follow these best practices to optimize cost efficiency.
✅ Create a List of Budget Priorities
Spending more money doesn’t always yield better results. Within virtual event marketing, there are a few ways to maximize how far your money goes — the first step is to prioritize expenses for maximum ROI.
Set budget priorities according to your objectives. The expenses that contribute the most to your goals take precedence in your budget.
For example, imagine you decide to run a webinar on a highly technical product for the purpose of selling more of it. The webinar’s goal is to demystify that product and demonstrate its value to your audience. In this case, you’d want to devote more of your spend to a top webinar platform with great video quality and a highly professional camera crew. You’d also want to allocate more budget toward a highly knowledgeable and charismatic presenter (or two or three), so speaker fees receive greater importance (ditto if you hold panel discussions). Other expenses are less important in this scenario, so you’d look for cost-cutting measures elsewhere, if need be.
✅ Maximize Attendee Engagement
Regardless of the type of virtual event you run, maximizing engagement is a primary goal; more engagement translates to more conversions.
In virtual event marketing, it’s the level of interaction and participation received from the audience. The more each attendee interacts with your event and actively participates, the more emotionally invested they become — and thus they move closer to converting into a paying customer.
To maximize engagement, choose a virtual event platform like Banzai that prioritizes it. It’s that simple. Leverage its suite of features to insert interactive elements like polls, quizzes, and Q&A sessions into your events and encourage audience members to participate.
✅ Optimize Event Schedule and Timing
Good timing can save you a lot of money. Better yet, pre-planning virtual events and automatic post-recording offer a financially efficient option to extend the lifetime value of your content and continuously engage with your target audience.
Optimizing scheduling is easiest with pre-recorded virtual events. You can record sessions in advance or record them live and reuse them in the future. Capture good content to package it as on-demand and enable people to watch it whenever they want. This is an especially important option if you have an international customer base. Time zone differences become a moot point, and your business enjoys major cost savings.
Live or hybrid events, meanwhile, require more careful planning: Consider the average daily routine of your customers. Conduct surveys asking what the ideal timing would be for most of them. Also, test different time slots and see which ones garner the largest audience.
✅ Promote Through Social Media and Email
Social media and email are some of the lowest-cost but highest-reward methods to advertise virtual events. If you have an existing email list and social media business pages, you’re ready to promote your events for free. But you can and should leverage paid social media ads and email marketing tools like Mailchimp as well.
Explaining good practices for social media and email marketing is beyond the scope of this article. But, if you remember to use these tools to maximize the organic reach of your events and expand upon that with professional campaigns, you’ll secure a more widely attended event.
✅ Define KPIs and Measure Results
Your key performance indicators (KPIs) determine whether your events are successful or not. To ensure their accuracy, you need to establish track KPIs that are relevant and quantifiable. For example, your KPI for a virtual event could be to generate sales prospects. You can adjust your KPIs as you go, spending less to achieve more.
Consider your target number of registrations and attendance. Post-event, compare the final registration count against attendance. If half of the registrants failed to show up, that’s a ratio you need to focus on improving.
The most crucial conversion metrics for an event are:
- Purchases made
- Email list sign-ups
- Other commitments for extended relationships
Because of the importance of engagement, most professional platforms offer serious engagement features and built-in analytics to track it.
The key engagement metrics to follow will always include:
- Poll and survey response rate
- Chat interactions
- Social media mentions and shares
In certain cases, you can measure other engagement metrics, but the goal is the same: track the occurrences of actions that signify greater levels of engagement and work to maximize them.
Maximizing engagement maximizes ROI as well, which translates to a more profitable and more affordable event for your business to justify its continuation and optimization.
✅ Content Usage
Virtual experiences normally include content giveaways, which are troves of rich metrics. Think of access to on-demand sessions, giveaways downloaded, replay views, and more. To boost these numbers, the content you distribute should be valuable to your event attendees and build engagement, which boosts content consumption.
Another strategy is offering on-demand content and charging a per-use fee where viewers pay each time they want to watch. You can price your events based on length of time, speakers, features used, and other factors.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Virtual Event Platform
To wrap things up, consider these aspects of virtual event platforms before committing to one.
Normally, virtual event platforms charge different rates for monthly versus annual subscriptions. The latter is less expensive, wherein you pay one lump sum annually. If you choose the monthly option, the total cost is more, but you make smaller payments each month.
Many platforms offer free trials to test the waters. If you’re curious how their subscription package fits into your business model, sign up for the free trial and experiment with all they have to offer.
Host Virtual Events Without Breaking the Bank
No matter what your marketing budget is, there’s a virtual event platform that can accommodate your needs. But you must consider the factors we’ve gone over and optimize them over time. A respect for KPIs, along with close ongoing monitoring, enables event planners to continuously pay less for more.
Banzai offers particularly diverse virtual event management functionality. You can host any of the main event types, from small virtual meetings to multi-day conventions with hundreds always in attendance. With a focus on engagement, you always know how your virtual events perform, who participates, and when.
Book a demo with Banzai to see for yourself.
FAQs about virtual event costs
What is the average budget for a virtual event?
The average virtual event budget varies based on several factors. Your audience size is the most significant, but there are many optional costs that improve event success.
At the very least, a professional virtual event subscription with a few events held will set you back about $1,000 per year. Typical small businesses should spend somewhere between $1,000 and $5,000 per year for successful virtual event marketing efforts.
How do you create a budget for a virtual event?
Take into account all of the expenses you anticipate to spend on a virtual event, no matter how small. You’re more likely to go over-budget than under, so consider at a minimum the following expenses:
- Virtual event platform subscription
- Speaker/Presenter fees
- Additional features/integration costs
- Content development (video, audio, transcription, graphics, etc.)
- Set design
- Promotional costs
- High-quality Internet connectivity
- Staffing, including extra support
- Miscellaneous and optional expenses
What is the average profit for a virtual event?
Again, this varies, and there are no universally reliable statistics. Even when platforms provide estimates, it’s no guarantee you’ll earn results that look anything like what they present.
To maximize profits, you must optimize events over time, honing in on the various sources of virtual event profit, namely:
- Ticket sales
- Sales funnels