While virtual meetings can save companies money on travel expenses, they also require the use of technologies that can be expensive and call for a return on investment.
The good news is that virtual meetings can generate revenue, according to Michael Doyle, executive director of the Virtual Edge Institute, which consults on virtual meeting issues.
Generating revenue from virtual meetings is a fairly new enterprise, said Doyle, but it is growing at a rapid rate; a recent report put annual revenue growth from virtual meetings at 56%.
Travel Market Report asked Doyle to share a few pointers on how planners can tap the business.
Charge for access to content. Doyle’s Virtual Edge Institute charges $150 for a 12-month license that provides access to its Virtual Edge Summit, a conference about virtual meetings held in conjunction with the Professional Convention Managers Association’s (PCMA) annual conference in January.
Explain the reach. Get in touch with existing sponsors or exhibitors who might already be participating in the meeting. Explain that they can extend their reach into an audience that will not be at the show, but who match the demographics of physical attendees.
Promote virtual advertising. Contact potential advertisers who would not traditionally want a physical presence at a show. They might be interested in virtual advertising, because it is more affordable to create and far more affordable than having a physical presence at a conference.
Tap destination dollars. Approach destination convention bureaus – whether or not the event is being held in that location – as a potential advertiser or sponsor of a virtual meeting. Convention bureaus “will provide a variety of tools to planners, including video, and offer promotional deals,” Doyle said.
“The CVBs are not only interested in getting business during that event, but in promoting their destinations to delegates. Everybody who attends that virtual event represents a possibility for future business – either personally or as part of another group.”
Contact hotels. A planner can also approach hotels that will be part of an upcoming citywide convention and solicit advertising or sponsorship.
Price it right. Pricing virtual sponsorships and advertising will depend on the number of people you will be bringing to advertisers – “similar to a media buy,” Doyle said. “If you have historical data based on previous virtual sessions, or an estimate of the potential audience with a profile of their demographics, you can come up with a rational rate.”
Money for leads. Potential revenues “will depend on the market you’re dealing with.” In the technology industry “producers of virtual events are paid $50 to $70 per lead; that might be lower for other industries.”
The definition of a lead depends on the situation, Doyle said. “In some cases, it’s simply the names on the registration list for the event; in other cases it would involve an attendee taking some kind of action, like clicking on an ad.”
Test the waters. Because virtual meetings are still in the early stages, pricing involves a certain degree of trial and error, Doyle said. “Once you start to get results, it will be easier to quantify and justify prices. Even if you start small you have established a benchmark. The main thing is to get started because at this point nobody is an expert in areas like pricing and sponsorships.”
Tout the benefits. Here’s the bottom line: “Seventy-five percent of virtual attendees have never been to a physical meeting run by their company – so this means a great market extension for all those potential sponsors and advertisers.”