So you’ve decided to host a virtual conference — how exciting! There are lots of benefits to taking your event virtual. For one, attendees don’t have to travel, making your event accessible to a wider range of people. Plus, you can also scale your event more easily without the physical constraints of an event space. Finally, nobody has to wear actual work pants -- or any pants at all really. Win, win, win.
But just because the conference is virtual doesn’t mean it’s free, at least for you. There are various costs to consider, from the technical set-up to the audience entertainment. But don’t panic! Creating a budget for your virtual event doesn’t have to be overwhelming. We’ll walk you through it.
Where You'll Spend Your Cheddar
- The Virtual Event Platform: There are many virtual event platforms to choose from, ranging from free 'n' simple videoconferencing tools to robust, full-service event management software. Top-tier event management platforms often include custom registration, ticket management, and event analytics but cost a pretty penny at upwards of $20,000 USD. If you're on a tighter budget, consider pairing free or low-cost virtual event conferencing platforms like Wonder with your favorite event management or ticketing tool. (Psst... We play well with others! Check out our full list of event management integrations here.)
- Speakers & Entertainment: Speakers and virtual entertainment can be as expensive or as inexpensive as you'd like. Some speakers within your niche will speak for free, just for the audience exposure, whereas booking noteworthy motivational or celebrity speakers can be more costly. The good news is that booking fees for speakers and entertainers are slightly lower for virtual events since there aren't any travel expenses to factor in, so feel free to set your sights high to really amp up the entertainment at your virtual event.
- Marketing: Set aside a marketing budget to promote your virtual event. The costs and to-dos for marketing a virtual event aren't all that different from marketing a live event. Create an event page where attendees can register, and use a mix of email marketing, social media, paid ad campaigns, and other marketing vehicles to spread the word. You may also want to consider leveraging partners, influencers, and key internal stakeholders to cross-promote your event. If you have an in-house marketing or sales team, much of these are sunk costs and just take time to deploy; however, setting aside some funds for ads can go a long way in reaching new audiences, so factor in click fees and ad expenses if feasible.
- Video Production: High-quality video production is a must for virtual conferences, so don't skimp on this expense. Costs to consider include audio and video production equipment, AV techs, video editors, and even support personnel to ensure your virtual conference goes off without a hitch. If you're hosting a more intimate virtual conference, you can get away with a less-involved production, but be sure to at least follow best videoconferencing practices to give attendees the best experience possible.
Average Costs by Virtual Event Type
No two virtual conferences are created equal, so the costs of hosting one will vary. To give you a general idea, however, we break down the average costs of hosting a virtual conference based on the size, number of conference days, and production quality to give you a ballpark figure to start your planning.
Single Day Conference with <500 Attendees ($2,500-$10,000): Expect to spend a few thousand dollars minimum for a single-day virtual conference with just a few hundred attendees. At this size, many videoconferencing platforms are still free and the need for a staff of support personnel is less critical. Most of your expenses for a conference of this size will be spent on professional video production, virtual conference set-up, and pre-event marketing efforts.
Single Day Conference with 500+ Attendees ($10,000-$25,000): Once your attendee list jumps into the thousands, you'll need to budget more for the tech platform itself. You may even want to consider using an all-in-one event management solution that includes advanced registration and ticketing options. You'll also need more technical and customer support staff "on-site" at the event to ensure your attendees have a smooth, engaging experience at your conference.
Two-Day Conference ($25,000-$50,000): Although there are some fixed costs associated with events, like the virtual event platform itself, other expenses, such as event staff (yes, you still need to staff virtual events...) and video production expenses multiply. Plan on budgeting at least $25,000 for a professional, but basic, two-day conference.
Multi-Day Conference or Premium Experience ($50,000+): If you're hosting a multi-day virtual expo or just want to give your attendees the crème de la crème conference experience, expect to shell out for premium-quality event production, live entertainment, and interactive experiences.
There you have it! Of course, virtual conference costs vary widely based on various factors, but we hope these budget ranges and cost expectations give you a starting point to start planning your virtual conference with ease!