12 Entrepreneurs discuss why attendees want to pay less for online conferences in a post COVID world.

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Why do you think people are more likely to pay for an in-person event, but many are less likely to pay for an online event or conference, even if it features the same content and speakers?

This is a really curious debate about our industry.

I have been running more than 1000 live events in 6 years, and that’s how I started and grow my different businesses.

Live events represented 70% of our entire business and we made a name for ourself in the business development space to the point where only a few people in our industry did not know about us and our name in London.

The game has changed though…

I was curious to hear what people think about this topic and I asked members of our groups what is their take on the topic.

Read what 12 entrepreneurs have to say, then I would love to hear your opinion in the comments.

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Parbej Ali

1) Distractions at home (I’m not properly present online)

2) No networking/interaction with like-minded people – You can speak to the person next to you, in the coffee break, etc. This also re-inforces learning as you discuss what you’ve heard and synthesized the information. Synergies happen from different perspectives.

3) Atmosphere – the noise and reactions of others create a mood in the room. Online is often like watching a video, with the odd attempt at lame interaction.

I think the sales training Ben and you held has been the “best” event thus far in terms of having me engaged, and I found that was much more tiring than in person events. 

Long events don’t work for me. I feel so sleepy during them. Its very tough staring at a screen for that many hours. Plus the rest of the household is living their life and you can hear that in the background.

I pay for 2 things because I am busy and time-poor.

(1) Convenience

(2) Effective Learning Results and one added value item

(3) The unknown power of connecting with others

I want HIGH IMPACT in the SHORTEST amount of TIME.

And the potential of something unexpected

Online seminars/learning have failed to provide the 2 functional elements I want and it absolutely does nothing for #3.”

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Caroline Emile

“It’s not the same sensory experience e.g. the vibe of being at Excel with 13,000 people at a Tony Robbins event cannot be fully replicated online. 

It’s sort of like watching online about how to learn to swim rather than getting in a pool to actually do it. 

There is huge value in being taken out of your ‘daily life’ to a completely different environment to learn new things, experience breakthroughs, etc.”

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Michelle Raymond

“I can understand being on both sides of the fence.

As an audience member, I pay for a ticket not just for the speaker… I could really just listen to him or her on YouTube. 

But I am also paying for the networking, the vibe, the connection, to get my pics taken – all these matters.


As a speaker, I feel like I have to put just as much effort if not more for an online event presentation due to the many reasons that have been mentioned (including my own). 

I prepare just as much, I still dress up, put makeup on, get my hair done. 

I don’t ever short cut my virtual audience YET, I don’t charge as much for the virtual stage. 

In actual fact I’ve been paid way less if not at all. 

The effort is still there but just not valued as much.”

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Gregory Giagnocavo

“The networking at events, the environment, the meeting new people, the way you can promote yourself at an event.

And, you can see that you are paying for the experience and ambiance. Like a hamburger in an ultra-fancy restaurant.

With so many webinars and online events, it is becoming common and doesn’t seem like there’s much expense attached to it, so it’s hard to justify the ticket price.

If I were to create an online event or summit, I’d have a lot of discounts attached to it so people get more discount coupons or discounts than what they paid.”

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Caroline Stagg

“It’s the chance conversations, tips and stories that I hear from others, and the way they talk about their work that I like in face to face events and ad hoc Invitations to keep in touch.

Also, you can choose more whom you spend time with and how long. 

Online this tends to be dictated by the organiser”

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Victor Dauda Tarfa

“Environment plays a significant role for me. 

As everyone has said too the networking. 

There is also an opportunity to connect with the speakers on a personal level. 

Most people l have met on my speaking journey I don’t think will be friends now if it was online.”

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Katharine West

“As a nurse informaticist interested in patient choices, I published research on patient preferences looking specifically at in-person vs virtual visits. I identified the basic social process of Weighing Options that describes how one visit type is chosen depending on the strength of various “hassle factors”. When all things are equal, people prefer in-person because there is interpersonal energy that is difficult to convey online (difficult but not impossible). I suggest these are the same issues with online events and courses. Personal interactions can be incorporated into a virtual meeting when connections are made to be at the same priority level along with the content. In the words of one of my subjects, a 22-year old young man on the autism spectrum, when I asked why wouldn’t he prefer online visits, he looked at me like I was from Mars and asked, “How would I get my hug?!” He could have asked me, as is the theme of the answers posted here, “How would I get validated or confirmed in who I am, that my needs are legit, and that I am going to be OK?” This, after all, is what event-based networking, meeting other people, self-promotion with feedback, being exposed to lots of new ideas in a condensed period of time, and more is all about – and we get to read the body language which is difficult virtually. (Hmmm…this is giving me new ideas for research!)”

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Adam Waldman

“I think because an in-person event feels like an “event.” 

There is something about the live interaction that makes it feel more important. It has a certain gravitas that is lost in translation online. It’s similar to watching a concert online vs being there. The shared experience makes it feel different…bigger.

There are a few more factors as well.

The first is having more skin in the game because it requires you to disrupt the norm and make an effort to attend an event live.

The other factor ties into the “skin in the game” idea. Being at home makes it easy to get distracted, whereas sitting in a room listening focuses your attention.

That being said, in the post Covid world, I personally have no desire to anything in-person right now. The only conference that I would attend (at least in America) is a virtual one.”

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Les Oatka

“It is much easier to SEE value(and cost) in the in-person model. Also, we understand that when we attend in-person events we can make it what we want it to be by the way we interact. There is EMPOWERMENT! Never underestimate that emotion.

We are TOO familiar with virtual events and know predators can easily pose as enterprises of strength when they are not. Virtual events are able to control participation and make lateral interaction, if not PROHIBITED, very difficult.

Lastly, too many presenters are way too chatty, take too long to get to the chase, and in general disrespect the time of the attendee. When the time of others is not honoured, it IS disrespectful. Who wants to pay for that?

I wait patiently to pay 100’s of dollars to attend in-person shows and conventions. The on-line stuff, I feel I can come back later and view it FREE. If I can not, I do not believe I have missed anything because the VALUE is not apparent. AND, I believe, it is simply a NO COST option for the presenter that is attempting revenue augmentation. VERY much like ‘become wealthy in real estate and spend none of your own money!” Then when the pitch is to get rich selling stuff you neither create or make, the red flags should go up.

Done right, over-deliver on the 1st promise, the prospect has an expectation, will pay but will become vapour on the first betrayal.”

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Justin Damian Furness

“For me it’s all about access – The more access and closer they come to you the higher the engagement – too many are automating and losing the depth and context I’m finding loads of clients want a done with you model especially with digital they love the personal engagement.”

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Rebecca Larsen

“So much information is available for free online that some people think everything online should be free. Also, people know that in-person events cost money to hold; you have to pay for the venue, food, etc. However, they probably aren’t as aware of the costs of holding a live event.”

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Heather Melcer

“The other reason in-person works is that someone has to actually take a break from their routine to go to it. this puts them in a different state-of-mind than when they are at home in their pyjamas watching a computer screen. For many people that can play a part in retention. In-person they are completely 100% focused on being there, at home they aren’t and they know it.”

These are the voices of 12 entrepreneurs.

Don’t get me wrong.

Online conferences are here to stay.

I think is the duty of every event organiser to create more interactive and entertaining experiences that would keep their audience engaged and connected as much as possible.

These insights are crucial for organisers like us to understand what people really want so we know what to priorities and what innovations we need to put in place.

Having said that, I am looking forward to the day where events can run like in the past and people will feel safe to travel and attend conferences once again.

Now it’s your turn… I would love to hear your voice on the topic.


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