How Much Does a Virtual Event Cost?

Calculating the cost of a virtual event.

It’s often easy to forget that the bulk cost of a traditional event goes into the planning, transportation, and housing of the event. 

Large corporate events take a team of planners, hours of backend admin work, and a fleet of staff to set up the event and make sure it goes off without a hitch. 

Companies spend thousands on traditional conferences, fundraisers, or trade shows. The bill typically includes renting hotels, printing badges, paying a caterer, and flying in speakers. 

Why do they do it? It’s an important part of an enterprise business. Whether it is reconnecting with company employees or meeting other like-minded businesses, large events are still a necessity – even if the stage in which they are set has changed.

The good news is the new wave of virtual events allows you to massively scale back on these costs. But virtual events aren’t without their own costs. 

We all know the costs of a traditional event management, but what are the costs of virtual event management?

Surprisingly, many of the costs to put on traditional events also exist in virtual events. They’re just in a digital format. 

You might be hoping to cut costs drastically by switching to a virtual event, and you definitely can, but there are some features you should still plan on investing in.

Using Zoom or Google Meet to host your annual conference is about as glamorous as booking the Motel 6 for your guests instead of the Hilton. Sure, you’ll save money, but your attendees can definitely tell the difference. 

Your attendees have likely participated in several virtual events by now, leaving them picky about the attendee experience. Match or exceed the competition so that your virtual event will stand out – in a good way.

At Jumbo, we’ve produced hundreds of virtual events. Let’s dive in and break down some of the factors that contribute to virtual event cost.

1) Number of registrants

The number of registrants impacts a traditional event by forcing you to book a larger venue, or pay more in catering fees. In a virtual event, it impacts the level of technology you need to host the content. 

That’s why you shouldn’t be shy about charging admission for a virtual event. If the event is engaging, useful to your audience, and packed with content, you should still charge something closer to what you would at a traditional event. 

It’s important to know that some virtual event hosting platforms charge you on a per-attendee basis in addition to baseline platform fees. 

2) Number of Days

In a virtual event, the number of days impacts your price in a unique way. 

Similarly to an in-person event, virtual events require a crew to help you execute. Virtual event platforms, especially full service ones, will likely bill on a per-day basis so their production team can be set to assist you. 

We’ve found that virtual events give you the unique opportunity to extend events and make them more evergreen. “On demand” content can be sent to attendees so that they can consume and digest it on their own time. 

One way to cut costs for a multiple-day event is to host a few live session days and pre-record other content so that you can slowly release content to your attendees long after your cameras have powered down. This works particularly well for virtual annual conferences.

3) Digital Needs

One area you should never cut costs on is a virtual event hosting platform. You’ll want a capable platform to register guests, track which attendees logged in, and engage guests with Q&As and more. 

We’ve all seen enough Zoom and Google Meets streams fizzle over bad wifi to know no one wants to pay to watch that. 

Some essentials that make virtual event management seamless include online registrations, email marketing capabilities, and custom landing pages. The online registration process needs to be seamless from an integration standpoint, so you don’t have to spend time uploading Excel spreadsheets into various platforms. 

Your registration page should also be branded, matching the look and feel of your organization. The registration process should integrate with an email marketing system so that you can send attendees reminders, confirmations, and follow up emails. 

We recommend seeking an all-in-one solution. Why bounce back and forth between MailChimp, WordPress, Zoom, and Eventbrite? Find a partner who can do it all. It will make your life easier, and your attendees’ experience better.

4) Audiovisual Needs

If you want your event to be pristine, don’t expect to get that quality out of the overhead lighting in your office, the camera on your laptop, or the microphone on your headphones. 

Invest in professional audio-visual production. No one wants to sit through a five hour conference with pixelated video and crackling audio. Combining professional grade production with rock solid software is the most important component of a high-quality virtual event. 

Look for a virtual event hosting partner that offers professional equipment (in the form of rentals or pack out kits) to achieve a good quality production. If the partner you choose is not a full-service remote production studio like Jumbo, ask for recommendations about cameras and microphones. We have crafted the perfect at-home production kit that arrives on your speakers’ doorstep – simple, easy, convenient. 

5) Personnel

We’ve heard from so many people who’ve been assigned to produce a virtual event for their company and have no clue where to start. 

Sometimes, they don’t realize they are in over their heads until it’s too late. Let’s be real – event production is hard. Virtual event management is even harder with all the technical aspects. Even the most gung-ho member of your team will struggle to pull it off.

Bringing in professional technical directors, camera operators, and producers will help keep you focused on providing the best content possible to your registrants. 

The virtual event manager should be focused on knowing the vision for the event. They should not worry about navigating integrations, customizing themes and landing pages, or setting up live stream feeds. Let the tech professionals handle it. 

6) Gifts

Everyone. Loves. Swag. Just because we’re distant doesn’t mean we can’t find ways to engage in real life. 

Be sure to leave room in your virtual event budget for a gift to send your registrants before or after your event. This is a great way to keep your event top of mind and to connect with your audience. We recommend something useful that will keep popping up in your registrant’s lives. Think branded socks for when they snuggle up on the couch to watch your event or wireless earbuds if you want to go high-end. 

If you want to stick with the all-virtual theme, you can send attendees digital gift cards for delivery services. For example, since you can’t provide a caterer, you can send all your attendees an UberEats gift card. Since you can’t give away books, you can send a free audio book via Audible.

The sky’s the limit. 

If gifts are not in the budget for your virtual event, or if you have a large attendee list, another way to engage your audience is to add a virtual swag store to your event so that guests can still get their conference-shirt fill before signing off. The sales from your shop can even help offset some of the virtual event costs. This is especially effective for virtual trade shows.

Conclusion: How much will a virtual event cost?

Depending on the registrants, production, and any follow up gifts, you can expect to spend at least $8,000 for small events, but you should be prepared to invest closer to $15,000-$20,000 to truly engage your audience with quality content – especially if your attendee list is large. 

The good news is almost all virtual event packages will be easily customizable. Think of it like the burrito line at Chipotle: grab what you want, leave off what you don’t need, just make sure you’re happy with the product you end up with. 

There’s also a difference between a small set of keynote speeches and a multi-day annual conference. Now that almost everyone has experience with attending virtual events, professional quality is becoming a non-negotiable. Don’t be afraid to splurge on quality equipment and help from experts.

Contact us today and we’ll talk through your event needs and suggest a price. Even if you don’t end up choosing us, we know we can help you with an accurate portrayal of what your event will cost.