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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Conference Adventures Part Sept: Pricing

I woke up this morning not having to go to Personal Training today (did I mention I have been going every morning for the past 8 weeks to lose weight for my 40th Birthday?) and I was actually looking forward at the chance to sleep in. I went back to sleep (after the cat settled down around 5:30 am) and woke up at 9:30 am ready to take on the world. A friend called me bored and wanting to get out of the house, and my daughter needed to do something other than Skype with her friends all day, so we all went shopping for the day. First stop Staples, then Target, then Macy's (and the Hillsdale Mall). It was nice...

2 Days Until the Event

Status Update: 
Speaker's Presentations (PPT or other): 1 (Simon still Rocks!)
Agenda: In print form and solid as it could get
Logistics: BO's approved, Tracy Ng all set to help out, ready to get this party started
Marketing/Promotion:  Facebook Poll setup for the Awards, No way I;m going to get to update Lanyrd or finish last years videos, print materials for event designed and ready to print tomorrow (I ran out of ink tonight).
Master of Ceremonies: Me
Volunteers: 2 Confirmed (Lydia and Tracy)

Figuring out Pricing 

One of the many key important aspects of each conference I plan is how that event is priced. Price it too high, and people will not only refrain from registering, but they will complain (and often publicly). Price it too low and you de-value what the event has to offer... not to mention that with less money coming in, there is less available for quality food, a decent location, and extras like parties, swag, etc. So I try to find a decent location with a well lit space, high ceilings (got a complaint about low ceilings once), and serves high quality food. Once the estimated overhead is figured out, then I take the number of attendees the previous year and calculate what the set costs would be divided among the number then add the fluid costs (like food) to each registration. Essential Passes don't get food and extras (parties, Speaker's Dinner, activities, etc) - so they don't pay for food and such. Full Passes get food and extras, but they don't get the hotel stay included so they don't pay for their stay. VIP passes get it all - so they pay for it all. It's pretty straightforward...  The downside is that I do not make any money off of the events. For now, I am ok with that, but someday it would be nice to get a bit of a kick-back from them.

So, I checked out my competition this evening worried that my next event is maybe priced too high. SMX Advanced is a SEO conference held in Seattle every year, and it's a pretty popular one. This year they are the week after EmMeCon in Seattle, but the audience attending is so different (since we don't do SEO) that I'm not worried that we will lose attendees because of it. What I did notice is their pricing. Their passes work differently that EmMeCon's. 

Basic Pass

They have a "Networking" Pass that gets you into their Expo Hall (that we do not have) but not to sessions or workshops. That pass is $99 pre-reg and $139 regular reg. The closest we have is our Essential, but ours is sessions only priced at $198 pre-reg and $468 regular registration. I'm now wondering if I should lower the price - but 3 days of sessions should be at least $100/day, and with the few hundred we get the average of all passes by the time of the event pays their part in the set overhead. 

Mid-Level Pass

They 4 passes, but their mid-level is probably their "All Access Pass" for $1,595 which includes sessions and access to the expo hall, but doesn't include Workshops. Workshops are $895 - so the two added would be $2,490 (~$100 less than the "All Access"). From pre-reg to regular registration rates they go up roughly $200-$300. Our comparative pass would be our Full Pass that goes for $568 pre-reg and $1,178 regular registration. I priced my pre-reg on the Full pass so low because it covers their portion of the set overhead just perfectly and encourages people to register early (since it's just $100 more than the regular Essential Pass). It seems to work pretty well because we have people register for Seattle months before the turn of the new year (9-10 months before the event). At times we have had workshops the day before the conference, and include them for all attendees - then sell them separately for $198 for a full day. That price point has become our sweet spot for workshops.

Ultimate Pass

The Pass that includes it all for SMX Advanced is their "All Access + Workshop" for $2,395 pre-reg and $2,895 regular registration. I tried to see if attendees get all of the workshops, or just one, but it appears they just give one with the registration. Our comparable is our VIP Pass that we sell for $1,687.85 - which includes 3 nights at the hotel. I use the Marriot in Pioneer Square for this event (well, and for every event I hold in Seattle) so I know what the rates per night are. To be honest, the hotel gives us a bit of a discount, so I pass that into the price of the pass.

SMX has been around for many years, and people have told me they get great value out of the event. But the value they get is out of the networking, not the sessions. I stopped going to SMX 5 years ago because I wasn't learning anything anymore, but I did like getting to know the other SEO's there. That reason is why I hold my events (focusing on the networking, but providing really valuable topics as well). So how do they get people to pay those prices, plus get enough booths int he expo hall and sponsors as well? They must make a killing. Perhaps someday EmMeCon will be a big conference with a expo hall and sponsors too...