Every event needs to be profitable. It should never lose money. The revenue from registrations can be unpredictable and can be lower than expected. That's why you need other ways to generate revenue in addition to registration fees.
How do you generate more revenue other than registration fees? It’s a question every event planner asks or at least should ask.
A combination of these methods helped me take an annual event of a non-profit from losing $20,000 the previous year to generating over $50,000 in profit after all expenses were settled. A very good payday for a small non-profit with a 3-day event.
This is a shortlist of five powerful ways you can increase your revenue for any event without relying heavily on registration fees:
1. Sell Sponsorships
This is a great way not only to generate extra revenue for your event. Plus, you can get discounts and free stuff from your sponsors to give out to your attendees as a gift.
You don't have to go after large corporations. These sponsorships can be difficult to get, especially for smaller events. That's why you should be going after small businesses, be they local or online.
2. Sell Ad Space
This one comes in many forms, and to make it easy to understand here’s a quick list of ad space you can sell:
- Allow advertisers to buy an opportunity to include something (brochure, flier, free sample, etc.) in your attendee gift bag.
- Sell ad space on the event website.
- Sell ad space inside the event program/schedule booklet. But really, don’t limit yourself to this. Sell ad space in anything printed that goes out to the masses.
- Sell ad space for company logos on the event banner. Don’t have one? Get one and let ad revenue pay for itself.
- Sell ad space on volunteer/staff T-shirts.
- If you can print on it or hang a sign on it, sell ad space on it. Make it pay for itself. For example, large individual room schedules. Sell “sponsored by” space on them.
Turn free perks into higher-priced VIP registration. This was a huge success with a nonprofit convention I ran. The president was a bit skeptical, but the skepticism went away fast when they were sold out. What free perks you can monetize on?
- Reserved front-row seating. It applies to banquet-style setups, too. Make the first row of tables reserved for VIP.
- VIP-only check-in at the event. Merge it with speakers and press. It’ll pay off.
- Got free samples of something? Give them to VIPs.
- For hotel events, negotiate a small reception at the front desk for VIPs. You can usually get it for free if you know how to negotiate with the sales manager.
- Don’t forget to slap “VIP” on their badge, make them important. They’ll be back.
- Not free but works wonders. If you charge an extra $50 on top of regular registrations, negotiate special meals for VIPs only (breakfast, lunch, or dinner) at a lower cost to still make extra profits.
Tip: Continental breakfast is usually the cheapest, per person, option. If you’re good, you can get it under $10. Have your speakers and executive staff attend the meal, so VIPs can network and socialize.
- Anything free can be monetized. Don’t be afraid to do it. People love VIP status, no matter what comes with it.
4. Sell Books
Are you doing book signings? Well, why don’t you let your attendees buy them online and earn referral fees? This is where the Amazon Associate and Barnes & Noble affiliate programs come into play. It’s easy to use and you can earn an extra change in selling books written by your speakers. How to make it into an incentive?
“Why pay a higher price and wait in long lines at the convention expo to buy John Doe’s latest book ‘The Book' if you can buy it on Amazon right now and have it shipped to you or your hotel room. Don’t wait in two lines to get a book signed!'
Something along those lines. The best option to do is include referral links to books on the speaker’s page on your event website. Also, do include a little blurb about it in each email that goes out to registered attendees.
5. Sell Merchandise
Sell event merchandise before the actual event. If you won’t have any merchandise before the event, use print-on-demand services like Printful (we use and recommend) to offer cool merchandise that they won’t be able to get at the event.
You can sell t-shirts, jackets, hoodies, pillows, etc. without ever having to buy inventory beforehand. Everything is printed on-demand and shipped to the customer.
This is a great option for recurring events and events that are organized by organizations, like annual association conferences. You can create a permanent e-commerce store with branded merchandise that association members can buy for the event or just to show support for the organization. There is no inventory to carry, so you got zero risk and plenty of profits to make.
Bonus For Nonprofits
Run a low or no-cost fundraiser as a separate event at your main event.
There are many more ways to generate revenue. These are some of the extremely profitable ways you can increase revenue for your event, hit the break-even point sooner, and go home with a fatter wallet.
Feel free to share your tips on how you generate outside revenue for your event in the comment section.