Today we held a really successful online event looking at gaming and MR, the recordings and slides will be available next week at NewMR.org. We had eight presentations, about 100 attendees, lots of discussion and a real buzz on Twitter (check #newmr).
At the end of the webinar there was a brief (six question) survey asking for feedback. 70% of the attendees seemed reasonably satisfied with the event, and 88% thought it very or quite likely they would attend a similar future event. I wanted to assess people’s views as I would like to develop a model where I can provide a growing number of these events, but as a sole trader I need to do them without going bust!
In my opinion, the most interesting question related to asking whether what the charge for a future Webinar might reasonably be. The question asked was “This event was paid for by The Future Place, what would be a reasonable charge for future, similar events?”. The options and results were:
39% Nothing, they should be free
My interest was piqued by the fact that about four-in-ten thought that the webinars ‘should’ be free. One of the disappointments with quant data is not understanding why people score things the way they do. It seems to me there are a number of different possible reasons why people thing they ‘should’ be free, including:
- They should be free because they do not cost anything.
- They should be free because they are not worth money.
- They should be free because they are done as a business promotion.
- They should be free because they should be paid for by sponsors.
- They should be free because they should be paid for by advertising.
However, all of the above seem, to some extent, to be flawed to me.
1) They do cost money. I would estimate my out-of-pocket expenses at somewhere in the range $1000-$2000 for this event, including costs for admin), cost of webinar system, cost of online storage for the recordings, etc. As an example of the admin costs, there were eight speakers, each one required about one hour of rehearsal/recording time and the final recordings will take about six hours of work to produce versions to store on the internet.
2) Whether they are worth the money (e.g. $10) is a matter of opinion, but if they are worth attending for three hours it would seem odd if they were not worth $10.
3) Many webinars are done as a sales promotion and the case for these being free is strong. However, this webinar, and the ones I’d like to run are only tangently of benefit to my business. I am pretty much booked for the rest of the year so they take time but are unlikely to increase my revenue and they will cost money and take time.
4) It might well be possible to find sponsors to pay for the costs of the webinars (in fact I suspect it would be straightforward). However, the protestant in me rebels at this idea, surely it is wrong for people to get something for nothing, just because somebody else would be willing to pay, isn’t that almost the definition of a freeloader?
5) I suspect we could easily pay for the costs of running webinars by allowing advertisers to have short slots, perhaps between each speaker. This does not offend my sensibilities since people are paying for it in the sense of having to put up with the advertising – but I am not drawn to the idea.
So, I will have a think about a range of financial models to see if I can think of a way where more events can be organised. At the moment the options I have thought of include:
- Find a sponsor for the events and ignore my views about freeloaders (particularly since I might equally be a freeloader in such a model).
- Run the events for free but charge for the recordings and slides.
- Charge for the events and ignore the half of the industry who does not want to pay (if my poll is vaguely indicative).
- Ask for voluntary payments, perhaps listing those people who have paid.
- Only running events where I have a reasonable chance of advancing my business interests and limiting the number of events to my budget.
However, it is worth noting that charging introduces its own problems, including accounting, differential taxes (for example accounting for VAT), liability if things go wrong etc. There is also a negative link between charging and sponsorship money. Sponsors would like as many people as possible to attend and this is best achieved by making the event free.
What are your thoughts and suggestions?