Ever since we’ve started organizing a conference back in 2006 we’ve been getting requests for free tickets. It starts as soon as we announce our event, and then the requests increase as we get closer to the conference date.
I don’t blame people for asking for something free, I really don’t. You can always give it a try, and if you don’t ask, you don’t know.
But it does get tiring having to explain exactly why there’s no free ticket available. Now instead of having to write a long email I can just share this post.
The eight reasons I will list here are valid for any other product as well, including your own. Feel free to copy/paste the text and apply it to your own products.
1. Free has no value (so buy a ticket)
In our experience, people who get a free ticket don’t show up, and if they do, they don’t really invest time and effort into making it a great event.
At our second and third event we decided to give 20 people a free ticket, because they asked for one. Only two showed up. They showed up late and left early.
If you pay for a ticket you will feel like making an investment and you will want to get a return on your investment. That means showing up on time, talking to speakers, going to the parties and making new friends and connecting to new business partners.
2. A ticket should earn itself back, tenfold (so buy a ticket)
Our events are inspiring, offer amazing networking opportunities and should help you get ahead with your career or your startup. I know entrepreneurs who raise funding, meet journalists that cover them and meet partners they do business with. Some entrepreneurs meet companies that end up acquiring their startups.
Think about what you want to achieve and how much that would be worth to you and the few hundred euros for the tickets should pale in comparison. If it doesn’t then why would you even consider coming?
3. Save yourself a bunch of trips (so buy a ticket)
Based in Europe? How much would a flight to the US cost you, including a hotel? Something like €1000? Maybe even €2000?
We’re saving you that money, and more, by inviting potential business partners from all over the world. Everybody flies into the same venue and is there to do business.
Compared to flying around the world a ticket to this event is dirt cheap.
4. Organizing a conference is expensive (so buy a ticket)
We’ve been working on this event for years with a large team of talented people. We spend hundreds of thousands of euros to make it the best event in the world. We fly in the best speakers, feed them, put them in a good hotel and then put them on a stage we’ve invested a lot in too.
We don’t rely on sponsors to pay our costs (although we do have some sponsors) but try to focus on giving you great content and we charge a very reasonable price for all of this.
Do we make a profit? Well, we do hope so. But if we do it’s generally used to pay for food, rent and preparations for our next event.
5. Our tickets are cheap. Really. (so buy a ticket)
We often hear complaints from people that the tickets are too expensive. I can assure you they aren’t. What these people mean is that €500 is a lot of money, and they’re right. But it isn’t expensive.
Compare our prices with any similar event in Europe or the US and you will see that our prices are the lowest in the industry. A typical event will easily be three times as expensive. Our most expensive ticket is the same price as our biggest competitor’s cheapest ticket.
Bonus anecdote: We once had an guest complain about the price of our tickets. He told us they were too low. He said ‘Look, I’m flying business class, stay a week in a classy hotel, take potential clients out to dinner and lunch every day, and then I have to explain this is all based around a conference where the ticket costs less than what I spend in one day. There should be a better balance between my travel costs and your conference ticket costs; please double your ticket prices!’
6. You deserve a ticket, because you’re famous (you still need to buy a ticket)
We get these a lot. People will offer to blog about the event, tell their friends or email their members.
We do appreciate free marketing but we’ve also learned that this seldom converts to actual tickets sold. We know because we used to give people special URLs to use, including custom discount, and offered them ‘sell two tickets and we will give you your own ticket for free’.
I don’t think we ever ended up giving someone that free ticket, and if we did we did it out of sympathy, but then they didn’t show up (see #1).
7. Willing to share the risk? Then fine (still want you to buy a ticket)
In 2010 a volcano in Iceland named Eyjafjallajökull erupted and flights worldwide were cancelled. Six days before our event it looked like NONE of our booked speakers would show up and 60 percent of our guests wouldn’t be there either.
With a conference you make 90 percent of your costs in advance; the food, the location, the speaker fees, the tickets, etc. And of course nothing is refundable. The result: we were preparing to declare bankruptcy. Then three days before the event planes started flying again and we avoided a financial disaster.
Every event we organize is a ‘put everything on red’ event where we risk losing our company if things REALLY go wrong. If you want a free ticket but agree to pay 20 times the full ticket price if the shit hits the fan, then by all means, come for free.
8. You’re a friend (even more reason to buy a ticket)
This is the toughest one. I do have friends and family asking for tickets and I do feel awkward and uncomfortable asking them to pay. Every year this is a struggle for the whole team.
The solution we have is that we can all invite three friends, and that’s it. These tickets are generally reserved for family and really close friends and are gone months in advance. To all my other friends I have to explain how if we would invite all our friends for free there would be a few thousand non-paying guest and we would go bankrupt.
And look at it this way: Would I give you a €500 gift for your birthday? Or even a €100 gift? Do we even know each other’s birth dates? If not, please support your friend and buy a ticket.
Conclusion (buy a ticket!)
We’re not trying to be mean when we don’t give you a seemingly well deserved free ticket.
We’d love to see you at our event, but somehow we need to generate some revenue, and the best way to do that is to charge for our tickets.
So, head over to our TNW2017 conference site and make that investment into your future. It will be worth it.