Moving from a free event to a charged event

Hi all,

I manage a marketing event in the South West which used to be free. For our next event we have made the decision to charge a small and affordable fee to help cover the cost of the food/drink and other logistical extras on the day.

I just wondered,has anyone out there got experience of moving from a free to a charged event and what were the difficulties you experienced along the way?

Thanks :slight_smile:

Hi Claire yes I’ve done this! I work in the NHS and we were requested to become self-funding by Department of Health and so started to charge for some of the training events we ran, to cover costs. In addition we ran a “free” to attend conference but asked that everyone brought £10 on the day to cover their refreshments.

Learning points from me would be:
*If it’s repeat customers communicate clearly what’s behind the change and how you came to the amount to charge - especially important if there are competitors who are not charging, ensure you promote your unique selling points
*Speak to your finance team for advice - how best to receive the money so they can pay into the account, how to complete audit trails, how it will fit with the systems they use, is this going to require additional people resource
*Plan ahead if you are collecting money on the day of how you will do this - we had around 700 people trying to register over an hour period in the morning and support staff who hadn’t had to take money before. We needed to ensure everyone had a float, money was closely counted and kept securely. It was frequently emptied and taken to someone in our finance team who attended on the day to manage the overall cash, money had to add up at the end of the day or else we’d need to investigate what went wrong
*Brief support staff so they know how to deal with enquiries/issues/complaints - they need to know the corporate line on the situation
*We use eventbrite which was been really really good; they take a percentage of the amount we charge but the system is so slick it more than made up for the work hours we were putting in chasing payments/issuing invoices/dealing with confused customers who just wanted to pay etc

If you want to know anything more do get in touch.


Thanks Hannah - that’s great! It’s more the managing the repeat customers bit which i needed help with and your suggestion was perfect :slight_smile:

Research with the market. Without this you’re guessing (albeit an educated guess) about what the value of the event is for them. Questions like “what would the event need to look like for you to…” are useful and stop you from steering a conversation to much.

Also worth considering how you present the ideas of payment - is it a subscription (annual) for a business that brings with it advertising or other opportunities? Is it a premium pass, which then gives them access to things others won’t get…

Really good point there! If you have a loyal repeat customer base it could definitely be worth thinking about offering a subscription type payment that allows access to multiple events across a timeframe (e.g. a year) - it might preserve the feeling they’re still part of your events’ community.

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