With almost every kind of public gathering now being strongly frowned upon, individuals, governments, companies and other organisations are rapidly trying to figure out how many of these gatherings can be taken online and still be able to serve their purpose. Now since one can (or used to be able to) make money from organising events in the real world, you may wonder if the same can be done online. The answer is yes—organising, promoting and monetising online events is a potentially profitable line of business which also happens to require way fewer resources to get off the ground than its offline counterpart.

To organize an event and make money from it you need five things: a platform to host the event, an audience, a topic or subject matter, one or more presenters or speakers and a way to make money off the event.

A platform

Several platforms exist which you can use to host virtual events. The platform you ultimately choose will depend on several factors such as the following:

  • The number of presenters
  • The devices (PC or mobile) which you expect attendees will be using
  • The number of people you expect to attend
  • Your budget
  • How much of the presentation will be live and how much will be pre-recorded material
  • Whether or not you allow active participation from the audience

Most of the software you have gotten accustomed to using so-far has probably been the free variety; shopping for the right platform to host a webinar will pop that bubble. For instance, Google, the name that epitomizes free stuff on the internet, will only let you host up to 250 people for free on its Google Meet service. If all the free options on the most popular platforms don’t cover your needs, you will need to start looking for your debit card.

Your audience

An online event needs people to attend it for it to be considered a success. The number of people who attend the event is the most common metric for determining how successful it was. Also, remember that such events won’t promote themselves no matter how potentially interesting or exciting they sound. You need to find various ways of getting the word out about every one of the events you organise. When it’s necessary, you can pay for online advertising, contact blogs which are most likely to be read by your target audience to promote your upcoming event, reach out to influencers, ask friends and colleagues to spread the message etc. If you already have a platform or a sizeable social media following, you are in luck as you can leverage this in promoting your events; in fact, online event organising and promotion might be one of the best ways for people to monetise their social media presences.

The subject

When selecting the subject matter of the event, remember that it must be compelling enough to draw a sizeable audience. Nowadays the internet is full of all manner of information, so try to give people something they can’t easily get on any other part of the web. You can pick general interest topics—in which case you usually have to draw in larger amounts of people to make any money—or you can target more niche audiences, which are usually far more willing to purchase tickets even for virtual events. In Zimbabwe, you can’t go wrong with subjects like entrepreneurship, motivation, self-help, personal finance, forex trading, public speaking, home manufacturing of products, religion etc.

The presenters

As an organiser, you can, in theory, also present on your events but that will get tired quickly, so it’s better that you invite other people to participate in your events. The people you can try to persuade to present on your events include motivational speakers, socialites, pastors, authors, musicians, successful business people, politicians, comedians etc. The list is endless. You might even throw in a few self-professed experts for good measure. Some of these people may require compensation for their time. You can either give them a percentage of the money you earned from the event or a flat pre-agreed upon fee. However, remember that a lot of people out there are happy if you just promise them a large audience.

Making money

The most straightforward way of making money off your events is straight away charging an attendance fee. There are many ways in which you can implement this, depending on the platform which you are using. For instance, Zoom comes with a handy PayPal integration feature which allows one to join a webinar only after paying. If you intend to use YouTube to stream the event, you can create a private channel and only share the link with people who have paid (you would have to trust them not to publish it to everyone else for free).  Others ways in which you can monetize events include selling advertising space, selling merchandise and offering organisations or people the chance to sponsor the event.

In conclusion

Mastering these main five aspects of organising a virtual event i.e. getting an audience, choosing the right subject, convincing the right presenters to participate, figuring out how best to make money from it all and then doing it all over again is all that is needed to turn virtual event organising into a business. You might make losses on some events but the goal is not to completely avoid these but to ensure that your successes exceed your failures.