Learning from a Ticket Price Adventure

Published Jan 04 by Jakob, Reading time ... Minutes

November 15th we officially launched the ticket sales of the first installment of the Think About! Conference. This is a summary of our journey towards finding the "right" ticket price.

Think About! is a two day tech conference about technology, design and their impact on society. It will take place in a cozy cinema in Cologne, Germany.

The Challenge

Calculating the price for a conference ticket is an awkward task. On the one hand, a higher price means less risk and more flexibility for the organizer. On the other, a lower price leads to a more accessible conference and by this to a more diverse crowd.

"How expensive should a ticket for my conference be?"

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question – on the contrary, a multitude of factors have to be considered in order to reach a satisfying answer.

This question shall be the starting point of our journey towards a reasonable ticket price. First and foremost, the price is determined by the costs caused by the event. Those costs have to be covered by the entry fee and sponsor payments. So in order to understand the price of a conference ticket, one has to take a look at the underlying cost structure.

The Budget

From a birds eye perspective, our budget is roughly made up by two sections. The first section makes up roughly 80% of the total costs and contains three positions:

1. Location Lease

The location is fundamental to a successful conference. We chose a program cinema as it is cozy and at the same time provides amazing acoustics and a great atmosphere for talks. Who wouldn't want to sit in a puffy cinema seat, eating popcorn and watching amazing human beings talking about interesting topics?

The lease is negotiated upfront and independent of the actual amount of attendees visiting the conference.

2. Food and Beverages

Food is an important aspect of a conference. We decided, that good and healthy food is important – there is already too much greasy trade fair quality food at events. That's why we picked a caterer that can provide us with regional and organic food for two days.

As with the location, the price per person is negotiated upfront. Unfortunately, unlike location lease, there is a minimum quantity of people for which we have to pay, independent of the actual amount of attendees.

3. Compensation

Another considerable position is the compensation of speakies and helpies. We decided on a solidarity compensation for everyone who helps us to make the conference possible. That means, everyone gets the same compensation, be it a speakie, a keynote speakie or a person helping with the doors and doing child care. In addition to that, all attending speakies get a hotel room and we pay for their travel to Cologne.

This is unusual for a conference, most events simply pay for their keynotes or a few very high profile speakies.

As stated above, those three positions make up nearly 80% of the total cost. In a graphical representation, this would look like this:

Graph that shows a bar filled by 80%

Additional Costs

The second section of our budget (the remaining 20%) are made up of different smaller positions, be it merchandise, advertisement, technical support, solidarity tickets or a safety buffer in case of gross miscalculations.

In order to keep the ticket price low, we thought a lot about ways to reduce parts of the budget. Early on it became pretty clear that the first section of the budget has barely room for cost reduction. Compensation of people participating in the event as well as healthy food are core values through which we want to differentiate us from the regular tech conference. So both are set.

And at the same time, the location is part of what makes Think About! something special: being in a cozy cinema and having popcorn is non-negotiable, so to speak!

That left us with the remaining 20% to find ways of keeping the cost at a reasonable level. Unfortunately, the impact of these measures is not too big, since they affect such a small part of the budget.

Nevertheless, we reduced two major aspects of this second section:

1. Merchandise

As you might have noticed through a casual look on our landing page, we are huge fans of fancy and colorful illustrations. Naturally we have the urge to live up to this by providing stylish merchandise articles to every attendee. While we still stick to that idea we adhere to an approach that is different to most conferences.

Instead of assuming that everyone needs a shirt, you can pick an optional shirt while buying a ticket. Shirt cost 15 EUR each. By focusing on this approach, we gain several benefits:

  • Cost for merchandise production is shifted towards the individuals that really want it instead of distributing it on the shoulders of everyone.
  • We produce less waste. The probability is quite high that if someone wants a shirt and pays for it that they will wear it in the future.

2. Safety Buffer

Part of every budget should be a safety buffer. It is pretty unlikely, that the estimated costs will match the actual costs exactly. While we assumed worst case scenarios in most positions, having a buffer gives you peace of mind.

We still stand by the idea and the usefulness of such a buffer but decreased it in order to further reduce cost.

Our Approach to Sponsoring

We will have some sponsors on our conference. These sponsors pay a certain amount of money and in exchange get the chance to use our channels for advertising themselves – e.g. having a logo on our website or even a small booth at the venue.

Our main paradigm is to reduce the amount of sponsors to a bare minimum in order to keep the event community-like and provide a meaningful sponsoring to every company that participates.

We decided to slightly increase the number of sponsors compared to our initial assumptions. This enables us to further shift a fraction of the overall costs away from the admission fee.

Reaching the Destination of our Journey

After spending a fair share of our time with our heads down on the budget we arrived at the conclusion that we reached a pretty good optimum between affordable tickets and a pleasing experience with a fair treatment of everyone involved.

Regular tickets will cost 500 EUR each, Early Bird only 380 EUR. The latter is limited until February 15th 2019. We also offer Supporter tickets which cost 750 EUR. For each Supporter ticket, 250 EUR go into our solidarity ticket fund so that we can offer free or reduced tickets to people that can not afford a ticket but want to come anyway.

In case you want to but a ticket, head over to our Ticket Sales Page.

On the importance of User Feedback

To conclude we must say that those calculations and decisions where only possible because of the fantastic feedback that reached us so far. Our hope is to get more and more feedback throughout the road that lays ahead of us.

So in the spirit of user feedback, don't hesitate to drop us a message and let us know what you think. In addition to that, you can follow us on twitter, become a member of our meetup group or star us on github.

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Jakob Holderbaum

Founder of Think About!, Agile Software Developer & Consultant, Standard Nerd

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