Digital Marketing and Social Media Strategy

Why pay for virtual conferences?

Why pay for a virtual conference?I keep seeing virtual conferences popping up. Think of it, you can virtually watch some of the best speakers in the world, all from the comfort of your own home or office. All this for just a few hundred dollars, or less, or more. Who cares?

The best speakers today have most of their presentations available online already. Now, to go see Seth Godin, Sir Ken Robinson, Gary Vee, or anyone else, speak in person – heck yes!

Why is this better?

By seeing a speaker in person, it means that you can actually say hello. You may be able to ask them a follow up question or exchange business cards. When you’re present, you can enjoy the energy of the crowd and the conversation that stems from the presentations.

The Halls

Ask any person who attends conferences like SXSW, where there are hundreds of incredible speakers, and they will tell you that the magic occurs in the halls.

It’s in the halls where you meet fellow attendees and shake their hands. You run in to old friends and make new ones in the halls. Your online relationships become solidified in the halls.

It’s not that I am against virtual conferences, I just don’t understand why anyone would pay for one?

Create Your Own FREE Virtual Conference

If you really want to save on the expenses associated with traveling, but you still want to see some amazing speakers, you should visit TED or Google Talks.

Heck, why not create your own FREE virtual conference and invite your friends and colleagues? Here are some great examples:

Marketing Over Coffee: Marketing Conference in a Box

Mitch Joel‘s: Pixelated new business conference

Bryan Eisenberg‘s: OnClick: The Online Marketing Virtual Conference Mashup

You can even use a free service like SynchTube, which allows you to watch synchronized YouTube videos with up to 50 other people. Use the chat window along the side as you’re watching the videos at the same time to interact with the other viewers.

Why pay for virtual?

Still, there is NOTHING like the real thing. I understand why we can’t always attend our favorite conferences, but I can’t understand why people are willing to pay for online conferences.

Have you paid for a virtual conference? Are there benefits that I am missing?


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  • Wow! Great list of resources. Much appreciated.

  • Wow! Great list of resources. Much appreciated.

  • Wow! Great list of resources. Much appreciated.

  • Thanks Matt.

  • Thanks for sharing those links Dave. And no, haven’t paid for a virtual one yet. The ones I’ve attended are free but of course, you have to sign up (email giveaway) and full of sponsors and ads everywhere on the “lounge area”. Those put up by MarketingProfs are pretty useful and with great speakers though. See you soon! ~Paul

  • Hi Dave,

    I believe that conferences built around continuing education and credits could benefit from paid virtual conferences. Often these types of conferences are supported by sponsorship’s, registration fees, and a small amount of institutional funding (often in the form of educators/employees donating time to staff the conference) -without charging for registration these conferences would not be able to exist.

    Think about this for a moment, continuing education conferences that offer mandatory credits for various industry segments (Medical & Law being the most common) are built around their attendees receiving credits through attending the conference and participating in the different sessions offered. By offering paid virtual conference registrations, the reach of these type of conferences could expand greatly. And, at a time when schools, business, and hospitals are undergoing major budget cuts -the saving’s on travel alone for these institutions may serve as reason enough for the industry to develop a stronger model for integrated virtual conferences.

    There are many different market segments for meetings, conferences, and conventions beyond the scope of SXSW. Don’t get me wrong, I earn a paycheck by planning conventions for a living and there most definitely is great value to attending a conference in person, Edward Boches had a great post about this recently and highlighted proximity as a factor for innovation (found here: ).

    One other factor to consider, is that A/V isn’t free and unless you have a dedicated A/V team (like TED) someone has to film the speakers, format it, and post it.



  • You raise some great points Chris. I suppose I was writing more of the marketing and social media type conferences that I frequent.

    I think you make a valid argument for paid virtual conferences for the industries you mentioned.

    Still, I do believe that a big part of the value of conferences is attendance, which results in networking. Real world networking results in new business, relationships and jobs.

    I’ll check out Edward’s post too. Thanks Chris.

  • Agreed. I don’t mind advertising if it makes the event free to attend.
    Thanks Paul.

  • Absolutely, I agree completely with the points you made, just wanted to show another perspective from a different market segment :)

  • And I really appreciate that Chris. That’s the point, I want to hear feedback and different perspectives.

    Thanks for taking the time.

  • We have created a successful company ( based almost purely on the model of producing paid virtual conferences (a.k.a webinars). For the past three years, we have provided high quality content for attendees in the fields of law, human resources and finance. They receive continuing education credits and relevant, timely content from qualified experts, without travel, without the hassle of being “sold to” and with the opportunity to interact with the speaker. Attendees do not attend these events looking for a job or trolling for new customers. They come to learn and earn continuing ed credits to maintain their professional credentials.