Making money with seminars, workshops and conferences is the final piece in our make money blogging series and one of the biggest payouts
Have you ever looked at the registration costs for seminars, workshops and conferences and thought the organizers must be making a fortune?
Seriously, working as an investment analyst, my boss used to send me to conferences that cost $2,000 just to attend. Even cheaper workshops I’ve been to started out at $250 and had between 20 and 30 people attending.
It seems like a lot more money than we’ve seen in other products in our make money blogging series. It’s certainly more than the $0.01 per page view average you get from pay-per-click advertising.
But can you make money with seminars and other events? How hard is it to organize a conference and how much does it cost to run a workshop?
You’ll notice that as we’ve progressed through the nine ways to make money blogging, the payoff has gotten bigger but so has the work involved.
This last method, making money on special events, is the finale of that trend. The Convention Industry Council reports that meetings and conferences generate $28 billion a year and that’s not counting smaller workshops or seminars that don’t get reported.
To get your chunk of that, you’ll need to go farther than you’ve gone with any of the other income sources.
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What Types of Events Make Money?
The types of events you can organize to make money vary on size of audience, number of days and engagement with participants.
At one end, you’ve got seminars which tend to be a one-day event between 90 minutes to a few hours or a full-day. You don’t have to stick with the traditional definition but seminars tend to also be more of a presentation and one-way type of event versus more activities and engagement in a workshop. The presentation format means seminars can be given to huge audiences even into the hundreds of people.
Usually a little longer than seminars, you’ve got boot camp events which are one- or two-day intensive workshops to teach an audience how to do something. There’s really no difference between workshops and ‘boot camps’. Calling it a boot camp rather than just a workshop implies that people will get a fast-paced, learning environment and a lot of value for their money. Workshops are usually limited to 25 people or less to make sure everyone gets a chance to participate.
At the extreme, you’ve got conferences which are multi-day events including multiple workshops and seminars. These include guest speakers and a lot more organization on your part but can bring in more sponsors and a larger audience.
Instead of organizing your own event, you might also consider acting as a freelance speaker or expert for an existing event. There are speaker bureaus that act as agents for speakers or you can reach out individually to event organizers in your niche. The advantage here is obvious with a more certain profit and much less work on your part organizing the event.
How Much Money Can You Make with Workshops and Seminars?
Surprisingly for as much work is involved, event organizers don’t make a lot of money. While you might be able to make several grand a month running a membership site, many event organizers struggle to make money especially on their first few events.
The problem is the costs which get inflated by speaker fees, location costs, catering and travel. We’ll cover some of the costs as well as how to save on a few of them. Besides watching costs, the key to making money with workshops and seminars often comes down to being able to sell add-on products.
Costs are going to vary depending on your type of event. You’ll have fewer costs with a seminar because people are only going to be there for a few hours. At the extreme, conference costs can start at $50,000 and reach into $100k+.
Seminar and Workshop Costs:
- Location costs will be higher for a seminar with a larger audience compared to a workshop. A small classroom at a hotel will generally start at a few hundred dollars in smaller cities and range up to a thousand. Larger rooms for a seminar audience will range from a thousand to a few thousand.
- The location may include use of audio-visual equipment like a projector and screen or you may have to rent it separately.
- Most seminars don’t include food though workshops may offer a lunch. Since the audience size at workshops is smaller, you can usually just take care of this the day of the event by calling out for delivery.
- Workbooks and printed material will be one of the larger costs for a workshop. Prices to print workbooks start at around $2.50 for a 40-page soft-cover book in color but you can get volume discounts.
- Larger seminars may book guest speakers though you’ll probably want to save money on your first events by speaking yourself. Speaker costs start at paying their expenses, including a one-night stay, but can easily range into the tens of thousands depending on speaker popularity. A relatively new or unknown speaker can usually be brought on for expenses if they’re offered the opportunity to upsell one of their products.
- Marketing will likely be your biggest expense for a seminar or workshop. Beyond your email list, you will want to advertise on Facebook and possibly in relevant magazines. Consider pairing your workshop with the webinar marketing strategy in our previous article. We’ll outline this later in the post but expect to spend at least a few thousand on marketing.
Add it all up and even small workshops generally cost at least $5,000 to organize. You may be able to defer some of these by seeking sponsors or vendors but most of your revenue will come from registrations and add-on sales.
Ticket pricing is lower for seminars but you can host many more people and hopefully sell more products. Seminar prices generally range from free to $150 per person. You’ll only be able to host around 25 people for a workshop so will need to charge $150 and higher to cover costs plus profit unless you can sell a lot of add-ons.
Most of the workshop organizers I know hope to make between $2,000 to $5,000 above costs per workshop. It’s not much but can add up if you host one per month and it’s a tax-deductible way to travel the country.
Hosting your event at an exotic locale has its advantages but it also comes at a higher cost. I know seminar organizers that count on the attraction for some beach paradise to draw more people but these locations also tend to be more expensive in venue fees.
Compared to conference costs, workshop costs seem like a bargain. The upside to conferences is that you can get a lot more out of sponsors and vendors which may be able to cover the entire cost.
- You can’t do all the speaking yourself at a conference. At a minimum, you’ll need workshop speakers which will cost travel and expenses for each. Most conferences include at least one keynote speaker which will run $5,000 and up.
- Most conferences offer breakfast for each day. Expect catering to cost from $20 per person per meal or more for larger meals.
- You’ll also need a staff to organize and manage a conference which will mean hourly wages and travel expenses.
- Location costs jump with a conference since you will need a larger room for the keynote speeches and several smaller rooms for breakout sessions. You will need the larger (ballroom) for vendors and exhibits. Expect even a small conference in a small city to exceed $10,000 for location costs. The website Hotelplanner.com offers an easy-to-use tool to estimate and book conference and workshop locations.
- Most hotels or conference locations will provide audio-visual resources like projectors and microphones…they better for the amount of money you are paying for the venue.
- Most conferences have at least one reception dinner or event and usually a welcome dinner and a farewell dinner. Reserving a restaurant, hors d’oeuvres and drinks will cost at least $2,000 and up.
- Your printing costs for workbooks may not be as high for conferences but other printing costs will far exceed workshop costs. While you can probably design all your workshop materials, you may need to hire it out for a conference.
- Booklet agendas and schedule
- Signage for hallways and inside the meeting rooms
- Vendor and press kits
- Session handouts
- Conference brochures, flyers and postcards
- Marketing for a conference is workshop costs times ten…or more. By the time you are ready to organize a conference, your community is likely much larger so you may be able to save on marketing by recruiting people to help spread the word. Still expect this to be your largest expense and easily into tens of thousands of dollars.
Don’t expect to be able to organize a conference for less than $50,000 and that’s a low estimate. The upside is that you can host hundreds of participants and vendors will pay top dollar to have access to the group for several days.
We’ll cover how to get vendors and sponsors later in the article. What you charge will vary on the audience you expect, prior event success, popularity of speakers and the audience’s industry. Even smaller conferences should be able to get at least $500 per vendor for small booths and $1,000 for larger booths.
Conference sponsorships are usually sold in levels, i.e. gold, silver and bronze. You will try to sell one or two sponsors to your highest level then four or five to the next level and so on. Sponsorships will include signage around the conference, a page in the agenda booklet and other mentions as well as letting the sponsor introduce themselves ahead of the keynote speech.
Sponsorships for small conferences generally start around $10,000 or more for your highest level and then ranging to a few thousand for the lowest level of sponsorship.
You will generally try to cover your conference costs through vendors and sponsorships with the registrations representing your profit. Making money on seminars and workshops though usually depends on selling add-on products or services.
There are two ways of thinking about this, either charging a very low registration fee and selling more products or charging more on registration and including more in the workshop. I’ve always preferred to give people as much value as possible, charging a higher registration but including lots of supplementary materials.
Some ideas on additional products you can sell at a seminar or workshop:
- Video courses or course packages including books, workbooks and videos
- Membership to a mastermind group that meets once a week/month for a period after the event
- Private coaching packages or consulting services
- Access to your membership site or forum
- Printed t-shirts, mugs or other memorabilia
How to Set up a Workshop or Seminar
Now that you know how much it costs to organize a workshop or seminar, you have to ask yourself a few questions.
- Is it worth it when you could create an online course and make just as much money?
- Are you organized enough to create an event? There are a lot of moving parts that all have to be managed months in advance.
- Do you enjoy public speaking and can you keep an audience’s attention for a few hours?
I’m not trying to talk you out of organizing an event and you can make money with boot camps, seminars and conferences. Even smaller workshops can make $10,000 each and successful conferences can net $50,000+ for organizers but it is a lot of work compared to the relative at-home ease with most of the other ways to make money blogging.
If you still want to organize an event, you’ll first want to sit down and define goals. What will participants get out of it? You’re asking people to spend at least a few hundred dollars so they better get some great value out of it.
It will help sell tickets and attract sponsors if your event is in a trending theme. Even if you’re planning an annual or regular event, try incorporating a trending topic to each event’s theme.
1) I know workshop organizers that started planning the location and other details before starting on the event workbook and course materials. You’ll have months from booking your location to the event date but I recommend you put your course materials together before starting anything else. What happens if developing your course material takes longer than expected or if you’re too busy organizing the event to get it done?
Seminar participants will only need a booklet with promotional ads on your products or sponsors and some content around the theme. Workshops should include a course book, a work book and potentially a digital copy of the presentation and templates.
2) You will need to book your location months in advance before you can start looking for speakers. You might be able to do some of the sponsorship outreach ahead of this but many sponsors will want to know what speakers you have lined up for the event.
There are two ideas here for your seminars and workshops. You can organize multiple destinations and market to a local audience or you can hold one event and market to a nationwide audience.
I haven’t seen anything to make me think either strategy is better than the other. Multiple locations make it easier for more people to attend on lower travel costs but are more expensive and time-consuming for you. The market for a single location is much larger but it’s harder to get people to attend on the higher travel costs.
Watch out for holidays or other events that might compete for your audience when booking. Late-spring or early-fall seems to be the best time for many seminars and workshops.
3) Will you have speakers at your event? Workshops are usually a one-person operation but seminars can benefit immensely by including multiple speakers. Different speakers and topics are going to attract different people so you expand your audience by bringing on another person or two.
Instead of bringing on a paid-speaker, consider partnering up with a few other people for your seminar. You not only divide the work organizing the event but you’ll tap into the other speakers’ audiences and attract more people to the event.
As for keynote speakers at conferences…personally, I hate them. I’ve rarely heard a keynote speech that I liked and these people charge $10k+ for the time. It’s a given that a conference will have a keynote but don’t be afraid to schedule a relatively unknown speaker if they can actually offer something of value to the audience.
4) Once you have speakers lined up, you can start to seek vendors and sponsors for the event. Workshops won’t usually draw a sponsor but you might be able to interest someone if you are using their software or tools. If nothing else, ask participants to sign up using your affiliate code.
You’ll get more interest from sponsors and vendors for seminars or conferences. Offer vendors the opportunity to rent booth space outside the room where speeches will be given. Both sponsors and vendors can be offered space in the event booklet as well as signage. Higher-level sponsors will also get introduction privileges before speeches.
Start by collecting materials from all the other conferences and industry publications in your topic. If someone is advertising in an industry magazine or sponsoring another conference, there’s a good chance they’ll be interested in yours.
If it’s your first seminar, you’ll have to pitch sponsors on your existing audience and its demographics. Having a few popular speakers on the team can go a long way in convincing sponsors that you’ll get a turnout for the event.
Ideally, you’d like to cover event costs with vendor and sponsor fees so put together a detailed estimate of costs before approaching sponsors with prices.
Starting months in advance will give you time to negotiate prices if vendors don’t bite at your first offer.
- Start at least $350 for vendor booth space at smaller seminars. Consider how many booths you can fit in public spaces and try to at least a third of your costs with vendors.
- Start at least $2,000 for upper-tier sponsors with at least 10 total sponsors across three levels.
5) Put together your event website or landing page. Your landing page for the event should be up at least a few months before the event so you can offer early-bird registration pricing. Consider having at least three pricing levels; early-bird, normal and late-registration. Being able to show how much someone saves by registering early is a great incentive to drive sales.
Don’t forget to figure out your refund policy. Can people get a full- or partial-refund if they ask before a certain date? Can they sell their tickets?
You should have a good idea of what it will cost to organize your event to guide your registration pricing but don’t forget to budget in something for profit. The worst you can do is underprice your event. A lot of hard work goes into workshops and seminars and you deserve to make money for it.
Don’t worry so much that the price is too high for participants. We talked in the article about making money as an online coach that people buy the transformation, not the information and it’s a good point to make here as well. Sell your event on how it will change people’s lives. Convince people that you can transform their life and they will enthusiastically spend a few hundred or more on the registration.
6) Once you’ve got a landing page with payment options, start working on your sales materials. Offline marketing can be a big part of your advertising for local events while nationwide events will usually advertise more through digital resources.
- Brochures and Print advertising for related magazines and local newspapers
- Learn how to write an irresistible press release and develop a press kit
- Consider a sales funnel that starts with Facebook ads and flows through a webinar or recorded videos
- Use retargeting to reach people that have visited your website or specific pages on your blog
- Consider creating an affiliate program and ask other bloggers in the niche to join. Standard payouts for affiliate programs range from 25% to 40% of the registration depending on price.
You need an overwhelming offer to package with your event, anything you can include to add value that isn’t reserved for add-on sales. This can include books, post-event mastermind groups, access to a private Facebook community and video courses.
7) Contact printers at least a month in advance to make sure they’ll have enough time. You’ll need to print out workbooks, agenda or seminar booklets, evaluation forms, signage and any other handouts.
8) Check with the location and catering one week prior to confirm participant count and make sure they will be ready.
9) Check all the audio-visual equipment and setup at the location the night before the event or at least a few hours ahead of time.
This list should get you started on organizing a smaller event like a seminar or workshop. There is a lot more that goes into conference organizing so you’ll want to have a few successful seminars under your belt before tackling something bigger.
How to Get People to come to your Seminar
We’ve covered different ways to draw customers in other parts of the make money blogging series so I’ll try not to repeat too much here. You’ll find that many of the best ways to get workshop and seminar attendees are the same as those to sell other high-value products like courses.
Your first step will be to brainstorm everywhere your target audience hangs out both digitally and offline. Digital hangouts include websites, social media groups and forums.
If you have an affiliate program for your seminar, reach out to the website and forum admin to place banners and text links. You can also offer to write guest posts that link to your landing page. Remember, guest posts should provide quality information and solve a problem by themselves. They shouldn’t rely on someone making a purchase to get value from the article.
Don’t immediately spam every forum you find. Try answering a few questions and becoming a member of the community for a few weeks before dropping hints that your seminar is coming up.
A location-based seminar opens up a whole new world of offline and targeted-online marketing. With the trend to digital marketing, you can get some great deals on offline marketing through local newspapers and publications.
You can also target locally through Facebook advertising. When you’re setting your audience for the post, include people living in and around the city where your seminar will be held.
Note that depending on how much you are charging for your seminar or how much you expect to make from each participant, some advertising may not be profitable. While you may be expecting each workshop attendee to pay the $250 registration and purchase an average of $100 in products, not all that money is profit.
Think of it like this,
- $5,000 total costs for your workshop, not including marketing
- You limit it to 25 students and expect $350 in revenue from each ($8,750)
- That leaves just $3,750 for advertising and profit
You will need to adjust the numbers for your workshop or seminar, playing around with costs and registration prices, but you can see the profit can be extremely thin if you’re talking about running a $2,500 ad campaign on Facebook and in local print.
Your digital ads will link to your landing page. If you are having trouble converting landing page visitors to attendees, you might try Steve Chou’s webinar funnel which works very well to convert people to high-value products. The free webinar draws people in to a relatively low-commitment product before selling them on the workshop.
Of course, you will want to market heavily to your existing email list and anyone that has visited your blog. These people are already familiar with the quality of your information and only need to be sold on the transformation potential of the seminar.
Making your event a partnership with other bloggers can really help spread costs and increase sales through your combined communities.
If you are going to be successful with events, especially larger conferences, you have to tap into the power of communities to bring people in. I attended my first blogger’s conference in 2015 solely because of the great community of people I found on the group’s Facebook page.
After the event, make sure you keep that sense of community going with a private Facebook group. If your event is annual, it will keep a constant base of attendees coming out. Even if you’re organizing one-off seminars or workshops, the group will attract new members to whom you can pitch your event.
There’s more risk and a lot more work in these high-value products like workshops, seminars and conferences. There is also the potential to make a lot more money with these events against the money you make on ebooks and PPC advertising. Give your blog time to grow, build a community and you can make money with seminars and workshops.