Events: Free vs Paid

Dan Todd
6 min readJun 2, 2019

Live events has become one of the most powerful ways of generating leads and making sales both on the day and the future for almost every business model and niche — from real estate to ecommerce, marketing to self help.

In recent years several different event models have emerged and become the norm when it comes to live events:

  1. Free one day events — 5–6 hours of education with an upsell in between
  2. Paid three day events — sold at the free one day event
  3. Shorter 2–3 hour free events

However as with everything, these norms will soon change as people get too used to them — and there is already a lot of evidence that says people are all to used to the standard free one day event format now, making them less likely to be interested.

But my motto is test, measure and optimise. Not to simply copy what other’s do, and what seems to work. So let’s take a blank canvas and go over the pros and cons of both free and paid events, so you can make your mind up which model is best for you and your business.

Ultimately though, you want to try them both and let the results tell you what works for your audience.

Free — The Pros

  • Lots of interest i.e. leads. Because it’s free, there’s no real limitations for somebody to sign up to attend. So you’re going to get a lot more registrations, possibly 3 or 4 times more than a paid events registrations.
  • Can focus on getting lots into a room and strutting your stuff to sell. This model means you shouldn’t have to worry about getting a sufficient amount of people to attend as you’ll have lots of registrations. This leaves you to perfect your sale and sell as much as possible on the day.

Free — The Cons

  • Leads not of high quality — anyone can sign up regardless of how interested they are in you and your services. And even if they do attend, the attendees are typically used to get something for nothing, like they did with everything you teach them at the event. So they’re harder to sell to.
  • Less turn up — You can expect no more than 20–25% of your overall registrations to attend. Because it is free, they have nothing to lose if they don’t come. So if something comes up…