The Psychology of Ticket Pricing - Calgary Event Planner

The Psychology of Ticket Pricing

Over the past 15 years working as an event planner, I have had the opportunity to produce a number of public events, tradeshows, and fundraisers; outside of my normal corporate social events. It was through these initiatives that I discovered the fascinating effect psychology can play in effectively pricing your events.

I’ve recently been invited to a public Opening Gala event here in Calgary for the opening of a large public structure. The cost per ticket is $750.00 which is what inspired this week post. What are some of the factors we need to keep in mind when pricing events and how can it be interpreted by our intended audiences.

Ticket Pricing

In general there are some guidelines that most corporate event planners adhere to when looking at how to price a ticket for a public event. Depending on the event we look at:

  • The break-even point for the event
  • How much profit the event hopes to earn
  • Cost comparisons of similar events in the market
  • Demographic make up
  • Perceived value of the overall experience

There is No Value in “Free”

There are exceptions to everything but generally, I caution my clients on the pitfalls of hosting a public event without an entrance fee. This strategy has its merits in some situations of course, but when you need to consider food and beverage requirements and venue size, “free” can start to become a lot more challenging. Attendees tend to be less invested in events they have no financial tie to. Sure, they may register but without any skin in the game, so to speak, attendees just aren’t that committed and organizers are often left facing much higher than normal rates of attrition.

Free Events

I did say there were exceptions! In fact, I have a client who generously pays for charitable events each year and in return suggests his attendees donate to his chosen charity as they would if they had been out for a special evening.

Interestingly, we’ve found different markets yield different results with this strategy. The donations in a market with a highly philanthropic attitude will always outperform those in any other market without that culture – regardless of which market is statistically wealthier. The lesson here is to know your audience and set realistic expectations. My client embraces this strategy and hosts these events for a number of reasons (all selfless in my opinion) but in making the events free he wants to ensure that people with any means can attend and donate within their means as opposed to having a ticket price that may be out of reach for many.

High Ticket = High Expectations

Finally, let’s talk about expectations – the thought that inspired this post from the beginning. When I was recently invited to a local Opening Gala (very generously by a dear friend and colleague) I decided to check out the website and was surprised – or perhaps more shocked – to see a dollar value of $750 per person! My immediate thoughts went to – what are we going to experience at this event that justifies a ticket price that high?

On the website for said event, a person left a comment that they were disappointed to see that a public event was charging these sorts of prices as it makes it completely unaffordable for the average person – But could that be part of the organizers intentions?  What I do know is that my interest is certainly piqued and I do have high expectations of an event that is charging such high prices and quite honestly, I don’t think I will be the only one that night.

In reality, there are all sorts of perceptions to consider when deciding how to best price any event. The key is to carefully consider your audience and how you want the event to be perceived. The psychology behind the pricing of any event can be powerful and should never be underestimated. Ultimately understanding your objective for holding the event in the first place will help too!

Looking for help with your next event? You can reach Jennifer James Events at

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