Offer tiered ticket rates
Don’t just have a single ticket price. Have a sliding scale that allows people to pay different prices depending on their financial situation.
A model I’ve seen at a couple of conferences (PyCon UK, DevOpsDays London) is to offer multiple tiers of ticket prices, and let people choose what’s appropriate for them.
Lots of conferences have attendees who are being sent by an employer, and companies tend to have deeper pockets – so you can charge higher prices for them. At the other end, you’ll have people who are just starting in the industry, and don’t have corporate backing – or maybe even a salary.
For example, your tiers might be:
- A corporate rate for people whose tickets are being paid for by their employer ($$$)
- An individual rate for people who are paying for tickets from their own pocket ($$)
- A rate for people who are unwaged or in full-time education ($)
- Tickets which are entirely free
I prefer tiers to “early bird rates” because somebody can get the affordable prices at any time. Early bird tickets disproportionately help people who already know about the conference, and know when tickets go on sale – which is likely to be people who’ve been before.
Usually I’ve seen these tiers run on an “honour” system – you just trust that people will pick the appropriate tier. You could police it, but that’s likely to create a lot of hassle and extra work, and may not be worth the small extra gains. (See also: libraries that save money by dropping late fines, because the cost of enforcement outweighs the fines.)
At Monki Gras, there’s a Diversity & Inclusion scholarship programme which gives away free tickets to people in underrepresented groups.
They get mentors and a welcome when they arrive, and then they’re treated as part of the main event.