Some of you may recall last July (2009) MPI (Meeting Professionals International) rolled out a “Virtual Access Pass” (VAP) for its WEC (World Education Congress). The fee for this pass was $299.00 providing access to all their sessions virtually.
This move caused quite a controversy in the Events community, because of the aggressively high price tag for such an event, combined with a tough economy. Subsequently there was a surge of blog activity, unanimously denouncing this pricing model, as being short-sighted and non customer service focused. For a more complete synopsis of the discussions that took place back in July read this blog by Jeff hurt.
This past week, I decided to check into the possibility of acquiring a VAP for the upcoming “Meet Different” MPI Conference in Cancun, Mexico, taking place February 20-23, 2010. I visited the MPI website, and learned MPI is in fact offering a VAP for this program. The good news is MPI is now offering the VAP to its members free of charge. A VAP is available to non-members, but sadly, for the hefty price tag of $325.00.
Like many business professionals, I am provided financial support, by my company, to be a member of one industry organization. For many reasons, I have chosen PCMA (Professional Convention Management Association) as my organization of choice. Besides delivering superb education and terrific events PCMA also routinely offers “free” webinars for hot industry topics, and also, with the recent January 2010 Annual Meeting, free virtual access to their meeting content, regardless of membership status.
Ironically, I can purchase, if I wanted to, an MPI membership for $375.00 US, and then I would have access to a “free-of-charge” VAP for the Meet Different Conference. Unfortunately, as with many other people, my budget will not allow for that. Even if I could afford to purchase a membership, I wouldn’t. You see, I am not convinced that MPI is very forward thinking. I believe they are missing out on a huge opportunity to acquire new members and greater visibility of their organization.
Put yourself in my shoes for a moment … as a non-member, if I were offered a taste of MPI events, on a complimentary basis, or at least at a low price point, then I just might embrace the spirit of what they did and consider joining the organization. Instead, I am forced to make a choice, write a large check to attend an event virtually, without any notion of what real value I will receive, or choose not to participate.
There are many conferences and events, with virtual components, being offered on a complimentary basis. For example, the Virtual Edge Summit is being held over the same dates as the MPI program. I have registered (for free) for the Summit, and will attend that event, instead of MPI. The folks that put on the Virtual Edge Summit are thought leaders, and they understand customer service. I will focus my time and attention on their conferences and events. In fact, I will probably buy from them, in the future.
It seems to me, that MPI could have funded their virtual technology for this event, by leveraging sponsorship opportunities. Perhaps they are doing that too, I don’t know. Maybe they just need operating revenue, and that is the bottom line.
Question: What is your opinion of how this has been handled? Do you think organizations should put a hefty price tag on virtual content? How do you think these services should be funded? Please share your opinions!