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Do we need Early Bird tickets?

Have you ever missed an "early bird" ticket price? Ever wondered if they were really necessary?

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  1. (2011-11-22 Update! Scroll down!)

    I had an interesting conversation via twitter with Alan Francis. We've had a few awkward exchanges in the past (almost certainly a result of my too-often brash demeanour), but I think this one was hopefully constructive and interesting.

    To give you some context, I'm one of the organisers of Ruby Manor, a small conference with big ideas about what could be improved over the more typical conference experience. Alan is one of the organisers of the extremely successful Scottish Ruby Conference, which is very highly regarded in the Ruby world.

    Anyway, back to the story. We begin with the announcement of the upcoming release of tickets for the 2012 Scottish Ruby Conference...
  2. This intrigued me, because typically "Early-bird" means you bought a ticket a few days, weeks, or even months early. Conferences normally use it as a way to test demand, so they can alter plans (scaling up or down) appropriately.

    So what's the point if all the tickets become available on the same day? Scottish Ruby Conference has sold out completely, and quickly, for the last two years. Being "early" in this case just means being one of the lucky few who first click "YES YES ME ME" at the appointed time.

    Hence my question:
  3. Alan's right, in that this is the normal reason - cashflow. But as soon as you start selling *any* tickets, you start to grow a "cash cushion"; the only reason for discounting some is to drive those first sales. Normally it's because you're really not sure how many tickets you will sell, but as I noted above, you can almost smell the frenzy for Scottish Ruby Conference tickets when they are released. So I wonder:
  4. Now it sounds like the first time they ran the event, they hit some serious ticket problems:
  5. ... I don't envy that situation at all, and I probably would've done exactly the same things in that position.

    That said, there are many plausible (and I'd argue likely) reasons why they hit problems. Principally, the conference had no reputation at all. Unfortunately, reputation is (I believe) the principal motivator when an attendee is deciding whether or not to buy a conference ticket. If they heard the conference was great last year, they are far more likely to buy a ticket this year. After all, none of us want to miss out, right?

    It's also possible that the tickets weren't priced well enough for the first event, particularly given that the conference didn't have the foundation of reputation to play upon.

    The point is: even though they used the Early Bird mechanism, there were still problems, and that's because Early Bird ticket prices frame a guess that the organisers are making about demand for the conference.

    If you know demand is going to be high, then the reasons to make an Early Bird price available are far less compelling...
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