Conferences & Summits as Alternative Revenue

Are coworking spaces wildly profitable? Is it a lifestyle business?

– Sajid

Have you ever been to a co-working conference? I have attended many over the years.

There are three main conferences globally; GCUC conference which is now global, Coworking Europe and CU Asia.

These conferences are organised by co-working space operators and I have been wondering, why do they do it?

Are coworking spaces actually making money and if so, why are operators organizing conferences? It’s a huge job organizing a conference. I have  organised an event for 150 participants and even that was a substantial undertaking. I also was involved with the India conference, but it was such a challenge, I stopped after a year as I decided I did not want to make that a core business focus. At minimum organizing a conference is 3- 4 months work – marketing, bringing in sponsors, speakers, logistics, travel arrangements etc. And these conferences are running annually.

So why would coworking operators be putting in the time and effort?

I personally do not feel that it is altruistic. Perhaps they are generating alternative revenue. Looking at ticket prices – they are pretty steep – from €260 – €750 for Co-working Europe for example. Looking at what participants get from that entry fee, I can see from past conference programs a lot of the time the content is stretched out over 3 days where only one of the days is true conference and the rest of the time is padded with a lot of ‘unconference’ – sessions where participants come together around certain topics, or some workshops.

So conference organisers could be making money from ticket prices, but they could also be raising revenue from sponsorships.

Another motivation for running the conferences is of course networking opportunities, however I would question whether this is a main justification for conferences instead of monetary gain. There are different ways CEOs expand their footprint and while conferences are good for this, considering the huge undertaking of work involved to get them off the ground, they’re not always the preference. Neither Facebook nor WeWork are doing conferences, they just have their own events to grow their own ecosystem.

So maybe business is not as great as it seems and co-working space operators are running conferences as a way of generating alternative income.  If you’re looking into running a co-working space, perhaps you should be considering how you could supplement your co-working space with alternative revenue streams.

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