Zoom Joins the Paid Virtual Event Industry

By Bruce Harpham Thursday, October 22, 2020

Zoom is launching a paid event product called OnZoom. Launching in mid-October 2020, Zoom's product can be used to sell tickets to large and small events. As more conferences and entertainment events shift online, Zoom is jumping on the virtual event bandwagon.

What Does OnZoom Offer?

Zoom's approach to the paid event industry has two related offerings. First, the company has a marketplace where event organizers can offer events through multiple categories.

So far, event organizers on the platform include relatively small group events.

There is one event available in the Education & Family category as of October 21: an event focused on California's Humboldt Redwoods State Park. In the Entertainment & Visual Arts, offered events include Portrait Drawing Workshop and Improv comedy events. The Food & Drink category includes events providing instruction on making cocktails, knife skills for cooking, and breakfast cooking.

The at-home virtual fitness market has also attracted Zoom's interest. OnZoom's fitness category includes strength training, pilates, and wellness classes.

Today, OnZoom includes both free and paid tickets. So far, paid ticket prices range from $5 to $35 per person, depending on the event. Zoom currently offers refunds up to one hour before the virtual event starts to maximize flexibility for attendees.

OnZoom's Live Event Hosts Require Zoom's Approval

Zoom's live event offering is more than a directory of events. Unlike its video conferencing service, which anybody can use, the company controls the experience. Specifically, live event hosts must have a paid Zoom account. If Zoom approves the event host, live events can be free or paid. Payments are processed through PayPal, which typically charges approximately 2.9% of each sale in fees.

Additional OnZoom events are offered under the headings of Home & Lifestyle, Community & Spirituality, and Other.

OnZoom Is Also Coming for the Virtual Charitable Event

In 2020, many charitable organizations are moving events online. This trend includes churches with virtual worship services and other organizations holding silent auctions. To help these organizations, Zoom has a supportive policy: "100% of the funds raised go to the selected nonprofit 501(c)(3). Zoom will cover all transaction costs."

Hardware Companies Poised for Growth Thanks to Zoom

Unlike traditional Zoom video conferencing sessions, Zoom recommends specific hardware for live events. The company's rationale for the recommendation is that events that emphasize movement like a fitness class need a different class of video and audio.

Zoom currently recommends products from the following hardware products:

  • Neat: This company offers three hardware products designed to make Zoom calls better. For example, the company's Board product ($4,500) makes it easy to interact with a panel of four people on a large screen.
  • Poly: Poly's products for Zoom include headsets, phones, and video. The video package is designed to create a specialized Zoom meeting room.
  • DTEN: DTEN's offering related to Zoom include 55" and 77" digital displays, which start at $4,329.

Paying several thousand dollars to offer a high-end Zoom event experience may be a good fit for corporate event organizers. So far, there is limited evidence that corporations are going to use OnZoom's event functionality for company events at this point.

How Much Is the Paid Virtual Event Industry Worth Today?

In 2019, over $70 billion were spent on the virtual event industry, according to Forbes. That figure is estimated to grow substantially in 2020 as traditional events move online. With Zoom's brand recognition in video conferencing, the company may find itself on the shortlist for event organizers. However, events are different from Zoom's prior business. There are plenty of other companies active in the event software industry.

Who Is Zoom Competing Against in the Virtual Event Industry?

There are several types of companies active in the virtual event industry. InEvent, founded in 2016, has offered event software for years. InEvent's offerings start at less than $2,000, which makes it competitive compared to the cost of booking a hotel in a major city. There is also Cvent, an event software platform used by ReMax, Penn State, and Kaiser Permanente. Overall, more than 400 event management software applications help with virtual lobbies, attendee management, and other needs.

The Prospects for Paid Virtual Events After the Pandemic

The elephant in the room for Zoom and other companies betting on virtual events is whether traditional events will make a comeback. For example, some live events like professional sports require a large group of people in the same place at the same time. It is tough to imagine events like the Super Bowl or Olympic Games going virtual only. However, there are likely many smaller business and fitness virtual events in 2020 and beyond.

About the Author


Headshot of Bruce Harpham

Bruce Harpham is an author and marketing consultant based in Canada. His first book "Project Managers At Work" shared real-world success lessons from NASA, Google, and other organizations. His articles have been published in CIO.com, InfoWorld, Canadian Business, and other organizations. Visit BruceHarpham.com for articles, interviews with tech leaders, and updates on future books.

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