My friend Michael from Pennsylvania has started a Real Estate Meetup, and in a short time has attracted a sizeable high quality audience. His question is “What is the benefit of hosting a free event versus a paid event?”
Michael, this is a great question. There are two main ideas that I want to get across in answering this question.

We are familiar with the concept that you go to the marketplace and buy something, you are the customer, and the thing that you bought is the product. If you buy a cake, the cake is the product. If you buy Spanish lessons, the Spanish lessons are the product. We are also familiar with things that are offered for free in the marketplace. If you’ve ever used Facebook, or watched a YouTube video, you’re comfortable with the notion that you are getting something for free. In exchange for that, you’re allowing the owner of that platform to present a bunch of different advertisements. In that instance, while you are the consumer of the content, you are no longer the customer. You are the product. You are being used. The question is when does it cross a line and you start to become abused. In some circles this is called an “ethical bribe”. The advertiser offers you a free white paper in exchange for your email address. You know that you are going to receive more emails in the future with offers for some kind of product sales. You might want the free white paper and judge that the value you will get from the free report is worth the hassle of getting an occasional email. You are being used, and hopefully not going to be abused. 
The second idea I want to leave you with is that of culture. When you create a culture of education, of community, of abundance and you stick to that, then you weed out the takers. You know who those people are. They’re only in it for themselves. They are the ones who come in to your house and steal the bar of soap, who take an extra can of soda for the road from the buffet at the end of the meeting. They’re the ones who walk around and put their business card on every chair without asking the host of the event if its OK to do that. Sometimes the taker is the host of the event itself. We’ve all been to those events. They’re the ones who will lavish compliments upon you while they’re trying to sell you something, and then not pay any attention to you after they’ve made the sale. They’re off hunting for their next victim. With a paid event, you tend to weed out the takers from the audience. Those who are willing to make an investment of cash, are willing to pay for value. They’re not just in it for something free.