As soon as I walked in the room, I could feel the energy of the audience. There was a palpable buzz of anticipation and excitement in the air.
We were all waiting for Seth Godin to deliver the opening keynote at Copyblogger Media’s first-ever live event, Authority Intensive.
Everyone was excited about Seth, but as members of the Copyblogger community, we were also completely delighted to be together, in person, all in one room.
It felt like we were in the middle of a huge family reunion of people we really wanted to hang out with. People we actually like.
Live events. There’s nothing like them.
Getting people together in person can be an extraordinary experience — especially today, when so many of our conversations happen online.
Live events bring communities together in ways that simply can’t happen in the virtual world.
So if you’re looking to add live, in-person events to your business repertoire, how can you do it in a way that’s fun, profitable, and truly useful for your audience?
Here are eight practical tips to help you run your own in-person events — small or large.
Step #1: Incorporate live events into your business model
Before you begin to plan your event, make sure you know how a live, in-person experience could fit into your current business model.
You need to decide how a live event could complement your current work.
Will a conference help your audience network and connect with each other? Do you want to make money from the event by charging for tickets or selling from the stage?
It’s important to set clear goals for your event during the very first stage of your planning process, because it makes your subsequent decision-making far easier. Your event goals will influence the size of your event, your lead time for planning, and your speaker choices.
Step #2: Determine the size of your event
Next up, decide how big you’d like the event to be.
When you picture your event, do you envision a large event with lots of speakers? Or do you see an intimate workshop, with a small group of people doing interactive, hands-on exercises?
Trust your gut. You know your audience better than anyone else, and you will have a good sense of what will work for them.
She’s clear on her event goals, too. She helps attendees solve their most pressing blogging problems and grow their businesses tenfold within a year.
Megan Cain, who runs a business called The Creative Vegetable Gardener, also specializes in hosting small classes and workshops. Her advice for running live events is:
Start small! Your first step could be a class, workshop, or meet-up for blog readers. I like to partner with other organizations that will help promote my classes and handle registrations for me. I teach at my local food co-op and botanical garden, and they both have newsletters that go out to thousands of people.
Step #3: Start planning as far in advance as possible
Venues and caterers book up fast, so begin planning early — especially for larger events.
Jessica Commins, Executive Vice President of Operations for Copyblogger Media (and one of the primary event planners for Copyblogger’s Authority Intensive 2014 and Authority Rainmaker 2015) says:
Start early and remain flexible. For smaller events, you can likely get away with a few months of lead time. But if you are booking more than a few speakers and plan to offer more than 50 tickets, I strongly recommend picking a date that’s at least six months out from your first day of planning.
You need to give your audience plenty of notice, too. For large events, you may want to send a “save the date” announcement up to a year in advance.
Step #4: Select your speakers thoughtfully
Choosing your speakers is a huge part of running successful events, and you’ve got a wide range of potential choices.
Do you need to host big-name keynote speakers? Or will your audience expect you to personally deliver most of the content?
If you’re going to book outside speakers, think about your event goals and your audience expectations, and then develop your criteria for speaker selection.
Brian Clark, founder and CEO of Copyblogger Media, who selects the speakers for the Authority conferences, has two requirements. All the speakers need to:
- Know what they are talking about, because they have demonstrated their knowledge and expertise publicly.
- Be able to effectively teach others what they know and do.
With those criteria, we’re able to select the finest authorities out there. Some are well-known, and some are hidden gems that we personally follow because we know they walk their own talk.
Once you’ve got your criteria for speakers, you’re ready to begin your search. Consider these speaker sources:
- Authors of your favorite books or blogs
- Speaker associations
- Speakers at other events
- Celebrities or experts in your industry
Step #5: Create a plan for attracting attendees
You need to develop a plan for promoting your event, especially if you’re running a large conference.
Business coach Tommi Wolfe, who runs several medium-to-large-sized conferences every year, says:
Don’t underestimate the work required to fill your events. There is skill and know-how involved, and it is very competitive.
Make sure to set realistic expectations, too. If you have a small audience, it may be difficult to fill a large room. You may want to start with a smaller event, and grow from there.
Step #6: Delegate tasks to others
When you’re running a live event — especially a large one — there are going to be tasks that need to be done that you can’t (or don’t want to) do.
If you can afford it, hire some assistance. There are tons of professionals who help run live events — event planners, temporary staff to help with registrations, or even event contract negotiators.
Plan to get the help you need so you can maintain your sanity and keep everything running smoothly during your event.
Step #7: Consider selling during or after the event
When you established your event goals, did you decide you want to make some money from your event? If so, perhaps make an offer to your event participants.
- Offer an upsell to attendees, like a mastermind or group-coaching program.
- Sell a small online class that is a logical “next step” for attendees.
- Sell tickets to your next live event.
If you plan on holding an annual conference, you can pre-sell tickets to next year’s event on your last day. If you’ve done your job well and people love your conference, your attendees will happily pay to secure a ticket for next year.
Step #8: Learn from your mistakes
Get feedback from your attendees at the end of your event. You can hand out a simple evaluation form to all your attendees or use an online survey tool like SurveyMonkey.
You’ll get valuable information from your attendees’ feedback — what worked, what didn’t, which speakers rocked, and which ones bombed.
You should also examine your original event goals and see if you met them. Then decide if you want to plan another in-person workshop, meeting, or conference.
Start planning your own in-person event today
As a smart content marketer, you know how to grow your community online and listen to what they need. So if you’ve heard that your audience wants to attend an in-person event (and you think hosting an event could potentially benefit your business), then start planning and brainstorming ideas.
There are many ways to fit events into your business goals and provide amazing inspiration, partnership-building opportunities, and other services to your attendees. It may be the best thing you’ve ever done for your community and your business.
Get started today. Your standing ovation awaits.
How will you incorporate a live, in-person event into your business model?
Share your experiences attending or hosting events over on LinkedIn …
And we hope to see you this year at Authority Rainmaker in Denver, Colorado, May 13–15, 2015!