Getting your business seen is tough enough, but if you incorporate live events into your strategy, you’ll be able toRead More
About three years ago in 2015, I hosted my first "event" in the living room of my tiny apartment in a tiny mountain town.
I had hosted friends before, and had made all kinds of food for potluck-style events, but it had been a while since I had hosted a larger group of people on my own. And, to be honest, it took me about three days to plan a menu that I thought would feed 10 people appropriately for the length of the event, would satisfy a number of dietary restrictions, and also, didn't make me want to lose my damn mind.
Because I often host parties with enough consumables that are somewhere in the middle of making FAR too much food for anyone to ever be able to consume and a reasonable amount for a small heathen army (I'm Italian, what can I say), I always plan for leftovers at the end of an event.
The key to having leftovers is having variety, SO I've put together my most trustworthy menu for a small, 40 - 50 person networking or cocktail event. Depending on where you live, this menu will cost between $200 - $300, (which is under $10 per person), and will feed even the most varied palettes.
Because menu planning can take a TON of brain space and if you'd rather focus your attention on other things (like hosting your people, creating killer content, and not blowing your event's budget), I encourage you to use this menu to make it WAY easy for you to plan the food at your next casual event.
FYI - the menu that I created during that first event three years ago is still the staple menu that I use, partially because it has very little assembly required and also because it satisfies a number of dietary restrictions for a very picky crowd. And it looks damn nice on a few Target serving platters, knowwhatimean?
If you want to download your Sample Menu in PDF format along with a grocery list, drop your email below and I'll send you a copy!
The Best Menu Ever
**It's surprisingly simple, but I always use the grocery list below to make this menu:
Vegetable Crudite with Hummus
Meat and cheese board with crackers and fruit
Chips and Salsa
Various popcorns and other chips
M + Ms (for a treat)
Wine, Beer, and La Croix
(serves 40 - 50 people for an early cocktail party)
5 bottles of red wine (if possible, equal to or less than $10/bottle)
5 bottles of white wine (if possible, equal to or less than $10/bottle)
2 cases of beer (those Big Sky Brewing Sampler mixed packs for $25 are great!)
1 pallet of La Croix water
2 bags of ice
Cut salami (packaged is fine)
Cut pepperoni (packaged is fine)
1 pack cubes of cheese (cheddar, American, or Monterrey Jack is good...pre-sliced or pre-cubed is better!)
1 Brie wheel
Water crackers/Stoneground wheat thins
Apples (4 is enough)
Grapes (1 big bag)
Red / Orange Bell Peppers
Chedder Popcorn (or similar)
M+Ms (peanut if possible)
Don't forget to also have...
4 - 6 serving platters
6 - 8 bowls
Cutting board and knives
Tubs for beer/La Croix to stay cold
Disposable silverware, plates, and napkins
And, a few tips...
Keep It Simple
After spending THREE YEARS hosting smaller networking events with snacks, I definitely recommend that you forget any grandiose plans of toasting almonds to go over a homemade strawberry shortcake and remember that people like very, very simple things (nobody complains if the snacks you serve them are "too simple").
You absolutely can go nuts with the food but if you're a) on a budget and b) running out of time, having this go-to list (that I repeat for almost every event that I do myself) and knowing which meats and cheeses go on which platter and how many bottles of wine to buy is one more thing you can check off your To Do list. You barely had to spend any energy! Hooray for you!
Keep Dietary Restrictions in Mind
I live in Montana, so we definitely have more of a "meat and potatoes" crowd here, but having experimented with almost every diet in the world, the above menu satisfies many a dietary need. The fruits and veggies satisfy vegans, vegetarians, and paleo friends, while the Italian meats and cheeses are decadent enough for our primarily meat and potatoes crowd. Sometimes, I'll switch out all the crackers for gluten-free crackers just so nothing is offensive to any allergies, but otherwise, this menu itself is well-rounded for a variety of diets.
If you know your crowd a little bit better, you can switch up some of the chips and popcorn style items with olives and pickles, but since popcorn and chips are airy and filling, I tend to choose those over some of the smaller items.
Craft Your Event Around a Specific Time of Day
This menu above is purposely for an event from about 4pm - 7pm. After that is dinner time and you'll either have to add something a little more filling, or double the amount of items so that people feel satisfied.
That said, try to avoid hosting events in the middle of dinner, or your food budget will be much higher.
Don't Forget Serving Platters and Utensils
One of the things that I constantly forget is how many serving dishes or bowls that I'll need, especially if I'm doing the event off-site and don't have the opportunity to grab another dish like I would if I were at my house. On the PDF below, I list out what supplies you'll need to have for serving, so I encourage you to download this freebie and use it for your next event!
Download your free PDF sample menu, grocery list, and supply list, and cross "plan menu for event" off your To Do list!
This is the second post in a series about finding, creating, and growing a community of people who have your back, in business or in life. Whether it’s online or in-person, free or paid, having a community of people who understand and support you can move you toward your goals faster than ever. To read the first post in this series, click here.
If you were here last week, you’ll remember that I mentioned making a list of the badass people that you want to be a part of your company’s/life’s steering committee. A steering committee is another word for an advisory board, but another way to think about it is to choose the people that you would want to bounce ideas off of, and who would have a good perspective on issues you may be facing.
So now that you have a list of amazing people that you’d love to be in community with, here’s what you should do next to actually get them in a room with you.
Decide if you prefer an in-person community or an online community.
I’m a BIG fan of in-person communities, especially as an online entrepreneur, because I work at home and I live alone, and I’m an extrovert. I strongly believe that today, with so many more online entrepreneurs and people working remotely, that we're losing our sense of community in-person, and people are CRAVING better in-person experiences. It's INSANE the amount of people who are frustrated with the online landscape, and use in-person connections to really bolster and improve their businesses. If you're not meeting up or hosting in person events, then you're not truly building a community of people who both support YOU and are supported BY YOU.
For me (and most entrepreneurs), having a group of people that I can get together with once a month in-person, and then have supplementary, 1:1 meetings with throughout the month if I need more support, is crucial to my own sanity.
Plus, expanding into a local market, getting to know other creatives in my town, and getting a lens on what other people are doing to make their businesses work locally is super important for my own marketing and growth efforts.
On the other hand, maybe you like never having to exit your house and the thought of braving public transportation or after-work traffic gives you hives. Or, maybe just the thought of getting out of yoga pants is not in your business plan.
Plus, you live in a rural community that doesn’t have many people doing what you’re doing OR you don’t live in an epicenter of creativity and innovation, and want outside perspectives. A digital community with people from all over the world may be for you.
There are positives and negatives to both types of groups (though in-person definitely drives faster connections and results), but once you decide which you prefer, it’s important that you as the organizer commit to being the driving force behind your gatherings.
Choose about 5 - 6 people from your list that you know that don’t really know each other.
One of the best ways to actually get buy-in for a community is to specifically invite people with the promise that they’ll meet other, vetted, equally-cool people.
I always see on Facebook or in groups people saying “Anyone want to join a mastermind with me? Email for details!”
That’s not a great way of forming a strong community of supporters. You want an A-Team, and while some people that respond to a call like that may be on the A-Team, wouldn’t it be better if you hand-picked your A-Team instead?
Plus, you know what makes people jump on board to something even faster than you can invite them? A personalized invitation that says they’ve been specifically chosen. AND that they will expand their contacts, since they won’t really know anyone else in the group.
Send them an email, detailing your goals and the outcomes you’d like to achieve.
Being invited to a group is always super flattering and, if you've picked your people correctly, they'll respond enthusiastically. Make sure you send these emails individually instead of in a blast format. It’s always better to show a little TLC to people, and it will create even more goodwill and excitement around joining your community.
Setting expectations is crucial, so be sure to include the date, time and location of your meeting, a tentative format of the meeting, and why you've picked them to be a part of the group. People will have a more enthusiastic response if you outline expectations accordingly, and they'll likely be more inclined to join.
Not a great writer? Scared to reach out? I've done the hard work for you because...I wrote you a script to make it easier to start reaching out!
I wrote you a script to make this easier! Enter your info below to download it!
And honestly, this is the PERFECT way to get started with your business, too. The number one thing that I realized about being a successful business owner is that you constantly have to tell people who you are. If you're afraid to reach out to ask people to come to a PAID event, try starting by asking them to come to a free event. Once you build that muscle, it gets easier and easier. What are you waiting for?
What to do if someone says no or never responds.
Don’t take it personally! We are all busy, and sometimes people need different communities at different times in their lives. However, I suspect, if you follow this model, not many people will say no (which is why I only recommend asking 5 -6 people to start with).
Want a script to make this all a little easier? Drop your info below and snag your script now!
This is the first post in a series about building an in-person community in your geographical location. There is a metric ton of information about how to build a community online, but online communities often don't fill the void of entrepreneurial loneliness (which is a real thing), and I want us to have support as we go out there and change the world.
August 2014 was quite possibly the hardest month that I’ve ever had professionally (and when you work for yourself, professional sort of becomes personal, so it could be said it was the hardest month in recent memory).
I remember lying face up on my bed daily, staring at the ceiling, in the middle of the work day, alternating between crying and dry heaving into my kitchen sink. As a relatively fresh business owner, I debated quitting, moving back home to New York, and finding a “real job” like everyone else I knew, almost before my business even got out of its infancy.
I had just broken up with my long-term boyfriend, was struggling to finance, well, everything, I was thousands of miles away from family, and I felt totally directionless.
The people who were normally my support system listened, but as non-business owners, had no practical advice to give.
My colleagues from back in New York sent me online job postings.
My brother even offered to pay my moving costs from Montana, where I was living, back to New York.
Instead, I took a six-week road trip around the east coast to get my bearings and truly make a decision about my next step (because if nothing else, I knew that a six-week road trip would be an excellent plot point in whatever my story became).
Somewhere along the way, I stopped in a small town in North Carolina to attend a conference that I had heard about online. The agenda was vague and the premise wasn’t clearly defined, but I’d heard good things from people I trusted. Most of the attendees were in various stages of business ownership and despite low expectations, when I walked out of the hotel three days later, I felt an overwhelming sense of belonging that I hadn’t felt in my nearly one year of captaining my own professional ship. These people had been to the front lines of life. And they came back to tell deeply personal, yet valorous stories about their experiences.
I knew these were the sort of people I needed more of in my life. But I wanted them to be there every day, in person, instead of a million miles away.
On my way north to Washington, DC, I drafted an email to 10 other women I knew that lived in my town.
“Hey,” it read… “I want to get together to talk about how hard it is to be a business owner. To create a group of people we can bounce ideas off of. To feel supported when it’s hard. Would you want to be a part of it?”
Why I Needed to Find My Community
Humans, at our very core, crave connection. Even before social media, we’ve been looking for ways to simply be around other humans, within the boundaries and culture of our time period. Think about bowling leagues of the fifties and Tupperware parties of the eighties.
And while Facebook groups can be a great source of connection to those of us who are isolated in small towns or lonely in big cities, there’s not a lot that a Facebook group can do when you’re lying face up on your bed, alternating between tears and dry heaves.
We want to know that our loneliness is not unique, and the only way we can do that is to get positive proof from others that they at one point or another have felt the way we feel too. So when I proposed the idea of an in-person-business-owner’s-consortium-of-sorts, I wasn’t surprised when every single person emailed me back and said yes.
Over the course of the next two years, our Creative Lady Club met regularly to discuss our growth, our challenges, our frustrations, and our triumphs. We became much more than a group of business owners — we helped each other promote our services, we attended each other’s events, we became each other’s clients.
We’re each other’s first line of defense against all the icky things that life can throw at us. And man, it’s a nice feeling to have a team of people in the foxholes with you. And while this phenomenon is not new (think of every professional trade organization ever…they all have chapters to do exactly this), there’s something different about the way this particular generation approaches community-based groups.
Communities today are a place for total honesty. They’re a place for people to feel like the walls can come down, where they can be themselves, and where they are encouraged to share the truths of their lives, their businesses, their missions, and their dreams.
My own business mission is "to create spaces where people feel that they truly belong." I firmly believe that your network is your net worth and if you can be the person who works to build that community, who creates those safe spaces, who works hard to create consistency (which creates safety and belonging), it will change your business and your life.
Over the next week, we are going to talk about why building a tribe of people who have your back is the single greatest thing you can do for your business, and why every successful company has one, from a HUGE community to a very small, personal board of directors.
In this series, we’ll talk about how to find the right people, how to approach them, and how to keep your meetings productive and actionable. We’ll talk about the nitty gritty behind structuring meetings and troubleshooting sensitive discussion topics.
But for now, here’s an action step (and the exact first step that I take when I do…well, anything in my business and personal life) to help get you started before the next post in this series:
Make a list of 10 people in your city, state, or town that you would want on your company’s or life’s hypothetical steering committee.
Make sure they're accessible in-person. Maybe they can even meet you for coffee once a week or once a month.
That’s it. Just write the list down. Identify women and men across industries and across generations. Pick leaders who you someday want to be or ones in whom you identify enormous potential. Pick your peers that you respect and people whose legacy you admire.
Write it down. Tape it on the wall. And then tune in next week to read about what to do once you have this list of badass people at your fingertips.
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One of my biggest goals in 2018 (and 2017. And 2016. Hey, sometimes it takes us a little bit of time to get things done) was to launch a course about event planning. The reality is that, as an event manager, I personally can only take 5-6 client a year (fewer if my clients have lots of events), so that leaves about 5000 people (based on my monthly traffic) who I can’t help except with free blog posts. I LOVE blog content, but sometimes, unless you get the full picture linear-ly, it’s hard to understand really WHY live events are valuable and how we can make them useful for us, our businesses, and our clients.
So, with that in mind, sometime about last December, I decided that I was going to get some help launching my course for 2018. I signed up for an accelerator program to help kick my butt into gear.
Little did I know that the experience of creating the abstract of the course, understanding my audience, working on the launch AND creating the content, was going to be transformational.
Truth be told, I had launched before (8 times, with the Boss Lady Bash), but I hadn’t been one to focus on what it looks like to launch a higher priced product. The Boss Lady Bash ticket averages about $60 per person, which is expensive for my town, but not prohibitive. However, Events that Convert was $549 (or $699 if purchased after the Early Bird pricing), which was much more of an investment than anything other than my 1:1 work.
SO! Today, I want to show you the numbers behind the launch, a rough outline of my invested time and energy, and what I learned in the process.
Students gained: 15
Subscribers gained (since Jan 1, 2018, when I started the course): 478
Subscribers lost (since Jan 1, 2018 for comparison purposes): 400+**
I can’t figure out how to get an exact number in ConvertKit, but I watched my numbers go down each week, and total, it was about 350 - 400 who opted out.
Average Weekly Hours: About 12 hours per week**
**Ugh, I actually have no idea about this. I don’t track my time (which is an issue as a service-based business owner), but our group calls averaged about 75 minutes (some were 1 hour some were 90 minutes), and I spent about 30 - 60 minutes in our group chat/Facebook group. Including weekly homework at 5-10 hours, plus launch week at roughly 40 hours, I’m going to estimate about 120 hours all in for the 10 weeks of the course pre-build and launch. Probably more if we count in student support going forward DURING the launch.
Watch my facebook live on my launch lessons learned!
People will not want the “new you.”
I lost almost 500 subscribers (definitely over 400). I got a lot of email responses from people who were bothered by the multiple emails. I totally get that stuff, and I completely understand it from a client standpoint, and I also know that the people who are interested in upping their game through events, or speaking, or networking are getting incredible value.
And to be honest, it suuuuuuuuucked to field those emails. It felt like I was doing something wrong and had messed up and ruined someone’s day. Objectively, I know that’s not actually true, but it was definitely hard to receive while also trying to be positive about how awesome the course is.
Urgency is HUGE. Use it.
After spending almost two months preparing for this launch, I had sold about one course in the first two days. I cried for about two hours, and then decided that I wasn’t going to give up quite yet.
Good thing I didn’t throw in the towel because about 9 people purchased in the 6 hours leading up to the price increase. And three people purchased after the cart closed! So if you’re not using deadlines for your product sales, product launches, and event launches, I’d highly recommend adding those into your plan ASAP.
Longer launches are more stressful than time-crunched launches.
If you watched my Instagram Stories during the launch, you’d know that immediately after this launch I got SUPER sick. I was hacking up a lung and basically stayed in bed for three days. It was miserable, but all the energy that I had put into this launch, and the nervousness that I felt was super compressed. It made for a lot of late nights, early mornings, last minute changes, and launching pivots.
If I had to do that for more than 7 days? I would have been a wreck. One of the things that I’ve been really lucky with is the sale of Boss Lady Bash tickets, and even tickets to the Athena Conference when I ran that. Both events were super consistent with sales, and I never felt a huge lull (or they sold out super quickly). However, the longer you keep a cart open, the more stressed you are to sell tickets, so I would highly, highly recommend having start and end dates for all your launches (events included) so that you can mitigate your stress levels.
You will learn more than you ever thought possible.
Oh man, if you had asked me before last week if I could whip up a webinar, plus all the tech, plus my slides in two hours, I would have said “Uh, nope.” But given the momentum, I was figuring out things left and right. Now, I understand how to install a chat into my website, I can lightly code some design elements, and am currently figuring out how to do a two-person webinar with a screen share (and not paying a million dollars for WebinarJam).
Sound confusing? Until about a month ago, I’d agree with you! But the learning experience alone was worth the time investment, and now I feel so much more capable than I ever have with my tech.
I am doing a GREAT job of writing to my audience.
One thing that was amazing (and a little intimidating) was the amount of responses I got from my emails that I sent (even when I sent, like, 13 of them). I felt super connected to people who are trying to do their best to plan events, and it was really fun to respond to them all to hear about what they were struggling with.
I always get compliments on my writing, which is so flattering, but after this launch, I finally realized that people do actually like having me in their inbox. Which means, more blog posts! More videos! More content! Bring it on!
I am NOT doing a great job of giving my audience consistency and sharing my lessons learned after each event for myself and my clients.
And here’s the rub. I got a lot of great feedback, but I also got feedback from people who didn’t remember who I was and what I did.
If there is ONE lesson that I want to take away from this, it’s that consistency MATTERS. My favorite bloggers and business owners? They’re consistent. I see them on social media, in my inbox, and on their blogs/YouTube channels. New content is so refreshing, as is recycled content. So, +1 for consistency.
PHEW! That was a ton of information. Now I want to hear from you.
What’s the hardest part about launching for you (whether an event or a product)? Let me know your lessons learned OR what’s holding you back in the comments below!
So you want to plan your first live event, but you've got about a million excuses as to why you're not ready to host.
It feels overwhelming, you don't think anyone will show up, you're afraid you're going to lose a ton of money...the list goes on.
I get it. It's hard to want to even THINK about approaching a big project like hosting an event, without understanding whether or not it will be a success. In today's video, I'm calming some of those fears, to show you that ANYONE can host a live event, as long as you have one or more of these assets to pull from.
Need help planning? Grab your FREE cheat sheet below.
Do you have an audience or partners that you could work with?
Most of the time, people think that they need to do the heavy lifting of marketing, planning, and creating an offer at the event. While it's definitely important for you to be the main presenter of the event, I think the smartest thing to do is to work with partners who need YOUR content, and can help bring their audience.
You can either host an event for their audience, or you can ask your partners to work with you to help you market and sell tickets. For me, this looks like a LOT of pre-written emails and social media content that I give to my partners.
When I hosted my first event (and when I've hosted events since), I always reach out to similar groups, who may need access to the event that I'm hosting. Through that, lots of people opted to stay a part of my community, and then it started building all on its own.
Do you have a pre-packaged product to sell?
This one is important, because you'll need to make sure that the event that your hosting directly correlates to some sort of service or product that you offer. My BIGGEST mistake after my first event was that I hosted an event for 50 women...but didn't have any way to serve them except to tell them to come to my next event. If I had been wiser, I would have created some sort of course or program for some of them to enroll in around business building...be ye not as naive as me please!
Do you have 1-2 things to teach?
This seems like a no-brainer, but so many people get caught up in the "I want to be in a room full of my clients and help them!" that they don't actually think of HOW or WHAT they're going to teach to their students. OR they say "I'm going to teach 5-10 new concepts" which is WAY too many.
Make sure that you have one or two things to teach people. The different with teaching a live event vs. teaching on a webinar or online is that people have SO many questions. They want to jump in, they want to comment on what other people said, they want to have side conversations...so be sure that when you're planning to teach, you're not giving away too much content, and instead, you leave lots of space for questions.
Are you able to connect people?
My first event was not at all about me. It was encouraging people to get to know each other and ask the hard questions about what it's like to be a business owner. If you don't think you have an opportunity to teach your craft yet, that's okay! You can create an event that helps people make the connections that they usually so desperately want. If you have people sign up for the event and the put them into pre-organized groups, where they get to know each other a little bit better, that can often position you as a thought leader, even if you don't necessarily have anything to teach.
Want my cheat sheet of how to plan, market, and execute your live event?
Drop your email below!
Is your business ready to host a live event? If so, let me know by clicking below.
1. Hosting an event is super expensive and I'll never make any money.
Here's the thing: many people think they have to host an event that looks good in photos, which means mountains of floral arrangements, high-end (read: expensive) swag, and an 8-course meal.
For starters, that's not really true. It's NICE to do all that stuff, and it may make the overall experience better, but if you're hosting a free networking event, you certainly don't have to buy everyone drinks and food.
The purpose of hosting a live event CAN be to wow your clients, but if the price point doesn't make sense (say, $10), you are not required to create a high-end experience for a low-end price point.
Also, I've gone to some of those events that have had beautiful design and gorgeous swag and the reality is that the content has been pretty poorly planned and I didn't feel like I got a cent of my money's worth. Beware the pretty pictures and the online images -- real events, that provide value to your audience and grow your client base aren't built on the fluff of floral arrangements (not that florals can't be nice, but they're certainly not mandatory when you're just starting out).
Instead, focus on the things at which you're uniquely amazing. Are you awesome at teaching? Are you an amazing facilitator? Do you love asking people questions to get them thinking? Do you do live coaching #likeaboss?
If those are your strengths, then those are the things that are going to help you be a BADASS at hosting a live event. Your people will think it's really NICE if you offer them snacks and drinks (and, I can show you how to do it on the cheap in my course Events That Convert), but for most events, they're here for the relationship-building and for the content. Anything extra only makes you stand out from above the rest.
Here's an example:
Last year, I had a lot of people in my Boss Lady Bash community who were makers and/or product sellers. They felt like my current offerings were too focused on service-based businesses, so one of them asked me if I had ever considered doing something for product-based businesses. Admittedly, I didn't have a huge budget to host another event, but I wanted to try to bring something to the local community.
I reached out to a friend of mine who owns a gift-store where we live and I asked if she'd be willing to do a Q+A session with her about how she vets product sellers to carry their lines at her store. She was super excited (and excited about the prospect of getting 25 people into her store), and so she let us come in for free. I purchased snacks and drinks for 25 people (under $100 since it was after work and not yet dinner), and the event was sold out with people at $20 per person. We didn't make a huge profit, BUT we covered our costs AND we were able to capture three people who had never heard about the Boss Lady Community, and they ended up coming to one of my higher level offering events.
2. In today's digital age, people only want online content. No one wants to go anywhere in person.
I can see that, if you're an online business owner, you may think that every online business owner stays in their house and hunkers down in their office each day, barely going outside except to take their dog for a walk. Or, at the very least, that online business owners do work online, not in-person.
Which is TOTALLY false because if that were true, there wouldn't be thousands of conferences, mastermind programs, accelerator programs, small group workshops, and literally hundreds and hundreds of networking events every day.
Sure, if you're targeting online business owners outside of your geographical region, you're going to have more of a lift to try and get them to your location, especially if the event is only a day or two (you'll learn all about ideal timing for events in my course Events That Convert). That's why, if you have a wide audience, I'd recommend hosting a multi-day event or a retreat, because people will likely be traveling to you.
If you're trying to cultivate your "people" in your local geographical area, I'd recommend reaching out to partners in your region to help you spread the word if you don't already have a solid network of people who know about your business. Lots of times, with live events, most people think that their audience will come to them, and the reality is that most people won't travel very long distances unless you have great value to give them for multiple days.
So, that said, if you want to try out live events and your audience is NOT local to you, host a multi-day workshop or a retreat. If you are starting to BUILD your audience locally, then you'll need to reach out to people who can help you get their audience or other people to attend your event.
For example, when I hosted my first event in 2015, I didn't have a really strong audience, locally or digitally, but I had about 10 friends who knew a lot of people in our small town. At first, I didn't have a marketing plan for the event, but I knew that I could plan it, and I just hoped the rest would take care of itself.
In order for that first event to unexpectedly sell out, I had to pull in those 10 other ladies, offering them free spots at the event (price point $40) and the ability to facilitate small conversations. With their help (and a few, pre-designed images that I sent to them), they each mentioned it on social media once and we managed to sell out our 40 spots in 24 hours. Using that teamwork, my audience grew exponentially, but I couldn't have done it without:
a) Getting the dang thing on the books in the first place
b) Asking for help from my friends in exchange for something they may have wanted (tickets to the event)
Bringing it back to the above statement, it's usually less about the fact that people won't come to your event and more about the fact that you need to be realistic about your audience and where they hang out.
Finally, in the digital age, events are becoming more and more precious to people because, for so long, everything took place online. People crave in-person connection, and so those online business owners are looking for opportunities to get out of their comfort zone, learn something new and targeted, and make progress over the course of a few days, rather than in a six-week, online program.
Events are experiencing a renaissance right now, and now, it's up to you to decide how you want to engage your people, where you want to build your audience, and how you want to shape your business.
3. Well, I already tried hosting an event once, and hardly anyone signed up in advance.
I hear that, and I totally get it, and I also think this may come from a big myth about how in-person events are sold, marketed, and delivered.
If I can be a little blunt for a moment, this is how most people decide to host an event:
I want to host an event! I'm going to find a retreat center at which to host it! Then, I'm going to plan out all the content, hire the caterer, outline some fun exercises to complete, design a workbook, rent some chairs, hire a florist, ask other people to speak...it's going to be SO great!
(sends one email to list)
(creates a Facebook event)
(sends another email to list)
(posts on Instagram)
(decides that no one comes to live events anymore, and that they are a waste of time)
The biggest marketing problem that I see online business owners committing when they start marketing their in-person events is that they treat their in-person events like an online product. They send emails, they post on Instagram, and they are confused about why people aren't signing up.
Here's the secret:
Events are ALL about building relationships.
While online content may be a better deliverable and easier for people to go through on their own time, the value that in-person, live experiences bring is building relationships between people who are experiencing the same things. Yes, the content and the format is really important, however, the relational aspect of doing an in-person event is SO much better than any online course, any Facebook group, any Skype hangout, or anything digital.
You've probably even experienced this in your own life. Maybe you attended an event, or a conference, and while you didn't love some of the speakers, you met someone who was AWESOME that you felt like you connected with.
So, if you can't market a live event using your email list, how do you market it?
You reach out individually, 1:1 to the MOST qualified people.
These are people who have bought your online courses, people who have worked with you 1:1, clients who have been referred to you who love your work, etc. These are the people you know, who already trust you, and who would definitely tell their friends about you.
There are a few ways that you can engage them, but the way I prefer to do it is to send them a specific email, telling them that they're your ideal client and that you basically created this event for THEM.
Then, you ask them if they'd be interested, and if they'd pay XX amount of dollars to attend. And if they say "yes, take my money", then you know that this event is going to be a winner (to be honest, for me, almost 50% of my sales come from individual outreach regarding most of my events).
If they say no, that's totally fine. However, you can ask them to then possibly push it out to their audience, or if they would recommend anyone that may be a perfect fit that they know of.
The biggest objection that I hear for this type of marketing is that people feel like it's too personal, it's too face-to-face, and they're afraid of getting a NO instead of the crickets that come from people on your email list not signing up for something.
I get that, however, I want you to know that filling seats at an event is not just about getting as many people in the room as possible. It's about getting the right people in the room, to make sure the experience is the best possible experience it can be for attendees.
4. No one would want to listen to me drone on about websites/wellness/basket-weaving. There are, like, 1000 blog posts already on this stuff.
Well, first of all, I think that is completely untrue, not only because I know you know your stuff, but because, if you have clients that work with you, then clearly, someone definitely wants to hear from you.
However, the biggest myth that I hear from lots of my clients is that they don't know exactly what they'd teach, they feel like they'd be too boring, and they aren't sure if they have enough material from which to pull.
To which I say, hooray! That is a wonderful problem to have, because that means you’re not packing 10 hours of content into a 12 hour event day, with four, 30 minutes breaks for breakfast, lunch, and bathroom.
Remember when I said above that events are primarily about relationship building? This is true when you’re designing your content as well.
I hardly ever recommend that ANY event has 5, 1-hour speeches/workshops. That is a recipe for attendee fatigue, for sure. For your upcoming event, you definitely do not have to stand up their and talk for the whole day...in fact, I recommend that you don’t.
There are tons of different ways that you can build different types of content modules that give attendees at an event MORE value than you just teaching for an hour straight. In Events That Convert, I talk about the 20-20-20 rule of thumb for content creation -- 20 minutes of teaching, 20 minutes of internal workshopping, 20 minutes of group discussion or Q+A.
Additionally, because you are LIVE and in-person, you have so much more flexibility when reading the vibe of the room. If people feel sluggish, you can add in a few minutes of stretching or movement. If people feel stuck and frustrated, you can take a break to give everyone some time to digest and reflect. If people have lots of energy, you can take some time to do a walking lesson or ask people to play a game or do an interactive exercise to hit home some key strategies regarding the things that you’re teaching.
Again, live events have so much more fluidity than online courses, because you’re not getting real time feedback when you’re online (except when people are asking questions in your chat or via your Facebook group). Even if you don’t think you have much to talk about, you do have tons of material to encourage collaboration, networking, relationship building, coaching, Q+A, and more with your attendees. When I host an event, I rarely teach; I usually am just facilitating, asking questions, and asking people to share their experiences, which often takes way more time than one might think.
So, if you’re thinking that you don’t have anything to teach at an event, I’d challenge you to consider using other teaching or networking modules in order to help your clients and attendees get the best value out of an event -- the relational value.
Do you want to hear more about how to create really killer events for your business? I have a free event planning cheat sheet below, so you should snag it and get started!
I've got to be honest with you...
From 2013 - 2015, my business was STRUGGLE. CENTRAL.
Some of you may know me in-person, and if you’ve ever had a coffee date or a Skype date with me, you’ll know that the first thing that I’ll tell you is that I am SURE that if you stay with your business for at least 2 years, you’ll end up creating something sustainable that will sustain you for as long as you want to be in business.
However, those first two years? THE FIRST TWO? Those are the hardest. It’s the time that you’re trying to figure out your message, you’re trying to understand the elusive “ideal client”, you’re trying to figure out what your clients want (and more importantly, what they want FROM YOU specifically)...it’s a struggle bus, for real.
I remember the first time I realized that I would either have to pay taxes or pay my rent, and I laid on the floor staring at the ceiling for two hours. I remember going on long walks with a neighbor, and constantly asking her why everything was SO up and down. Some days I had TOO much client work, some days I had no client work. Some days I was a superstar at getting work done, some days I refreshed my inbox 45 times an hour, praying that someone would email me to ask me to help them plan an event.
It was maddening. And time consuming. And I probably would have gone on for years like that, if I didn’t decide to take matters into my own hands. Instead of praying for clients, I knew I had to go out and get them.
However, the only way I really knew how to do that, was to ask a bunch of my friends how THEY were doing it. So I started a small mastermind group, with 10 ladies, in my house.
Turns out, THEY ALL HAD THE SAME PROBLEM.
Here I was, thinking I was unique in the struggle of figuring out how to run my business. Instead, I realized that ALL business owners that I knew were working on their own challenges of outreach, marketing, sales, and client acquisition. Regardless of anything else, the power of hosting this event made me realize how powerful it is to have your own community of people you can tap into for help.
Want to know how to plan your own, super successful event for your biz? Grab my event planning cheat checklist below to get started!
At the end of that first dinner party I hosted, three or four women came up to me and asked if, next time, they could bring their roommate, or their sister-in-law. They wanted to help other people who had similar struggles, and weren’t able to organize the group themselves. So they asked me to be the organizer.
And herein lies the beginning of the end of my business-as-a-struggle-bus. This was my AH-HAH! moment. I realized that in order to get out and impress people, in order to get clients, I needed to showcase the work that I was doing. I needed people to understand how good of an event host I could be, and I needed them to tell their friends about it.
So, when I launched the Boss Lady Bash, and it sold out, I was scared to host it (since I never had done this before), but I knew deep down that it would raise my profile in the service-based business industry that I was trying to infiltrate.
And for real, for real? The first event that I hosted barely broke even. I went ALL out on the venue, the food, the cute little swag items. I got a bunch of people to sponsor it, and a bunch of other people to help volunteer at the event, and it still wasn’t profitable. It wasn’t until later that I realized that often, the power of events isn’t in the one event itself -- it’s in positioning yourself to be in a leadership role, as someone who knows what she’s talking about.
And it was SO worth it. In the matter of a year, I hosted 4 other events for my business, I booked myself out for 1:1 services, raised my rates, and was asked to speak 4 or 5 times that year. Even now, people have said to me and say “Wow, I didn’t realize you’ve only been in business since 2015. You came on the scene so quickly!”
(Actually, I’ve been in business since 2013, but no one knew who I was until 2015).
I have a good salary (more than what I was making in NYC), I get to travel internationally for work about 3 times a year, and I’ve been able to invest in my business to help it grow 20% in revenue each year. And there’s SO much more to do. Hosting that very first of many events has completely reshaped how I do business, and has led to an incredible transformation in how I host events, how I help my clients host events, and how I make events profitable every single time.
While my business isn’t perfect (seriously, if you think it is, we need to get on a Skype chat and I can show you my out-of-control living room/work space), I’ve been able to make more sales, meet more people, and find better communities since I’ve started hosting my own events. I’ve even had other companies and non-profits approach me to understand the methodology and content I use to get more engagement AND to get people to talk about the events with their friends, their families, and their co-workers.
To be honest, most people don’t get out of the struggle. They’re constantly going back and forth about their message, they never really quite understand who it is that they’re serving, and they stay stuck in the rut of their comfort zone...aka doing the things they know how to do, but never learning to do new things, which keeps their business at a standstill.
If you’re struggling with this whole “online business” thing, or you need to get more clients, or you need to get more QUALITY clients, then I highly recommend hosting your own live event.
To help you get started, I’ve created a fun event planning cheat sheet that will take you from content structure, to planning, to execution. It’s a pared-down version of the cheat sheet that I use to plan my events, so I hope you love it!
Are you ready to get started planning your own events? Download my event checklist (it's the one I use to kickstart all of my events)!
When I started my business, I didn't get much traction at all. In fact, the first 18 months of working for myself (and about 12 other people in day jobs) was excruciating.
In January 2015, I decided that I no longer wanted to feel lonely in the work I was doing, so I invited 10 other business owners over to my house to have a discussion about what it was like to start a business.
For me, that one small happy hour turned into 10 sold out live events and a new women's leadership conference, not to mention countless new clients, prospective clients, and has helped me grow in my niche as an event planner x10.
Want my event planning checklist?
Drop your email below and I'll send you a copy of the most important items to use to do when you're planning your event.
I'm so passionate about live events that I wanted to share a video today with you that I posted on my Facebook.
In this video, titled "The Four Types of Events You Can Host for Your Business", I'll walk through:
1) The four most common events that you can host
2) The risk level and the reward level for each
3) Some tips about how you can make each event worth it for your specific business.
The Four Types of Events
Networking events are easy to throw, low-cost, and the #1 goal with these events is to build relational capital. In terms of business or sales, they're often low reward (either a cold or cool audience, so not many bookings will come out of these events), but are a great place to start if you are trying to build an audience.
You can make these events worth it by asking for an email address when people sign up or when they arrive on-site, AND you can ask each registered person to please bring a friend. Bonus points if you create a networking event that is "Invite Only", which helps encourage people to sign up, as they feel a little more special by being a part of a select group.
Workshops are a little more complicated to throw, and are a little bit higher cost, though definitely don't need to be super expensive. The #1 goal with these events is to provide people a low cost or free method through which they can get to know your ideas and you can teach some of your methods to them, while also getting to know you as a coach/leader/instructor/facilitator/etc.
The way you can make a workshop worth it is by partnering with another organization that may have an audience but needs help to put out valuable content to their audience, or, you can have a really stellar offer post-workshop that you can offer to attendees in case they want to work more deeply with you after the event.
After being one of those people who has hosted a conference of 200+ people for herself AND for her clients, I can tell you that conferences are time-intensive, high-cost, but can have high reward for your business in the long term. Conferences usually have larger audiences, which means that you will have access to more people over the life of the pre-sale, marketing, execution, and post-event of the conference.
The way to make conferences worth it for you is to partner with talented businesses, individuals, team members, etc. The more people that you can pull in as a collaborator on a conference, the more you'll be seen as a leader, and the more people will share your message. Conferences are ALL about sharing, so if you're looking to host one, I'd consider deciding how you can partner on this event before you start planning the event itself.
Lastly, retreats are often more manageable to plan and sell, yet are high-cost and high-reward. With retreats, you're often paying for lodging or other amenities, which means they are often people who are already warm leads for your business.
In order to make a retreat worth it, you could charge more money as it is a premium offering or service related to your business, or you could treat this group of people as your prime, high-level clients, and offer them a very tailored package where you work with them 1:1 or in a small group setting.
Want my event planning checklist?
Drop your email below and I'll send you a copy of the most important items to use to do when you're planning your event.
What type of event are you hoping to host?
PS I'm launching my new course Events that Convert in March and I'd love to see you there. If 2018 is the year you start bringing on events into your marketing strategy, drop your email below for the cheat sheet, or hop on over the the site linked above to read all about it!
As I write this to you, I’m on an airplane, somewhere over the Northwestern Territories, and I’m listening to a podcast called Afford Anything (love Paula, love learning about real estate investing). I spent the past two weeks traveling with Tori Pintar and made her listen to investing podcasts, business podcasts, read her frugality articles, and basically annoyed the shit out of her by talking incessantly about money.
When I’m deciding on making a big business decision, I create a financial model (a quick napkin equation works well, too). I’m in my money every day, which is how I can calculate the ROI of the events that I’ve hosted, as well as the ones that my clients have hosted
Which means I don’t plan my own events, nor do I help my clients plan events, that lose money (at least in the long run). It is vital to me that if events are to be a strong part of your strategy (which I think is a really good goal for a lot of businesses), that they need to be profitable.
But how do we do that, when events are 9,000x more expensive than, say, a free webinar?
You are absolutely allowed to sell an event in advance to gain interest to see if it’s a winner. Sometimes, you’ll need to put down a deposit on a space (which I recommend negotiating as low as you POSSIBLY can) in order to convince people of its legitimacy (it’s very hard to sell an event to a TBD location in a TBD city), but often, that’s a few hundred dollars at most, and if you can’t afford that, then you can’t afford hosting a paid event (more on that below).
Have an offer.
Team, it is CRUCIAL to have a way for someone to work with you after your event. Even if it’s only ONE person out of 30 that hire you, it is worth it. I don’t care if you make an offer up on the spot, or only have ONE way for people to work with you, the point of events is to build really great relational capital so that people can eventually hire you. If you are Tony Robbins, and you are charging $2,000 per person, then you can relax on the offer at the end (even though Tony doesn’t actually do that, he sells like a maniac), but your revenue stream should be directly tied to HOW someone can continue their relationship with you in the longterm. If you’re just trying to get people in the door and don’t have a way to cultivate them, then we probably need to consider where you are in your business and whether or not events are right for you.
Plan for 50% of ticket sales to cover 100% of costs.
This is simply my “napkin math” which gives me a starting point, but if you’re planning on making a 10% profit if you sell every ticket then I would recommend you revise your strategy.
A free event has lots of possibility.
I always believe in charging for your events, but there’s nothing wrong with hosting a free event to start cultivating your audience. As you’ll learn in Events That Convert, I personally like hosting free events in my house (or a friend’s house) with 10 or fewer members. It lets me test my idea, ask specific questions, and then THOSE people are the ones who are prime candidates to a) be a part of my ensuing paid offer or b) help me spread the word about how AWESOME I am at helping people with whatever the thing is that I’ve formed the group around. Again, it’s crucial to eventually have an offer, but this is definitely one way to start building the community.
Spend on experiences that are REALLY going to impact your attendees.
I often see events that are gorgeously designed and have GREAT web presences, but have heard (and seen) that they don’t have great substance. While I think having gorgeous photos taken is important, it’s also important that people have a GREAT time, which can be reflected in photos (which are actually better to exemplify a great event online). So when you’re considering whether to spend on floral arrangements or great food, I’d recommend the food, and stick to great swag that is helpful for people. Same with good quality audio equipment, a coat check if it’s raining, and swag that is helpful. You want people to feel truly taken care of, and while décor is important to create an atmosphere, you want to be sure you’re taking care of the other basic needs first.
The money of events is super important, which is why I’m excited to do a whole module on budgeting and preparation in my upcoming course Events That Convert. If hosting an event is on your list for 2018, this course is by far the only one out there that is as comprehensive, detailed, and comes with 10+ years of experience planning events that help businesses grow.
Want my event planning checklist?
Drop your email below and I'll send you a copy of the most important items to use to do when you're planning your event.
Growing up in an Italian-American household, our kitchen became the most entertaining place in the house, and I was used to my parents and grandparents inviting friends and neighbors over for a piece of cake, a cup of coffee, or an entire meal. In fact, when my boyfriend and I first traveled home to New York from Montana for him to meet my parents, he was bombarded each night by a different bevvy of visitors (like those aunts and uncles that you’re not really related to, but you still call them your aunt and uncle?).
So, when I first had the idea to host an event in my community to help my potential audience meet each other, I wasn’t even worried about pulling it off. It seemed completely manageable because it’s in my blood.
What I didn’t know at the time, was that my business was about to blow up. Live events have been the single biggest factor to my business success since I started in 2013.
What I ALSO didn’t know, was that I completely missed out on dozens of potential clients, customers, and profit, even though I’d done the event 8+ times over the years.
Because live events can be extremely profitable, but only if you know how to get your clients to convert.
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The truth is, straight up, unless you have a pre-built community of potential clients, events themselves can be mildly to decently profitable. However, you’re only fitting into this category if you have a really established business, you work in a sector that has a higher price point, or you explicitly tailor your client work to extremely profitable businesses.
Profit margins can be anywhere from 0% - 50%, but lots of times, when looking at a singular event, people are less impressed with the effort to cost ratio than they are with other marketing efforts (that is to say, putting on a 1-day event vs. a 1-hour webinar is 100x the amount of work and expense).
However, if you’re only looking at ticket sales, you’re not looking in the right place.
Most events are profitable because they are the lead magnet FIRST.
Events are 15% informational (you talking at your people) and 85% relational (you encouraging OTHER people to talk to you or to each other).
OR you are doing some laser coaching in a group. Or, you’re hosting a happy hour and have fun networking activities.
Events do not work if you are not focusing on the relational aspect of them.
So instead of measuring event profitability by the tickets you sold vs. the money you spent, start thinking about how else you can engage the people who are on-site.
Can you have a conversation with someone and lead them to a free resource that you’ve created (with an email capture of course)?
Can you perform some laser coaching in the group, and then ask anyone who wants to do 1:1 coaching to touch base with you after the event?
Can you create some new content that digs to the core of what your attendees are struggling with, and have them work the problem through facilitated discussion?
The answer to “Are Events Profitable?” is a definite yes, but only if you’re considering the qualified leads you’re bringing in by simply creating more space to connect uniquely, 1:1.
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A few months ago, I was invited to speak on a panel with two other event planners, to start a conversation around planning events in conjunction with the hotel industry. Here are some of the questions that they asked (which I thought would be really helpful for you, as you are planning your events):
1. Within the event industry, what has remained unchanged over the years?
The need for honest, real, no-holds-barred conversation from a keynote perspective and also from an attendee perspective is something that won't go away and will not be replaced by internet courses, webinars, networking groups. Being face-to-face with someone is inherently different, which is why businesses (ESPECIALLY remote or online ones) spend thousands of dollars a year to either participate in or host a live event.
Face-to-face will never go away, no matter how much we think the internet is replacing content sharing and knowledge.
2. On the contrary, what has been the biggest change?
The biggest change has been WHY people attend events. In the past, events have been very keynote heavy, since the only way to obtain wisdom or insight was in a classroom or keynote format.
Today, keynote speakers and nuggets of information are shared online in webinars, blog posts, live videos, Instagram stories...it's endless. Now, as people are more isolated in their learning, they are looking for ways to connect and to implement the information that they've absorbed.
Going to events in 2017, you'll see more interactive sessions, more roundtable discussions, and more facilitated discussions in order to help build deeper connections that are harder and harder to make in an increasingly digital world.
3. What are some differences between planning an event in the United States vs. planning an event in another country?
If you're thinking about doing a retreat, conference or workshop in a different country and you're planning from the United States, I would be sure to research the culture and how different countries interface with clients. In my experience, some cultures are extremely respectful, but they aren't often as direct as Americans, meaning that if something is a problem, they may not tell you about it until the last minute, forcing an on-the-spot solution. Other cultures are extremely process oriented instead of solutions oriented, explaining to you the entire process they went through to find out the answer to your question, only to tell you it was impossible to execute in the end (which is usually all we, as Westerners, care about anyway).
Some of the biggest challenges with remote planning is ensuring that all of the changes that you make over email or Skype are getting translated to the right vendors in the right way.
Also, time differences can account for delay in responses (especially between Asia and the US), so it's important to adjust your working hours slightly, and communicate your expectations to your venue or retreat center.
4. Please explain your search process. What is your go to resource for starting a search for a venue?
If you don't have an idea for a location for your venue, I think the best place to start is venues you've firsthand visited before, either for another conference or wedding. Most people, especially with their first event, think they have to find the PERFECT venue, when the reality is that there are plenty of lovely venues, and firsthand positive experiences is a good indicator that the venue will be easy to work with.
After I go into my "experience database," I turn to Google and do a keyword search on location, plus any relevant words I want to explore (boutique hotel, co-working space, event venue are my favorites). From there, I look for press articles or a "Top 10" aggregated list, not websites, so that I can see how someone else interprets that venue.
5. What is the most annoying thing about working with Hotel Sales Managers?
Hotel Sales Managers often have an impossible job, which is the sell the shit out of their property for as many days as they possibly can. Which means, they're going to do everything they can to try to lock you in, up to a certain point. Sometimes, this means concessions and amenities. Sometimes, it means not being transparent with you as an event host and forgetting to let you know about construction or extra surcharges on services or that their business center doesn't open for another six months when you've planned on basing your event HQ out of the business center.
Transparency and communicativeness are important and some hotel sales managers do this better than others.
6. What stands out for you in proposals? For example, is it the pictures, long intro letter or to-the-point bullet letter, selling the area versus the property?
While this is a pretty industry specific question, things that stand out to me are proposals that include concessions right off the bat.
Pro tip: A "concession" is a freebie that the hotel gives you as a "thank you" for buying in bulk. You usually get better concessions with larger hotels or hotel room blocks because you're taking away the leg work from the Sales Manager by booking lots of rooms for them.
Typical concessions include:
•Free meeting space (with any retreat or event, this should ALWAYS be on the table)
•Audio visual comps (lowering service prices for conference services like A/V a certain percentage)
•Room comps (1 free room for every 10 booked)
•Free upgrades to VIP guests
If you're booking a large group (or any sized group), ask for concessions, no matter what. They have them to give, but she who asks shall receive.
7. What do you NOT like to see in proposals?
I personally hate aggressive attrition clauses, because they don't serve any party.
(Pro tip: An attrition clause is basically the hotel saying "We will hold X rooms for you until X date at a special rate of $X, which is $100 lower than our normal rate for that date. We will only give you this rate if you book 10 or more rooms. We understand that you may not get to all 10, but if you book fewer than 8 rooms, you'll still have to pay for them.)
These days, guests are making their travel arrangements later and later, and with the flexible cancellation policies of places like Air Bnb or other homesharing sites, it makes it a tough sell for clients to book their hotel rooms that far in advance when they know there are lots of other options.
8. Do you prefer package pricing or a la carte pricing?
If I'm working on the project, I like a la carte pricing because I know what to ask for and what to leave out. If you are working on a project and you don't know much about what you may need, I'd recommend package pricing. The last thing I'd want for you, my client, is to guess about where to save money, and thus, not have the right equipment or the right style of food at your event.
9. If your client had complaints about a property that they stayed at, what is the most common complaint?
Unclean hotel rooms. People are very particular about where they lay their head and, more than anything, they will notice nice hotel rooms over nice ballroom/conference space. If you have to pick one or the other, and the majority of your guests are coming in from out of town, pick the place with the nicer rooms.
10. Do you and your clients prefer proposals that are links or a bunch of attachments?
I like both, but attachments help me catalogue the information better. If there's a bunch of links, I have to save the email and constantly refer back to it.
(I feel like this is a personal preference question more than anything. What about you?)
11. Do you have a preference on booking an event with a hotel that has meeting space or a meeting/event venue?
I personally think, depending on the walkability of the venue, booking a meeting space with rooms atop it is important, as it makes the event itself more contained, it allows your guests the opportunity to take advantage of the on-site amenities, and it allows for more organic on-site networking.
We've all been to events where we've opted to stay at a different hotel to save money or because the host hotel was out of rooms and it's just...different. Creating a contained experience is as important as curating unbelievable content.
12. Would you rather have a venue that provides in-house catering or have the option to bring outside food in to your event?
Depends on the food. If we can avoid extra surcharges and fees by bringing in our own food, I'd rather do that, but remember: an event venue's staff knows the venue really well and they'll know how many people to staff to make sure service and food is well presented and managed.
If you're very price conscious, I'd get an outside catering quote, however, there is something to be said about a catering staff that knows a venue so well that they can do it with their eyes closed.
13. What was your worst experience working with a venue for a meeting? How was the situation resolved and would you return to the venue?
This is a story for another day, but it has to do with poor communication and a huge swamp cooler.
Phew! Your turn! Do you work with hotels or properties when you plan your events? What is frustrating/amazing about it?
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You know how you go to all those fancy conferences, and they have boatloads of company logos on all their printed pieces, or you see posts like "Thanks to CRAZY COOL COMPANY for being our awesome sponsor!" and you think:
How the heck do small fry events like this one get people to give them money to put on an event?
I know, I get it. Asking for sponsorship can be nerve wracking at best, and terrifying at worst, and a lot of it is because we believe that trading hard-earned money in exchange for promotion is icky (or something similar).
The reality is that, most companies are too busy to do the hard work it takes to gather a group of people together, and then they're WAY too busy to deliver the event. They want to partner with someone else who will do a lot of the hard work, and then reap the rewards.
But, sometimes, event organizers don't know what the rewards actually are for company sponsors.
In today's post, we're going to get into the minds of sponsors and hopefully make it a little easier for you to ask for sponsorship for your next event.
1. Start with sponsors with whom you already have a relationship.
Asking for money is tough, so to soften your nerves a little bit, I recommend reaching out to people you may already know. Take them out for coffee or lunch, then tell them a little bit about your idea. A lot of times, passion is a great way to help sell people, and sponsors who love the idea of doing a collaborative event will get on board if they hear how excited you are.
If in-person is too tough, try email! I've had lots of luck asking for sponsorship over email, especially when the ask is in-kind or a smaller sponsorship.
I don't recommend asking for sponsorship dollars over email, since you want people to get excited about your mission, and that's best communicated over the phone or in person.
2. Set up packages for a variety of levels -- but not too many.
One of the things that we as event organizers think sponsors want is LOTS of choices. The reality is, they don't, and as an organizer, you don't want to have to deliver on all those promises. Usually, having one very high level sponsorship available is standard, as well as 3 mid level sponsorships, and maybe 3 smaller sponsorships is a good amount. If you have more help, you can do more sponsorship packages, but the reality is, sponsors often get overwhelmed with the choice of too many packages. Keep it simple.
Standard packages include: name and logo on marketing materials, verbal thank you during the event, a ticket or five to the event, and opportunities to make mini-presentations throughout the event (usually only reserved for very high-level sponsors).
For the most part, if your event is aligned with a sponsor's goals, they're going to want to be in the room at the event, and speak to the crowd at the event. Know that those two things are very coveted, so be sure to price them accordingly within your sponsorship levels.
3. It's okay to solicit sponsors after you launch -- especially if your event is new.
A lot of times, new events have a certain amount of intrigue to them...sponsors are curious if you can back up your claims, and they're always looking to get in the door on new, exciting initiatives that have legs.
However, it can be a chicken-and-the-egg scenario. Sponsors won't commit early because they want to know that you can sell the tickets. If you don't have sponsors, people may not view your event as legitimate, and you also may not know how to price tickets.
The best advice I have here is to not count on any sponsorship dollars in your first year, and try to price your tickets accordingly. The second best advice I have is to start soliciting sponsors early enough where you can possibly get one or two on board before launching your ticket sales. Usually, sponsors will want to know who else is sponsoring, and if you can get a few sponsors on board in the beginning, you'll have luck with other sponsors who also want to buy in.
Additionally, sometimes sponsors wait until ticket sales are ROLLING in before they commit. That's fine too, just be sure that you ride high on the momentum and announce when you sell tickets to help build excitement around your event and to make it desirable for sponsors to participate.
Want to know what exactly I say to my sponsors when I email them? Click below to get a PDF of the exact sample letter I use.
4. Try to find the decision maker before you approach a big sponsor.
Ain't nothing worse than emailing an email@example.com email address to solicit sponsorship. Try to reach out to your network and ask your friends if they know anyone at a particular company they can introduce you to.
The other method I've used before is Instagram or Twitter. I've searched people in the marketing department, reached out via social media, and asked for a phone call. A lot of times, it takes a little while to get to the right "level" of decision-maker, so don't expect immediate results from one phone call. It's all about following up, maintaining the relationship, and being gracious if they decline.
5. Don't feel bad about following up.
Most people are just busy. However, if you haven't asked for a meeting or a phone call, please be sure to do that. (Want to know the exact wording I use to ask for sponsorship? Enter your email information below to get my sponsor letter swipe script!)
In your first email to a potential sponsor, you should absolutely ask them not only if their interested in sponsoring, but also if they have 15 minutes to chat about why you think they'd be a great sponsor for the event. You want to make sure that they're a good fit for the event, as well as see if they're gung ho about your mission, or so-so.
I try to follow up within a week of the initial send, and then a week after the second follow up. If I don't hear anything after that, I move on to the next sponsorship.
6. Make sure you say thank you, immediately and often.
The biggest mistake event organizers make is that, once the event is over, they forget about their sponsors until next year. You've got to treat your sponsors like people! Send them a little gift, take them for coffee to ask about their experience as a sponsor, and be open to really honest feedback about their experience.
Sponsors are the lifeblood to event production, so it's important that you treat your relationship with them like you would an old friend. Send them articles that you think are relevant to your or their industry and generally keep them in the loop with what's going on with your event. Also, don't forget to ask them to sponsor your event the following year! It's so important to maintain good relationships with sponsors, and communicating with them and keeping them in the loop is the best place to start.
Want to know my first touch point with most sponsors? Enter your info below to snag your free sponsorship swipe script!
And by we, I mean me, because right now the team is LEAN.
I started this business in 2014 with one client and the idea that I would only take a few events a year and take tons of vacations and everything would be super streamlined and easy.
Fast-forward three years and I've got more clients than I though possible and no white space in the day to be creative.
If you're interested in being a part of a scrappy, startup-style business, read on! (PS this is local to Bozeman, Montana for now).
Associate Event Planner
At Lauren Caselli Events, we believe that entertaining and educational experiences let attendees form real connections with companies that host them. We're truly passionate about customer service and experience, because we believe that the connections that are made over a glass of wine, a casual discussion, or a well-executed meal can change the world.
We do high-impact events, not stale conferences. We work with companies who understand that in order to do business, you need to build trust. We prefer visionaries over those that use the phrase, “but we’ve always done it this way.” We like our coffee strong, our days varied, our To Do Lists organized, and our details solid.
As an Associate Event Planner, you’d primarily be responsible for project management and moving client projects forward. You’d be responsible for liaising with clients when they email, following up with our clients and vendors to get clarity around specific aspects of an event, and brainstorming solutions to events.
You will also be responsible for assisting the Director of Events (that's me!) with internal company projects and executing tasks related to marketing, networking, and any other initiatives the company may deem as a priority for the calendar year.
WHAT YOU WOULD BE DOING
Tracking information that comes in via email in an organized, systematic folder system. Event planning is essentially information management, so you know that you need to track all details that clients mention, no matter how big or how small
Responding quickly and succinctly to client emails, taking the lead on helping decide the next steps for their projects, and being a voice for the company
Researching new venues, vendors, photographers, audio visual companies, and setting up meetings for our team with those vendors
Helping on-site at events, moving furniture, placing decor, running registration
Finding creative solutions to internal office, operations, and administrative business challenges. When you don't know the answer, you'll seek it out and take ownership of the result and implementation.
Recommending a better way to streamline a process or use a different software for emails, project management, tracking information, liaising with clients, etc.
Drafting and sending out social media, monthly newsletters, and any sort of external communications
Making phone calls, sending emails, not giving up until you have the answer
THIS ROLE WAS MADE FOR YOU IF
You have superior organizational skills, impeccable accuracy, and attention-to-detail. Seriously, you can spot a miscalculation, disorganized file, broken link or spelling error a mile away.
You're not scared to make your voice heard with new suggestions to existing problems.
You are well-versed in technology used in remote offices (Google Drive, Dropbox, ConvertKit, Buffer, etc.) and learn new tools quickly if it's something new to your toolbox.
You love organizing, streamlining, and efficiency.
When someone mentions that they have a problem, you don’t wait for them to ask for help. You’re already jumping out of your chair with the solution or the willingness to help them.
You would identify yourself as curious and have an eagerness to take feedback, grow and further your skills.
You seek an opportunity for growth, mentoring, connection within the Montana community.
You love to be in a support role, working with an ambitious team.
You LOVE stalking people online and get excited when you see a cool brand.
You’d be encouraged to be in office 50% of the time to start (or co-working at a coffee shop), with the ability for a more flexible schedule the other 50% of the time. It is a requirement that you have a working vehicle and a clean driving record, as LCE often requires local errands.
Contract for six months. Possible part- or full-time employment after six months.
HOW TO APPLY
Sound like you? Send a cover letter, a video, or a powerpoint presentation (seriously, make it interesting) to firstname.lastname@example.org describing why you're the best fit. Attach or link to your resume. PDFs only, if sent as an attachment. Subject line: Your Planning Wizard.
Deadline is Sunday, April 16th at midnight (but the early bird gets the worm).
Currently, this position is an independent contract at 10-15 hours/week.
Happy New Year! I hope you're here visiting because you're excited to kick off a year of connection, collaboration, and community through events.
On Tuesday, I woke up to a full inbox with fun requests for people who have finally decided that 2017 is the year of their first workshop or industry conference. Which always makes me so excited, because I know that there's nothing better than getting all your people together in a room and finding community in your wins and your struggles.
What I do always want to say to the people that want to host events is that they are LABOR intensive, TIME-consuming, and if you're unsure of your profit model, can be expensive.
If 2017 is your year of the event, here are some considerations you should take into account.
The reality is that there are only 12 months in a year, and most creative business owners vastly underestimate the amount of time it takes to plan and deliver an industry event.
I'm not saying you can't do a big conference with fewer than two months to plan, I just generally like getting sleep and not being so stressed out for two months that I can't even have a normal conversation (but if you hired me, I'd say "You only have two months to plan, so no, you cannot do an industry conference in two months.")
Events should be fun and they are inherently stressful, so I want to warn you about the amount of work you're taking on. My recommendation? Don't do an event without planning for it for at least 2 months and don't do a BIG event without planning for at least 4. Got a little more time? Here are my format recommendations:
Two - four months: A three-hour, evening event, that is more of a roundtable discussion than a content-packed seminar. I recommend 50 or fewer people, making it highly intimate, and ensure there is lots of white space for connecting, chatting, and networking.
Five - seven months: A one-day workshop/conference, with limited outside speakers (the more speakers, the more presentations you have to vet for relevancy, and the more travel itineraries you have to manage!), 100 - 150 attendees max. I don't recommend making it a multi-day event unless you're confident in your audience, because usually, for multi-day events, people will be traveling from elsewhere and you need at least 6-8 months to market an event people will travel to.
Eight - twelve months: Two-day conference, 100 - 350 attendees (or more, depending on your team size), using multiple speakers.
**Please note, these are not set-in-stone, simply recommendations based on my experience.
There are four categories of event planning that you'll have to head up when you decide to do your first event. They are:
Content and Theming
Pre-Registration and Communication
The final two may seem a bit similar, but the reality is that one is a very public customer-service based role, whereas the other one is more of a behind-the-scenes role.
These four areas of work within an event take place somewhat in phases, but most of them are ongoing process, from the time you have the "a-ha!" moment to host the event to the very end of event day.
Content: This is the biggest thing to think about before you even get into ticket prices and budgeting. Content is basically the value that you're providing to your audience, and what your entire marketing message will revolve around. It's important to have a really solid content plan so that you can adequately describe to your attendees what they'll get in return for the ticket price.
2) Workshop/session titles
3) Printed handouts or workbooks
4) Post-event videos, photos, or prompts
5) Any social media add-ons (like a private Facebook group or Slack channel)
(PS a content plan is also initially called your event agenda. The agenda should be somewhat firm to start with, but it's okay to slowly add new content as the weeks and months go on and you add speakers, sessions, and panelists.)
Marketing: Of course! Marketing!
I won't go super deep here, but marketing is essentially the plan to get people to actually come to your event.
Marketing for an event usually falls into three categories and can include:
1) Native marketing (ticket launches, blog posts, tweets, social media, email marketing, or anything done by your company to get the word out to your audience and your audience's audience)
2) Collaborative marketing (working with influencers, retail companies or online companies, or speakers to spread the word to their audiences)
3) PR (whether as a guest on podcasts or getting mentioned by traditional media)
There are TONS of other methods of marketing (including traditional advertising), but these are just some of the things to think about when you begin selling tickets for your event.
Also, it's important to note that most people won't need to use ALL the avenues of marketing, if you're only selling a small number of tickets, or you have a highly engaged audience.
Pre-Registration and Communication: This is the "customer service" aspect of your event, which includes setting up your ticketing website, sending emails to those who have signed up with information about the event, and being the go-to point person for emails, questions, and any public-facing troubleshooting issues. This team or person often also coordinates volunteers.
People vastly underestimate how much time this piece of the event takes, as with any big event, you can get stuck in your inbox answer angry (or excited!) emails all.day.every.day.
Event Delivery: The planning part is the part that people seem to understand the most, because most of us have done a dinner party or wedding at least once in our lives.
However, the most common reason that there are #eventfails or added stress the months and weeks leading up to your event is because a decision is made waaaaay early on in the planning process, but the "how" of the decision is never thought through.
I see this commonly at events where people who have attended events and conferences before say something like "we did this really cool thing and it was super easy and streamlined and doesn't need anything other than us letting people know about it!" to which I always respond by pouring myself a drink and take a deep breath before explaining that the whole job of a conference planner is to make sure that everything feels organic and natural and like "no one even knew that it had been planned!"
An example here is video livestreaming. I get many, many requests for livestreaming of events, because content can be repurposed into lead magnets. Which is a cool idea!
And all you need is a laptop and some internet and VOILA, livestream, right?
No way! Livestreaming is a costly process. You need to have an on-site network to handle the bandwidth that livestreaming takes up plus, a video operator and a dedicated staff member to monitor the livestream in case the platform goes down. And at the end, you have a ton of backend work like editing the resulting video that comes out from the livestream.
Which is totally doable at most events, but HOLY COW a big undertaking that comes from someone saying "we should do a livestream!"
An event that endures
At the end of the day, you have to prepare mentally and physically to take on an event of any size and scale. I always recommend a collaborative team be instituted at the outset, whether it's volunteers or paid team members, because events are hard to do alone. Plus, creating a lasting impact with an event can better your business and your position as a thought leader in your niche.