Q + A Friday: Should I Collaborate on My Conference/Retreat?


Hey Lauren,

How do you feel about reaching out to other people to help co-host a conference? Worth it or not?



The short answer? It depends on what your goals are for this event.

I haven't talked about it much, but I shy away from collaborations where money is involved because situations like this can get really sticky. Planning and marketing responsibility is really hard to divide equally and unless you have a written understanding regarding what each of you are responsible for and what the financial payout is for each party, then it can be ruinous not only for your business relationship, but also for your event.

My gut answer is to run far, far away from collaborations, but I will tell you that I've worked on a few event collaborations in the past and they've actually worked out well.

The Pros

1. Win or lose, you're in this together. Planning an event is a LOT of damn work and regardless of the outcome, you're still going to put a ton of work into it. One of the best parts of a collaboration is that you have an unlimited cheerleading buddy and with all the emotions to experience around an event, you're going to need one.

2. Leverage and network. Collaborating with someone with a large network can mean that your marketing and selling game becomes way easier than it would have been on your own.

3. Division of duties. You're the planner and they're the marketer. You pick up the swag, they run registration. Planning, hosting, and managing an event makes you wear a lot of hats, so if someone else can wear some of the hats, you'll feel so much lighter. Doing what it takes to execute an event with fewer hats = you not wanting to take a Xanax every day until event day.

4. Money. With two sets of investors, you're splitting the financial burden. Events are expensive, so it's comforting knowing that you won't be totally in the hole at the end of the day.

The Cons

1. You will always feel like you're doing more work, no matter what. I have yet to find a collaboration where each party feels like they've done exactly 50% of the work to get it off the ground. You'll need to have a very strict and clear set of guidelines when you're negotiating the terms of your conference, and make sure both parties are on board with what each is tasked with.

2. Your friendship/partnership must turn quickly into a business relationship. Like I said, having a contract for a collaboration is EXTREMELY necessary. Which can leave both sides feeling a little violated. Because this fun thing that you are both so excited about just turned into a Big Serious Project with a Contract. Which is what it is, but if you are having trouble recognizing that right off the bat, it's probably not worth doing a big, live event with this person.

3. Money. Putting on an event is hard work. And it's time consuming. And it costs $$$. And then, at the end of the day, you might make a profit, which is so exciting! And then, you have to divide that profit by two, which is immediately less exciting.

Not to mention, someone has to be the keeper of the budget, someone has to be concerned about the bottom line, and someone needs to reign someone else in when you want to by 300 mercury votive candles because they're...pretty.

4. Your opinion becomes only half as important. One of the biggest reasons that collaborations fail, in my opinion, is because you have two business owners who are used to doing things their own way and then, all of a sudden, don't have the authority to make the final decision. This often stalemates' decisions and means things that would normally take an email, take 20 emails because you're going back and forth discussing the nuances of maroon as your branding color.

In Conclusion

Collaborations can be AMAZING, but I strongly recommend, if you're a great planner and you are confident you can pull the planning piece off, that you ask potential collaborators to come on board as speakers or Q+A panelists. That way, the responsibility and reward is yours exclusively, but you won't have to worry about the emotional stress of involving a partner who has equal say in everything.

What do you think about collaborations? Have you ever had one? What worked and what didn't? Tell me about it in the comments below!

Lauren Caselli1 Comment