The Four Myths About Hosting an Event That Are Keeping You from Being Seen
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!