4 Reasons NOT to Host a Live Event
Last Tuesday, I woke up in the middle of the night with that ever familiar feeling of anxiety.
I sleep like a champion, so if my mind is racing so much that I can’t get back to sleep, I know that it’s something serious.
As I tossed and ran through my mental to do list, one thing kept coming back to me.
“You only have 6 confirmed people for your Friday dinner. Tomorrow, you’ll need to follow up on your outreach.”
As my brain made action plans, I knew the real reason that I was awake wasn’t because I had somehow forgotten to follow up with my event invitees…it was because my biggest fear was coming to life:
How I was going to recover from the embarrassment of ONLY SIX PEOPLE confirmed for a dinner for 15?
Clearly, because I had only heard back from a handful of people, I was:
Terrible at hosting events
A terrible person that no one wanted to be around
Terrible at PLANNING events because if I had been better at planning, clearly everyone would have cleared their schedule to come to this dinner.
When I finally started work the next day and I progressed through my To Do list of inviting and following up on outstanding invitations, I realized that hosting an event takes serious guts. If I, a seasoned event planner and event host on behalf of clients, can get derailed by the fear of no one attending, what do newer event hosts feel like?
So today, I thought that I’d go through the reasons why you may NOT want to host an event, so that you can be 100% sure you understand exactly what you’re getting into when you hit “Send” on your first invitation email.
DON’T HOST AN EVENT IF:
You need a huge influx of cash.
Because I DON’T think we talk about money enough in the event planning world, I want to get this one out of the way first: events are a GREAT way to build LONGTERM money (aka client relationships) but are not the best way to get a bonus influx of cash into the door.
The reason is that events are expensive. They cost a lot of money relative to services that most service-based business provide (which is most of the people who read this blog). You may get cash via ticket sales, but likely, that cash goes straight back out the door again in the form of deposits, printed workbooks, conference amenities, and lots of other things.
If you’re at a critical point at your business where you need a quick buck and you’re thinking about selling tickets to an event, let me make it easy for you and tell you to do a flash sale of your most popular product or service at 30% off. Those will sell MUCH easier than event tickets and you’ll be able to keep more of the proceeds, too.
You don’t have a clear picture of what the return from the event will be.
Most people who I work with initially think events alone are a really great way to introduce another income stream into their business. We’ve already seen from the above point that events are expensive and can be hard to scale, BUT events are the single best converting vehicle for business owners short of taking people on 1:1 coffee dates.
This means that an event is 80% marketing tool, 20% sales tool. Events help get your people IN the door so that you can eventually sell them into a larger, longer term offer. Events themselves are NOT a revenue stream (unless you’ve ALREADY built a large community of people who would use an event as a way to get to know you personally or work with you in a more intimate way at a higher price point), so if you don’t have an idea of what FINANCIAL GOALS you’re hoping to accomplish with the event, it’s going to be a bust.
Using the example from the above dinner party that I hosted, my goal was not to turn anyone in the room into clients. My goal was to make my name more known in a specific space (digital entrepreneurship) and get to automatically have some influence in a room of people that I didn’t know that well.
Suddenly, as the host of the dinner, you have influence and people see you as the leader, meaning they start interacting with you at other points during the event. I went from unknown to leader in the time it took me to send a few emails.
“Okay, so that’s great, but where does the $$ and strategy come into play, Lauren?”
You’re right. That ALONE isn’t enough to get me to a strategic place. But, based on my past experience and, to be honest, the ENTIRE REASON that our company exists, the eventual money that will come out of this event will come in the form of recommendations, referrals, and general “getting talked about” (think about Gossip Girl. The more people talk about you, the more people talk about you). Here’s what I’m 95% sure will happen:
a. One of their clients may one day plan an epic event and they may want to have an outside team come in to run it.
b. Someone in their Facebook Group may ask about hosting their own event, and will be referred to Events That Convert.
c. Or maybe, they are a guest on a podcast that is looking for similarly awesome podcast guests. You know who’s doing interesting things? That girl who invited me to a dinner at the ConvertKit Conference a few months ago.
If you’re NOT 100% sure of the desired outcomes in the future for your event, then it’s important that you take a little bit of time to think about it. Events WILL convert if you have a clear plan (and are inviting the RIGHT people to the event), but it takes a bit of time to think about what this plan is.
You’re afraid to ask people to come to your event.
This one never even occurred to me until after this event last weekend. After I didn’t hear from my invitees right away, I realized that very successful people are also very busy people. They aren’t waiting for you to invite them to something. You’re going to have to go out and convince them why it’s going to be awesome.
And then, you’re going to have to be okay with their silence, and go out and ask five more people to come. And be okay with that silence. And then ask five more people.
This is why I like doing these types of dinners around conferences — most people don’t know more than a handful of people at the event, AND they’re basically stuck in a city they don’t know very well. The bar is WAY lower than if you asked them out to dinner in their own city — because then they’d have to put on pants and leave their home.
At a conference, they already have on pants and want to meet lots of new people. Now, you just have to create the space.
My winning formula is this: invite 5 people that are SUPER rad. Create a compelling reason why this dinner is going to be awesome. Then, ask them to recommend someone else who is rad. It grows your network AND keeps the “fear” factor low. They can have you invite someone that they know so they aren’t trapped in a room of people they don’t know.
Wait 3 days. Follow up. Wait 3 days. Follow up with any recommendations OR move on to the next 5 people on your list.
Which means, it may take UP TO 4 weeks to get a room of 15 people to come to dinner. Start now. Keep asking. Don’t be scared — we all are scared.
I will say the uniqueness of hosting people for dinner ESPECIALLY in the digital marketing space is very, very high, so you’re definitely getting in on the ground floor.
For me, the amount of times I have been invited out to dinner is exactly ONE in my SEVEN years of entrepreneurship, so if you can create an experience like that for people, you will stand out.
You really don’t like public speaking or generally being seen in person.
So this is one of those points that I bring up because — total honesty here — most people REALLY want to be SEEN in person…until they get in person with a small group of people.
Somehow, it’s EASIER to be seen in person when you’re talking to a massive amount of people (perhaps you dim the lights and look out into the vast expanse) — but when you’re talking to a smaller group, it can feel intimidating.
People are asking you to engage with them, to ask them questions instead of talking about your experience. They’re looking to you to lead them for three hours, and hoping that you’ll help them form connections with other people.
This is MASSIVELY different than leading a rousing, inspirational talk from a stage where you talk all about your own experience and what worked for you. This takes deference, a removal of ego, the reminder that the night isn’t about you so that you can show up for others, and some serious practice being vulnerable with boundaries — things that not a lot of business owners actually have to do up close and personal.
But this key piece, the piece of being “the connector” of thinking only how you can help others get to their goals — that’s exactly why this setting is so powerful. You can give 12-20 people a massively transformative experience over dinner by focusing solely on them and their needs.
Even if they’re “big time.” Even if you admire them. Even if you don’t think you play in their league.