How to Host a KICKASS Event That Makes You More Money
Last week, I attended my first conference in a LONG time. It was the Seva (formerly ConvertKit) conference Craft + Commerce, and to be honest, it was an AMAZING experience. I’ve been to a TON of conferences (hell, I’m an event planner! It’s basically my job to go to conferences), but this event felt like there was SO much value provided, and made me an even bigger fan of Seva as a company.
Do you see that right there? THAT is the goal of hosting live events for your business. To build close customer relationships and strengthen the connection between those people who evangelize your brand (and thus, do the bulk of your marketing work for you).
Today, I want to share my top five tips for creating and hosting customer-focused, engaged events that BLOW AWAY your attendees. To be honest, there aren’t a ton of companies who are doing amazing events (more like mediocre events!), so the market is HUGE for a potential win if you follow these five steps.
1. Focus your content around one, BIG idea
You know what the BIGGEST mistake event hosts make when it comes to structuring their content (especially when they’re afraid that their audience is too big to narrow it down to just one thing)?
They don’t bring all of their content topics back to the big WHY for hosting the conference. Some events will talk a little about engagement, and a little about targeting, and a little about business ownership...but covering TOO many topics confuses your audience and by speaking to just a few people during each talk, your attendees feel like only some of the content speaks to them.
Fix this problem by:
Creating a theme (ConvertKit’s was “Create Everyday”) and then thoroughly vetting all of your speakers so that they include that theme into their talk in some way. You can do this by creating a rough, 1-page, speaker guideline to send to your speakers, scheduling a preliminary call with them to go over their speech, and scheduling a call two weeks out from the event to have them live-practice their speech with you in person or over Zoom. Yes, it’s a TON more work BUT the price you pay in time will pay off in delivering an excellent customer experience for your attendees (which, in turn, will create more avid customers for your product or service!)
2. Draw speakers from your customer base
One of the things I LOVE seeing is when companies reach out to their customer base to present instead of finding speakers that don’t have a tangible connection to the product or service that the conference is based around. Your customers are AWESOME people and deliver so much value as well to THEIR customers or THEIR community...why not ask them to create a keynote or a 20-minute “Ignite-style” talk (based on the Ignite series) centered around your conference theme?
Make it happen by:
Opening up speaker applications only to your customer base. Sure, you can reach out to 1-2 keynotes if you’re looking for those SUPER motivational speakers who will get the crowd bursting with excitement, but creating an application form and inviting your top customers to present and share their stories is a great way to get super specific feedback from the people who love your company most.
3. Focus on SIMPLICITY when you choose your venue
With event planning, especially if you don’t have a designated event planner (but if you want to train someone on your team, you should check out my course Events That Convert!), you’re probably not thinking of ALL the things that you need to include to host a little old conference, right?
But if there’s ANYTHING you should be doing, it’s making sure that you can make your guests’ experience as SIMPLE as possible. That means:
All breakout rooms close to your main conference room
LOTS of directional signage to help get people to the right places
Additional staff to help point people in the right direction
If possible, a venue that has all audio visual, catering, and furniture within the venue. Trust me, you’re going to want to be sure that your venue and the vendors working within that venue have lots of experience within said venue so that the guest experience can be as smooooth as possible.
Also, when you’re picking the venue, make sure that your event space has a little room to grow into. Your first year, you may not fill the room, but in order to create a more streamlined event, choosing the same venue year after year will help you streamline your planning process so that you can create even more fun surprises (see below for more on that!).
4. Staff more than you think you need to staff
I love working with marketing teams because they are the BEST people to be talking to clients and customers about their products. Companies sometimes ask me to hire out customer facing departments like registration and I’m usually hesitant to do it, because I almost always want my clients’ staff to be face-to-face with their customers. Each person in your business should be focused on welcoming your customers, even the software teams or the front desk guy: the more engaged bodies you have to help make your attendees feel taken care of, guided, and helped, the better client experience will be.
One tactic my clients and I use is, about a week before the event, we walk through is our “Run of Show”, which is literally a behind the scenes look at ALL the things that are going on throughout the event. We walk through it step by step, minute by minute, from the attendees’, the speakers’, the sponsors’, and the staff’s point of view, and then we ask all of the questions that we need to know to make sure that each stakeholder knows where he or she needs to be at any given moment.
Plus, having more staffing means that event-related tasks are shared by the entire company, which means things are way less likely to fall through the cracks. The more people, the more ownership staffers can take over small areas of your event, and the more likely it will be that they actually get executed.
5. Add in some real basic, but awesome surprises
Sure, if you do steps #1-4 above, you’ll have an AMAZING event and the ROI in ticket revenue and brand loyalty is going to be way larger than you could ever imagine, particularly if you focus on your customers’ experiences.
But surprises are always great icing on the cake, and at ConvertKit’s conference, they had a few that I would recommend you consider adding to yours (which are mostly low-cost!)
Product rollouts: everyone loves a sneak peek into a product roll out! Plan to live demo your newest product feature or service at your next event, and encourage people to share it on social media to help build the hype.
Surprises at breaks: ConvertKit brought us donuts during one of the breaks, and had a closing party that was off the hook! Music, open bar, delicious food stations (including ramen! So fun!)...there were SO many fun things to do throughout the conference that it hardly ever seemed like there was time to be bored.
Add meetups for industry-specific attendees to network: At your next event, you’ll likely have users from a variety of industries, but who may want to connect with each other. Instead of planning industry-specific events yourself, send an email to your attendees to ask them to host informal meetups during breaks. List them on your website so that they can have great turnout (and you’re informally involved with helping promote your clients and ensuring their success, which is a win for them and a win for you in terms of going above and beyond for your clients/attendees).
Okay, now it’s your turn!
Have you been to a great conference recently? If so, what did they do SUPER well? How did you feel about their product, business, or service after you went to there live event? Share in the comments below!