When you focus on others, not just yourself, an event can be the success you set out to achieve.
This article is about what I have learned from putting on events so you can take on board. This relates to people trusting you and easily agreeing to come to yours.
I am making that step from the You Are The Media Conference 2018 to raise it to the next level for year two in May 2019. However, rather than this being a ‘hang on….he’s selling me a conference’ (I’ll do that at the very end of this article). if you are thinking about making that step from beyond the online space to a physical presence, let me share with you the biggest things that I have learned.
I am trying to save you time and move away from thinking that to get people to come to your event that you are better than reverting to heavy measures of jumping on LinkedIn and Twitter every hour.
A Good Place To Start
From a delegate side, have a read of this LinkedIn post from John Espirian, it’s very useful. John shares his own checklist as a person who attends conferences. It highlights what organisers can do to create an all-round experience that leaves everyone content.
I am sharing from the perspective of someone who puts on the conference. Hands up, I am not perfect. I am not a seasoned events organiser (albeit the much smaller You Are The Media Lunch Clubs’ is still an event that has been running for over two years) and putting on an event can be a huge risk to your reputation and business.
Fascinated By It All
The reason why people attend events has become something that I am fascinated by and perplexed with. I have seen free events, where there is a huge amount of effort to put on with minimum sponsorship that have been huge successes such as the Adido Summit. I have also been to events where the whole angle has been for others to coerce and deliver a relentless pitch slap.
Whilst creating, curating and taking the lead with events is the perfect opportunity to cement relationships and build a sense of realism (people get to see you and if you prove you can walk the walk), it is also probably the hardest medium to work. You are doing the doing, people are watching, in real time. Have a read of this article for why people won’t come to your event.
Five Things That Are The Crux Of Everything When It Comes To Events
Here are the five main lessons I have learnt, primarily from the You Are The Media Conference, but anything that brings people together in a physical space. Do it right, people are going to stick with you.
You Can’t Make Assumptions.
You have to take time to find out what the community you serve, wants.
There are fantastic free tools out there such as Survey Monkey. For the conference feedback forms (which were sent within 48 hours on completion of the You Are The Media Conference), I used DooPoll. I tried live polls during the conference, but didn’t work too well.
Just because you are guns blazing and excited that you have the perfect line-up does not mean that everyone else is on the same train and throwing fist punches in your direction. For instance, I assumed for the You Are The Media Conference people wanted US authors with a focus on marketing. The reason I say this is for the majority of books related to content marketing, there seems to be a heavier slant from the US, than the UK. However, I was wrong in thinking this. From asking those people who attended, people want to see others with the proof and have a strong story to tell. I understand that by listening to people who have ‘done it’ makes it easier as it then becomes more realistic for others to apply their side.
People will forgive you if you are honest and upfront.
No one expects you to be the Superman/woman of events and you wave a magic wand where everything is on a par with a coordinated light show at the O2 Arena.
Honesty always has to be the best policy. The tech for the You Are The Media Conference was not the best, to say the least. It was clunky, things didn’t appear on the screen when they should have, the sound was quite low when video was played and there was a general lack of ‘slickness’ (having said that hiring a tech team is worth their weight in gold, as takes unnecessary stress away). However, I was quite open about this with everyone and they were ok. It ended up becoming part of the charm. People were there for the occasion, not necessarily a two minute opening film that was quiet.
By being open with everyone and to acknowledge that others are part of the whole experience with you, if things don’t go according to plan, that can be ok.
Over the years I have realised that people are forgiving. If things go wrong and you are not transparent, then people start to question their future commitment.
Help people understand why you are doing this.
It is easier to make a connection when someone understands what the event has been created for and why it is happening in the first place.
When someone can pick up a thread that leads to an event, it is far easier to have the breadcrumbs for people to pick up, rather than just an Eventbrite page telling you an event this is ‘not to be missed.’ If there is a blog that links everything together, use this as a reference point, rather than just the event itself. With the ease at which people can set up a booking page to get themselves up and running, means an even bigger mountain of meaningless out there.
By creating satellites of relevance that circulate your main event, can go hand in hand with a clearer understanding of why your event is happening. This is not just blatant sales posts related to one event, but a bank of work overtime where the event is a by-product of the other activity. People appreciate the moral purpose, not the pitch.
Shoehorn the sales talk in, forget it, you’re back to the beginning.
Once people are in, it is your duty to look after them.
If people are paying to come to your event, then it is your responsibility to be a gracious host.
Look at it this way, treat people as though they are coming round to your house.
People are going to feel barren if they come into your lounge, you start talking about yourself and your business without getting the tin of biscuits out and you haven’t even asked if they’d like a cup of tea.
Likewise with your event, if there are people have dietary requirements, invite them to let you know. Not everyone wants egg mayonnaise sandwiches and a bowl of ready salted crisps. Cutting corners just mean you are being tight and happier to take someone else’s money, rather than focusing on the whole experience that people are part of.
As a friend and experienced event host, Matt Desmier highlights, “The day is an experience and you want them to remember the experience. Even more so you want those memories to be positive.”
For one day, just stop the selling.
People come to an event or conference to take something new away or take onboard a point of view or application from a different perspective.
When someone has committed to a half day or a day away from the office at least have the courtesy to provide value and not the easy route to turn a captive audience into a means to sell to them and ruin everything you have done.
When it is lunchtime, keep it lunchtime. People don’t want to be surrounded by strangers with pop-up stands, USB sticks, rulers and false smiles. There are others ways to utilise sponsorship, when partnerships can be forged. For instance, the 2018 You Are The Media Conference effectively became a wedding list and partners helped bring their specialism to the whole event, from video, to photos, to press, to web, to copy, everyone played their part.
Businesses do not need to default to the lowest common denominator by taking money from anyone who is willing to bring their pop-up stand. If that is the case, then at least build the conversation with those companies who will be relevant to your audience.
Let’s Round Up
When serving others becomes a priority, not just profit, it starts to cement a longer term initiative where you can lay the foundations for more.
It takes hard work to stand out, but when you can bring people in so they feel part of the whole process, rather than part of a mass email send to take advantage of an offer that runs out at the end of the week, things start to take on a different perspective.
Putting something on for others, is no different to inviting your best friends and family over to yours for a party.
It is about people knowing that they will take something away, someone new to connect with and looking back with a sense of attachment that being part of an event/conference made them feel more connected.
The You Are The Media Conference will be back on May 23rd, 2019 on the clifftop in Bournemouth. Click here to see the seven speakers. Be lovely to see you at the seaside next year and be a part of this.