The toughest thing about putting on a conference, by far, is not just getting people to come, but
Doing one-off events fail miserably because people think that just because they have a great idea, doesn’t mean to say that others share the same belief. You have to be persistent but without relentless sales messages. However, it can be done.
This article is about having a beating pulse that leads up to the main event. It’s about creating satellites of activity that do not sit in isolation but circulate and compliment the main activity.
Hands up, putting on a conference is hard. The You Are The Media Conference is on Thursday, May 23rd. It looks like it is going to be a sell-out, but that’s only because it’s been present every week, not a burst of activity a month or so leading up to the conference.
Having a live event offline is in a totally different space from a live event online. People have to make a commitment, rather than tick a box to watch a live video stream or webinar and then decide something else better to do and walk away from a screen. It is the proof in what you do, the hammer that can smash your ego to pieces, or reward you by acknowledging what you have built (are building) resonates with others.
This is the most transparent thing you will ever make that leap into. You can tell everyone that you have huge subscriber rates, massive website views and an abundance of email enquiries, but who else is to know? When you curate something physical, present and real, be prepared for people to see you bare.
At the end of the You Are The Media Conference in 2018, I was exhausted and spent the following day asleep on the sofa, rather than basking in the goodwill and energy from others. In 2019, this is something that I promise won’t happen. I guess it is all part of the learning curve.
Let me share with you what you can do, to ensure that people attend your event, you make a profit and becomes the building blocks for momentum.
What It All Comes Down To
People who put on events that do not have satellites circulating around them, if there isn’t money to throw at it, organisers will not come out smiling. It becomes an exhausting process, that is far from enjoyable.
Satellites are the various forms of activity that circulate the main event. They compliment the whole activity and allow people to connect and make a decision where they feel comfortable and recognise they made the right choice.
The build-up to the You Are The Media Conference has been achieved on zero marketing budget. This is a pure owned media play. No money has been spent on any forms of advertising.
This is how the activity has worked:
1) The You Are The Media weekly email has made prompts each week, if not a section that highlights the conference, there are links within the email.
2) The monthly You Are The Media podcast with Chris Huskins, since October 2018, has had a section at the end that makes reference to the conference
3) The video that the team at Treehouse Digital/The Video Club put together is because they are a partner in this, we have a good relationship and they worked on the video output last year
4) The video has been posted natively in LinkedIn, Twitter and as an event on Facebook (and use the You Are The Media Facebook Group to promote)
5) Write about the challenges of putting on a conference in articles such as what you are reading now
6) Created build-up events. In January, there was the You Are The Media 2019 launch with Trevor Young, who headed over from Australia. On May 10th, there is the You Are The Media Conference Warm-Up with Mark Schaefer
7) The local press (The Bournemouth Echo) has featured and PR has played it’s supporting role
8) You Are The Media Lunch Club has been used as a platform to encourage people to sign-up and talk to me face to face during the session
9) I have armed everyone who is coming to the conference with their ‘I Am Going To The You Are The Media Conference’ social badge and for some a link to a Dropbox folder that includes the badge as well as the conference promo video.
The best way I can describe all this activity and that it connects to the 2019 conference is the equivalent to training for a marathon. Being continually active in the months, not weeks, to the main event is about becoming sharper, tuned in and being present.
You can either look at your phone or jump inside the phone and be where others are, not in isolation where you say, you’ll put the effort in next weeks with a few sporadic posts and emails to people who don’t normally receive emails from you.
By being relentlessly active and where every breadcrumb relates and connects to each other is where the success lies.
One event, cannot sit in isolation from everything else.
What About You?
If you are thinking about putting on something that is live for people to attend that is away from a screen, here is how you can do it with zero marketing budget.
Be prepared to dig deep, but here is what I have learned and a realistic approach to apply your side.
Everything here is what I have done:
Go create (writing, audio, video). When you put the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle together, when you stand back and look, every single piece connects with the other. You cannot think that setting up an event on Eventbrite is going to bring any form of return. Alignment in everything that is shared and said is key to all this.
2) Build your audience first, not just broadcast to strangers on social media.
Just because you have an abundance of people who chose to follow you, doesn’t mean they are going to give you the time of day or show any interest. Everything about You Are The Media is about the time and energy it takes to
3)Attendees are just as important as speakers, protect them.
By this, I don’t mean pestering delegates to ask others to attend, but just being grateful and courteous. For instance, when someone has booked, thank them for making that decision to attend. A day away from work is a huge commitment to make. The You Are The Media Conference Warm-Up event on May 10th, those who are attending the conference have the first refusal if they would like to come, or not. It’s good to make others feel a part of something.
4) Deliver on the value people will take, not just the bargain of an early bird ticket.
Whilst incentives are important, it is pointless telling others that they will take away the equivalent of £599 in bonuses. If you are spending time and energy to curate something that delivers value and steers clear of an agenda ie. get people into a room, to then sell more to them, then you have every right to share this with others. When you have dedicated time, steered clear of a ‘call for speakers’ and built a good relationship with others to then ask them to present, puts you in a stronger place. For instance, I have known Margaret Magnarelli for a few years and to have her over from New York means a lot.
5) Arm those who are attending to encourage sharing.
If other people can widen
6) Build one core space as your
In my case, this has been
7) Make everyone attending feel like they are coming to your house (they will share the warmth for the next event).
It is important to be seen as a good host. You do not want to isolate anybody, or make the whole experience feel haphazard, such as asking people with dietary requirements to sit in a different place, or worse still, not tell anyone there isn’t any lunch and for people to find somewhere in a town/city they don’t know much about. Imagine that everyone who steps into your space for the event,
Let’s Round Up
Putting on an event is challenging, full of unknown intricacies, but can be the most rewarding thing that you ever do. To have people coming to something that you decided to put your heart and soul into is one of the most fulfilling things I have ever done.
If what you are looking to do is in a different place from what is already out there and you can find momentum with a fluid message that isn’t just about promoting, you can make your efforts a success.
Having a continual pulse that leads up to the main event is the difference between a lukewarm reception and one where you will come back time and time again. You have to recognise ways to inform others, on their terms, that is beyond banging the same drum ie. buy before the end of the week.
Whilst it is difficult, with the regular You Are The Media Lunch Club events and now the You Are The Media Conference, I am in a better place to recognise what works and what will crash and burn.
Get it right, you can come back to it, time and time again.