Have you considered adding live events to your online business? I recently ran my first ever in-person mini conference event in my hometown of Richmond. I had attendees from New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Pennsylvania and even as far away as California come to share a very special day with me. After a day (or two) of reflection and downtime, I created this list of 10 things to consider when planning your own live event.
1. Determine the purpose and objective behind running your live event
Live events are no joke – and they can be a LOT more expensive and stressful than creating virtual products. Make sure you know WHY you’re doing this (and trust me, it’s rarely to generate day-of revenue).
In my case, this event was intended as a special bonus for anyone who had ever done B-School with me. I’ve been mentoring and serving folks through B-school for over 6 years – but I had never done an in-person event. I’m lucky to work with folks all over the world – but I rarely get to meet them. I love the online world – but there’s nothing like sharing physical space with the people who’ve been supporting you over the years.
2. Carefully consider your costs and expenditures
Everything costs money – from space rental, to food to the small details like gift bags and coffee. Set a realistic budget so you can plan accordingly. This may mean that you might need to set a smaller head count so you can rent a smaller space. Plan for contingencies – know that some people who responded may not be able to show up due to sickness or other emergencies. You may want to have a shortlist of local folks who can fill in spots left by late minute cancellations.
Doing your first event? Start small – it’s better to get experience running a smaller event where there’s less at stake (and less that can go wrong and negatively impact your business). Smaller events can feel more intimate and special – and attendees have a better chance of connecting with other participants.
3. Consider the user experience – AND get good food
You know what people remember? How they were treated. And the food. People ALWAYS remember if the food was bad or good. After dealing with our own health issues last year, it’s important to me to provide healthy food that can meet a variety of dietary needs. There’s no reason NOT to provide gluten free, vegan and vegetarian options. I found a place that delivered and allowed people to make their own salad bowls. That way people could eat exactly what they wanted and didn’t feel odd having to request no nuts, no dairy etc. Don’t make people feel like they’re the odd man out. Don’t forget the little touches! I asked who had certain allergies ahead of time so I knew to give them alternate treat options in their personalized gift bags.
And there better be coffee. One major oversight – I forgot to consider the afternoon slump and I didn’t order more coffee for the afternoon – I’ll make sure to fix that for next time. And guess what? The almond milk creamer got used up way before the regular milk. Give people options.
4. Carefully consider the physical event space
Physical space is so important to an amazing experience. Don’t stick people in a depressing basement with no light or air. I’ve known for a while that I wanted to host an event at this amazing light-filled local space – and I reserved it months in advance not knowing exactly how many people would be attending. And while the space can hold 200 people, it suited our smaller group just fine. There were tables where people could comfortable write, plenty of bathrooms and space to spread out for our various activities. Plus the building has an amazing roofdeck where we could all congregate after the event and continue our great conversations and no one felt rushed to leave.
5. Be mindful of the order of your speakers and presentations
I thought long and hard about the order of the day’s events. I wanted to make sure that the day flowed from one presentation to the next. Our first workshop was a major icebreaker that got people out of their seats and working together. That topic naturally led into a conversation with the next speaker. One misstep? Our day ran long and I wasn’t able to do a presentation of my own – but I did make sure to spend a few hours during and after the event talking with attendees.
6. Get your outfit sorted early
I know this might seem trite, but prepping an appropriate outfit matters! Running an event means you’ll be running around (literally) – so pick an outfit that will photograph well AND be comfortable. Not a small task! And get backups of outfit options. I had ordered a special jumpsuit to arrive the day before my event – and thanks to a shipping snafu, it showed up the day AFTER the event. No good. Thankfully I had ordered a few options from Rent the Runway so I had some backup options. And go figure, the jumpsuit ended up being too big to wear! Get this sorted early so you have one less thing to stress about on the day of the event.
7. Build your day of event checklist
I live and die by my checklists. I don’t have a huge team so it’s on me to remember all the small details. I found that creating a time based checklist help me think through the different parts of the day. Really consider everything – when will you get food delivered? Will it be in the middle of someone’s speech? What if someone goes over their allotted time? And most importantly – make sure to plan enough bio (bathroom) breaks. Make sure to share an agenda with your attendees so they know what to expect. You’ll have less interruptions (and questions) if you let people know what will happen when.
8. Get day of event support and delegate tasks
I hired two folks to help me run the event. They were invaluable for all the small things you might not think about that affect the end user experience – like finding out how to turn down the air conditioning or get more water and ice.
When you’re in the midst of running the event, you’re the star of the show. Your attendees want to talk to you and connect with you. If you’re off trying to find out how to get the projector working you can’t be fully present with your audience. Get help! It doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg – but it can make the whole experience more enjoyable for everyone (including yourself!).
9. Build in buffer space and time around the event
You have to give yourself enough space and time for planning and recovery. Block off at least the day before AND the day after the event. Especially if you run a primarily service based business like mine, you don’t want to have to be in the middle of launching something and answering emails when you should be focused on supporting your attendees.
And make sure to give yourself enough time to recover – you’re expending a lot of energy showing up and giving your all – you’re going to need time to rest and sleep. Don’t try to launch anything or deal with hard situations the day after your event. Order in food or make sure your fridge is stocked BEFORE your event so you don’t have to deal with the grocery store (and forget about laundry for a bit!).
10. Do a post-mortem debrief immediately after the event
You want to capture the highs (and the lows) right after you run your event. Send a thank you note with a feedback form to your attendees. I sent an email with a quick feedback form to just the participants tagged in my ConvertKit account. You want to capture what went well (and what didn’t) so you can plan for future events. Document everything! Update your checklists and spreadsheets now so you’re not trying to remember a year from now what you need to do differently.
Remember nothing will ever be absolutely perfect (and people will definitely let you know where you went wrong!) – but take everything with a grain of salt and strive to make your next event run even more smoothly.
Right after the event is also a great time to encourage folks to connect and hire you for additional services – they’re often excited and hungry for more – so make sure you’ve got a way for them to work with you further!