I had the great honor of partnering with and hosting my mentor Andrea J Lee for a live event in Philadelphia in September (2014). While I have hosted mini workshops of my own before, I had never hosted a larger all-day event before.
Here’s what I learned from my experience of running a successful event.
Give Yourself Time (Start Earlier Than You Think)
Everything takes longer than you think it will. Even though the event collaboration was confirmed in late June, much of the action didn’t really get started until August. Part of the challenge was coordination across vacation/travel schedules and time zones. Another was the fact that many people weren’t thinking about their businesses or commitments while in “summer mode”. The bottom line with any event is that you can always start earlier than you think. Give yourself at least double the time you think it will take to do any one task and you will be much happier.
How You Feel Matters (Go with Your Gut)
Being in charge of the venue was an interesting experience for me. I had certain parameters to follow in terms of requirements but otherwise the choice was mine. For several weeks I found myself visiting venues that friends and colleagues had recommended and where I had attended events in the past. Nothing quite felt right. Many of the spaces felt sterile, like the typical corporatey meeting room, or downright confining (think windowless dungeon). I was getting pressure from local colleagues to “just decide” and “do what others do”. It didn’t sit right with me. So in the end, I found a funky, cool space at The Black Walnut Winery that became our venue. Off the beaten path? Yes. A fun place to be with a comfortable, intimate energetic? Yes. Bottom line: how you feel about where you are spending your time and money matters.
Promote Early & Often
This piggybacks on the start earlier than you think advice but has a twist. If you’re anything like me, you don’t want to bombard people with invitations to things. You don’t want to be “salesy”. Yet the reality of it is, it used to take 5-7 “touches” for someone to notice you and possibly take action (buy/register). Nowadays it is taking even longer. 7, 10, 13+ times of someone seeing or hearing from you to notice and take action. As a result you want to be able to drip out information about an event in a meaningful way over time. Combine it with some time-sensitive action points to create urgency. Otherwise, nothing happens!
Get creative. I noticed an uptick in registrations when I started to create content like “top 10 reasons to attend” and “how to decided whether an event is worth your time”. These were valuable pieces of content in themselves and could be combined with invitations to the actual event. Personal invitations to friends and colleagues, while time intensive were also very effective. Most importantly, don’t panic. Most people wait until the last minute to register, but you want them thinking about it and clearing their schedule before the 11th hour.
Don’t Take Things Personally
When registrations aren’t what you hoped, venue contracts get stalled, or some other snafu pops up, it can be very easy to slip into a funk. I definitely hit a few of those “I’m a loser! I suck at this!” moments. It’s human nature. The trick is to avoid or at least quickly bounce out of the funk and back into balance an action. It’s also important to realize that people you thought would definitely come may not attend. It’s not personal. Everyone is in his or her own world and chooses accordingly. It really doesn’t have anything at all to do with you or your value. Keep moving forward.
Details & Being Organized Matters
There are a lot of moving parts to an event, even a small, intimate one. Details unattended to can derail you. The more organized you are, the better things will run and the easier it will be for people to help you. Checklists are your friend.
Enlist Help (It Takes a Village)
You cannot and should not try to do this all alone. It just won’t work. The earlier you can enlist the help of volunteers and team members, the better. I waited until the home stretch. Even though I knew I wanted and needed help, for whatever reason I waited a little longer than I hoped. Fortunately for me talented and generous colleagues surround me. Before the day of the event I had the help I needed and everyone did an awesome job. I couldn’t’ be more grateful. Another helpful hint is to make sure you truly thank each and every person who helps you. It simply feels good and it is what you would want if you volunteered, right?
Be Fully Present
With all the different things that need to be handled, you can easily get swept into distraction, overwhelm, and exhaustion. Take care of yourself along the way and then relax and let go so you can be fully present to lead and enjoy the event. Unless you can be in the moment, all your hard work will just slip right by you. Be here now, you deserve it!
Photo Credits: Terree Yeagle, The Moment Photography