We’ve all been to conferences, training days and networking events. The key considerations for all of us is “What will I get out of this?” and “Is it going to be worth my time?” This is especially true for anyone who runs their own business. As a business owner, your own time is one of your most valuable resources and its already likely to be stretched to the limit. So, when it comes to live events, how can you make sure you get the most out of them AND make a difference to your business? These are the questions we ask at The Business Village whenever we attend – or organise – a live event.
Firstly, attending live events can be a great way to make new contacts, expand your network and maybe even pick up some leads. If you work alone, they can act as a fantastic motivator and provide inspiration for your next project, helping you to pick up ideas or maybe change how you do things. That’s not to mention the social benefits you get from mingling with other entrepreneurs and having friendly chats over a coffee. Many long-lasting business relationships are formed this way.
As we’ve said before; nothing beats face-to-face contact in business. Simple conversations can make a lasting impression with people who could help your business in the future. It can also be a great opportunity to have a chat with the speakers, as well as other audience members. Maybe you’ll even meet your business inspiration or get to chat with key influencers who can offer a bit of advice.
Ultimately, when you’ve assessed an event and established the key benefits you’ll get from it, attending is an investment in your business and yourself. This is important – your own personal development and skills are key to keeping up with technology, trends and your competitors!
Secondly, one sure-fire way to make sure you get as much out of a live event as possible, is to run your own!
Okay, you might now be thinking, “What?! I can’t do that?”, but bear with us…
Investing in a live event that’s branded with your business name and logo gives you a huge number of marketing opportunities. Not only in relation to delegates, but in terms of advertising, media and social media reach. Creating a buzz around an event is a great way to fill those seats. The best way though, is to have a schedule that’s filled with useful information and speakers that attract an audience.
Eventually, you may even find that running live events could become a valuable source of income, if you price and target effectively. They could also lead to you becoming a sought-after keynote speaker in your own right.
When starting out it’s a good idea to test the water and build your reputation as an event host. This way you will build an audience who will be more likely to attend when you are putting on bigger events. Begin with shorter workshops, information sharing and mix it with some networking – remember that there are many, many networking events available, so you will need to make yours stand out and offer something the others don’t.
Do remember those key considerations you make when deciding whether to attend an event. These must be key in your planning if you decide to put on an event of your own. There are a few rules to stick to when it comes to organising your own events.
Before you arrange anything, test the market. Decide what sort of event you wish to organise; it could be a training session, or workshop, or an event centred around a speaker or topic. Then create articles and posts about your event; ask what your target audience would like to get out of such an event. Find out which speakers on the subject are sought after or inspire your potential attendees. This will help you to put the content together too.
Begin creating that buzz, way before the event is organised. Then you can market the hotly anticipated event to an already warmed up audience of possible delegates.
Work out how much it will cost to stage your event. It’s usually better to hire a local venue, rather than hold them in your own office. This will enable a much more professional setting, with people who are responsible for setting up and making sure everything is in place. Some business venues offer free room hire, as long as you buy in their catering. This can be beneficial but do the sums.
As you grow your events, you’ll need to attract delegates from outside your existing network. This is where creating the buzz comes in. Social media promotion is a good tool, but getting customers, suppliers, colleagues, etc. to share your posts and increase the audience size is vital. Using local media to run a story on your event – especially if you have a known speaker attending – can be very helpful. You may wish to advertise, either on platforms such as LinkedIn, or in trade publications on or offline.
When your events have grown to the point where you are charging attendees, the rules on budgeting step up too…
An important part of the budget for events is regarding the keynote speaker. It’s definitely worth paying a speaker to attend, as you can then include a requirement for them to stick around and spend time with delegates, or take part in Q & A panels, etc. This demonstrates that the speaker is of value and that you understand their worth. Remember, your time is a resource – so is theirs. They will often be taking time out from their main enterprise to attend your event, so it’s only fair to compensate them. It also ensures their attendance and avoids any last-minute withdrawals if something paid comes up!
When you have the costs budgeted for, then work out how many delegates you will need to attend and what ticket price (if you are charging) you will need to set. There are several good reasons for charging if you are putting on an event that includes a known keynote speaker.
When you are marketing an event and want to make it as appealing as possible, the materials must be up to standard. Details must be double and triple-checked. Branding has to be standard across the board and used in every promotional post, advertisement and handout.
Materials should be relevant, not simply filled with blatant self-promotion. Always include bios of the speakers, information about your business and why you’re staging the event and importantly, a delegate list (as long as they’ve opted in to being included on it).
Use a professional platform for tickets, such as Eventbright, or companies such as Merlinsoft, one of our Business Village tenants. This will keep everything neat and tidy and save you the hassle of keeping lists and taking payments.
Offering an early bird discount is always a good idea to get the event filling up in advance. This also provides an angle for marketing in the early stages.
Do be sure to include an option to sign up to your mailing list when a delegate buys a ticket. This is a good way to increase your list with quality leads.
When your event is over, be sure to follow up with delegates. Send copies of speaker presentations, if available, along with electronic copies of handouts and information. You can also offer a discount on attendance at your next event!
Your delegate list should be a mixture of existing customers and potential leads. Use this wisely!
We hold regular events – hosted by us, our tenants and external companies. You can find a list of our forthcoming events here. If you are interested in organising your own event, get in touch with Kevin, who will be happy to help.