Since we started this series, we’ve explored what it means to follow your passion and purpose, how to start your own business or side gig and how to build a powerful personal brand and a business brand that connects with your ideal audience, and last week we talked about how to avoid fear of failure and overcome challenges.
There are SO many questions that I get asked and the team and I have been keeping notes on them for a long time, so if it’s of interest to you, I’d love to keep including some pop-up ‘how to’ episodes for you in the future, in between our interviews with impressively fierce women!
If that sounds good to you, and you have a specific question you’d like me to answer or invite a guest expert on to answer, please let me know by emailing me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Today, we’re going to talk about something so many of us want to do well… and something that can be super intimidating if you haven’t ever done it before: running live in-person events.
So – I guess you could say with more than seven thousand past event attendees and more than 40+ past events of varying sizes and kinds… this is something I know inside and out!
At She Is Fierce!, we are known for our live events – including our signature ‘She Is Fierce! Talks,’ our Success Summit, our Business on the Beach Retreat for entrepreneurs and business leaders.
Oh – and all of our publicly ticketed events have sold out since our very first event in 2015!
Plus, in addition to our more structured events, we have our more intimate Cocktails & Connections events that we host – and the ‘Connections Guides’ for members who want to host their own Connections events in their cities!
I meet women all the time who want to try out an event for their business – as a revenue-generating opportunity, as a way to sell their higher ticket offers to their existing client base – or sometimes, just as a way to give back or to create connection with others – in their clients or their community.
I also meet women business owners who have tried out events for their business and lost money – sometimes a LOT of money. Or, maybe they have struggled to get people to buy tickets or even sign up to attend a free event!
So… why do some businesses charge hundreds, even thousands of dollars for events and sell out, while others work hard, put up money, build powerful content and can’t get people to show up – for free?
I have seen this over and over again in so many different markets, in different business categories, including solopreneur businesses and large corporations with massive budgets who struggle to get their ideal audience excited about attending an event they put on or sponsor.
If this is something you’ve been thinking about doing, I have some practical tips and tricks to help you create sold out, powerful, meaningful events of your own!
So – here is the quick breakdown of what we’re going to talk about:
- Getting clear about WHY you’re putting on an event
- How to decide exactly what kind of event you will host
- The basic event management pieces you need to make sure to get right
- How to make an event truly special and memorable – so your guests come to the next one!
So, let’s get started by talking about:
#1 – Getting clear about WHY you’re putting on an event
Here’s the thing – not everyone should be putting on events… and lots of people who could or should aren’t – or aren’t getting the results they want.
Success at anything starts with understanding and clarifying your WHY – and with an event, the importance of your WHY is amplified by the fact that you will have practical costs, deadlines and lots of other people to deal with!
Here are a few common reasons small business owners and even large companies put on events:
- Increasing personal influence or brand recognition
- Empowering or teaching others through meaningful content
- Creating community, either within your clientbase as a business or within any other network of people – maybe as a nonprofit donor base or a local community event for students
- And of course… a big one: Making money
At She Is Fierce!, our events started as a way to live out the mission of elevating women’s stories!
It absolutely started with a deeper meaning and intention to empower women, and that has always been the core of what we do at our events… and I have fought to keep that at the heart of our events ever since.
But – I will be honest here, in our first year, I finished our first packed event series of phenomenally fierce speakers, powerful energy in the room every night (and dozens of life-changing stories that have come out of that year of events) having spent every dollar that came in and spent months of my life hustling every day to put on events – with nothing to show at the end of all that work but some amazing feelings and the realization that I was on to something!
So – that feeling was incredible, but I didn’t have any money to contribute to my family after months of work and paying for childcare!
That was a powerful lesson for me as someone who started a business and an event series truly based on the desire to live out the mission, and with very little focus on how I could earn enough money to make that mission sustainable by paying myself for my work!
So – answer some of these questions before you move forward:
You are going to put weeks or months of your life into planning this event. Are you doing that work to:
- Build community?
If so, what is that community truly about? And how will your event serve the community both by creating connection but also by creating opportunities for those in your community?
- Empower and teach others?
If so, make sure you know what your curriculum or your format will be – and how exactly that content will uplift your attendees. You will want to build a schedule for the event that allows your attendees to think big, get practical and create intentional outcomes for themselves to work toward!
- Increase personal influence or brand recognition?
If you are putting on an event to increase your personal influence or increase your business brand recognition – be honest about this! More established businesses don’t struggle with this, but often mission-driven small business owners really don’t want to admit to themselves that they are creating something that will be self-serving in some way. Ok – here is your official permission to get over that!
You are going to put an incredible amount of work into putting on a powerful event – if you are hoping that it will attract attention to your business or increase your profile, acknowledge this and build ways to do this intentionally into the event.
That doesn’t mean you should be on stage bragging throughout the event, but it does mean you can create opportunities for your audience to experience the value of your work consistently throughout the event experience.
- Make money?
Ok – and I am finishing on this one because this is the one that most people struggle with – often, just acknowledging that they even want to make money out of an event… and once they’ve been able to acknowledge it, building a revenue-generating plan to make it happen! I’ll go into this further later in the episode. For now though – acknowledge if this is a motivator and you need to make a certain amount of money to make all your hard work worthwhile or if the event will be a client appreciation experience or community gathering and you’re comfortable spending money on expenses and not directly profiting from the work. Sometimes, that is absolutely a wonderful thing to do – but I’d much rather you go into an event knowing that than regretting your time and expense later!
#2: Decide what kind of event you will host
Once you know your WHY, you can clarify what kind of event you will host that will best serve the WHY you outlined.
Here are some common event models to consider
- An intimate gathering in a home
This is great for fundraising, thank you receptions, community gatherings or general social events
- Networking events
Opportunities for social engagement between professionals that often take place in the early morning over breakfast or later in the evening over drinks (with some lunchtime versions thrown in for more traditional chamber or business organizations)
Leading a networking event is a great way to raise your business or personal profile while also creating connection within your community and serving others who are seeking connection.
- Speaker-led events
Speaker-led events are usually a little more formal and can be anything from one keynote speaker who attendees come for specifically to a line-up of speakers on a specific topic or theme. These are great if you are looking to empower or teach your audience
These also require a LOT more coordination and work to support promotion – for both the event and the speakers, so be aware of what you’re taking on and choose your number of speakers accordingly!
- Multi-day luxury retreat (or nature retreat, yoga retreat etc.
These are wonderful opportunities for business, health or lifestyle coaches and consultants to bring together their ideal clients – both existing clients and prospective clients in a structured event that allows them to set the tone for the attendees and create a deeper level of connection
This also often requires a larger financial commitment up front, which means more expensive ticket pricing, so you will want to make sure you work your numbers before you announce and event so you feel comfortable and confident when you start selling tickets!
- Award Ceremonies
These are a great way to celebrate successes and bring together members of your prospective client-base to experience your business’ culture and celebrate the successes you have had.
You can choose your format and what your awards will be for – but make sure they relate very specifically back to your company core values and give you a chance to show off your company’s value to the audience you bring to the event, while highlighting your award-winners!
#3 – Identify the OUTCOME you would like attendees to walk away with – and the OUTCOME you would like to walk away with!
Knowing what you want your attendees to experience and their takeaways to be should be the first thing you think about every time you add something to your event line-up.
Your outcome can be simple – learn a specific skill for example, or it can be multi-faceted.
When we host our Success Summit, I want our attendees to leave feeling inspired by the stories they’ve heard on stage, feeling like they have been seen and valued and in our community and made real connections, feeling like they are worthy of a luxe experience in a beautiful setting and I also want them to walk away having made real, practical steps toward their goals – whether that is learning a new skill, making a new business connection, defining their vision and strategic plan – or all three!
That’s a lot to pack into a two day event – and that’s why I recommend you start with your WHY, decide what kind of event will best serve your audience, and then go straight to defining the OUTCOME you want your attendees to leave with.
This will give you the answer to many of the more practical questions you will have along the way… which leads me to my next section!
#4 – Here are some other practical considerations you will want to make sure to review as you build out your event:
- Where will you host the event?
Make sure the venue aligns with your audience and your WHY – is it easy enough to access? Is there parking? Does it have the ‘feel’ your ideal client wants to experience?
- No matter the event, create time and physical space for intimate conversations
One of the lessons I’ve learned from hosting so many events is that many people are hoping for the chance to get to know someone else attending better or to make a business connection while they’re there. Help them do this by creating physical spaces that are removed from the main event space where attendees can gather in small groups of 2 or more to have private conversations.
- Make sure your Wi-Fi works and everyone can easily access it (!!!)
- If your event is about empowerment or learning, make sure you are giving your attendees enough physical space to spread out and work!
- How will you make people feel included?
Consider how you will help everyone get connected in as non-cheesy a way as possible! There are many ways to do this, and you should consider using one that suits the general vibe and spirit of your event
- Give careful consideration to your content
Even if you want to change lives at your event, you should make sure the content is presented in easily understandable terms and that you keep the heart of the content tied in throughout. A pet peeve of mine is an event that says it’s ‘for women’ or ‘for professionals’ where each session is completely unrelated to the one before and you are just on a choose your own adventure day!
Make life easy on your attendees – help them stay tied the core meaning of the event throughout the experience.
- Finally, don’t forget about food!
Ok, I am not really a foodie and I don’t have specific food requirements that matter to me for events I attend (except the basic – not a turkey sandwich on white bread and a bag of chips, please!)
But, I have learned how important food is for both connection and intimacy but also the perceived value of an event.
Know your audience and their expectations. If you’re calling your event luxury or charging a healthy price point, you should be serving food that aligns with those things – in fact, I would say you’re better off not providing food at all than providing food that is subpar as there are a lot of foodies out there!
In an upcoming episode of the podcast, I’m going to cover two other hot topics – how to get amazing guests – both as speakers and as attendees and how to promote your event.
Both of those things are common struggles and I have SO much to share, that I decided to break it out into another episode for you!
Now – when you’re event is over, make sure you build in time with your team or even just an honest friend or mentor who attended to review the event overall, make a plan to keep what you loved and revise what you didn’t next time – and make time for yourself to CELEBRATE all your hard work!
I hope this episode has inspired you to take on hosting an event of your own – whether it’s to grow your business or create a greater sense of community with your clients or even just celebrate with your friends!
We have a brand new Heirloom Leadership course all about how to run an event, how to generate revenue from events and how to sell out your events dropping in the She Is Fierce! Membership in September!
You can learn more about our membership at sheisfiercehq.com/join and check out all of the past workshops, Heirloom courses, recordings of past mentor sessions and more that members have exclusive access to!
If you’re a business owner who is ready to level-up, you should also know that we’ll be opening the doors to our CEO Mastermind Circle in September too!
If you are looking for a program that helps you through live virtual, interactive coaching alongside other female business owners and leaders, with both group connection and 1:1 time with me and our SIF leadership team, this could be a great fit for you!
Send me an email and I’ll send you more details on the program – my email is email@example.com.