How to Plan and Fill a Live Event with 300 Entrepreneurs
If you think that hosting your first event is just about setting a date and inviting people, you’re in for a surprise. While a million things can go wrong, you can host your event much more successfully by having a plan and a goal.
Lisa Larter is a business coach, consultant, speaker, and author of the book ‘Pilot to Profit’. One of the highlights of her life was to meet Oprah and help Deepak Chopra navigate on Facebook. She is a veteran in hosting her own events, and shares what she has learned and improved over the years.
Discovering Her Why
“I’ve always had this go-to back story about taking toys to the flea market to make money so that I could buy jeans, and that’s how my entrepreneurial story started,” Lisa remembers. Earlier this year, she had dinner with Mark Levy, a positioning expert who helps his clients connect with their back story and the why behind what they do. “That evening, this other story started bouncing around in my mind. It was the summer between grade five and grade six when I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. I had started to hemorrhage from my bowel. My mom was at work and her boss would not let her leave to bring me to the hospital. My mom was a single mom, and she depended on that job to take care of me. Her boss said to her, ‘We all have problems, and my problem is I need you here.’”
When Lisa’s mother finally was allowed to leave to take her to the hospital, Lisa spent a week in intensive care. The only place the doctors could find a pulse was in her ankle. “That situation made me who I am today, because I decided that I would never, ever, ever be in a situation in my life where someone else would choose what I do, what I can or cannot do, when it comes to being there for the people that I love.”
As a teenager, Lisa dropped out of high school and I worked her way up in retail. “I went from clothing retail to technology retail. I quit my retail job where I was managing a team of about 1,000 people and 100 million dollars in retail sales in 2006 to open my own retail store.” She quickly learned how much she didn’t know about running her own business when she opened her store and got herself into hot water. “I recovered from it, and started to learn a great deal about business that other people didn’t know.”
She ended up selling that business and went on to doing what she does today: Working with entrepreneurs who want to understand how to create an effective strategy to market their business so that they can attract more customers.
Going Into Events
Lisa started to host an event on Money, Mindset, and Marketing in order to share what she knows about making money, her own mindset difficulties and how to get out of one’s own way to grow and market a business. The other reason she started going into events was that her book, Pilot to Profit, was coming out. “A friend of mine who is an event manager had her own business, her own book coming out and had a venue booked. She was unsure how to continue, and I suggested that we do the event together. I literally leapt in and prayed to God that I wouldn’t lose all kinds of money.”
350 people attended the event. “We had an amazing time, and I would say I had no idea what I was doing. Now, every year, it just continues to get better.”
There’s two reasons why Lisa decided to do it. “One, it’s a demonstration of leadership. It is not easy to get 350 people in a room. It is not easy to get close to 50 people to sponsor your event. Not everyone can pull that off. The other reason I do it is there’s a long tale that is associated with the event. I cannot tell you how many people end up working with me privately in my coaching programs or in my DIY programs who later tell me that they had been to my event. When they came to the event, they met me and they saw what I was about, and they decided that they wanted to work with me.”
Part of Lisa’s business strategy is always about how she can connect with people she met in person online, and how she can connect with people online in person. “You can deepen the relationship and the opportunities in your business when you get out from behind a computer and actually have conversations face-to-face, belly-to-belly, eye-to-eye, heart-to-heart. Hugging you is 10 times better than Skyping you.”
Hosting events has taught Lisa many lessons. “The first lesson is that depending on the size of your event, you need to be prepared to invest a lot of money. Running an event with 350 people and not including lunch is going to cost you $25’000 to $30’000. If you’re going to have lunch, you’re looking at aup to $45,000 to run the event. It’s really important that the first thing you do is understand the mathematics of what goes into running events.”
The second lesson she learnt was about creating leverage.”My strategy is I give sponsors tickets, and I literally map out the room. If I take my room and I divide it into thirds, a third of my tickets should be allocated to sponsors and their guests, because that’s how I meet new people. The second third of my tickets is going to be sold to people who want to come to the event, and the remaining third are tickets that I’m going to either give away to random people that I want to come to the event, or I’m going to give to clients who work with me, because when you mix people who work with you, who love you and trust you and believe in you, with people that have no idea who you are, magic happens.”
When you do your event, you already need to have your next event planned, Lisa says. “Because before people leave the room, they need to sign up for the next round, right? I offer people the lowest ticket price when they’re at the event. If they purchase a ticket for next year, I guarantee that no one else will ever get a ticket price that is that good. I try to actually create a movement at the event.”
People from the UK or the United States fly to Ottawa to attend Lisa’s event. “We do attract a global audience to this event, but I’d say 80% of the people are local. If 80% of the people are local and they love that this is happening in their local community, there is an opportunity to create a cause around it. The entrepreneurs in this community drive the events that we have in this community, because when you say yes, then I keep doing the event. If we don’t sell tickets, I’m out of here.”
The first year the event took place, Lisa traded four quarters for a dollar. “I probably even lost a little bit of money, but then I made money as a result of the event after. I could track up to $40,000 worth of revenue that came from people who were at the event who didn’t do business with me before.” The second year, the event generated a bit of money. “It was the first time I took on all the responsibility myself. I didn’t have a partner the second year. Everything was mine, and I added lunch to the mix, which was expensive. The second year, I would say we netted out a small profit. It was not a big revenue maker, but once again, there have been a number of people who have decided to work with me after attending.”
The third year is where the magic starts to happen. “This time last year, I was still hustling to sell tickets. This year, after sponsors, after my private clients, after tickets that are sold, I have two or three sponsorship spots left, and I have less than 50 tickets that I can sell. The event is three months away, so it’s very different to previous years. This year, we’re getting traction.”
Lisa also got smarter in terms of how she can save money by working with the venue and negotiating better contracts. “If I sell a certain number of rooms at the hotel, then they will give me a break on the ballroom cost. I can actually get the ballroom for free, which would save me about $15,000, depending on the amount of rooms that I sell. The question becomes, how do you sell hotel rooms? If it’s a one-day event, who is going to stay in a hotel room?”
Her strategy was to add a second VIP day for 80 people. “Now, I’ve got people that want to come and stay at the hotel, but because day two is 80 people, the cost of the room for 80 people is significantly smaller than a room that will hold 400 plus 40 exhibitors.”
Tips from Lisa
Looking back on her experience in organizing events, Lisa’s biggest mistake was that she didn’t have a venue, date or speakers planned that she could announce for her next event the following year. “People can’t buy what you can’t communicate.”
Before organizing an event of this size, Lisa suggests to do smaller events. “I’ve run small events and workshops, and I spoke at a ton of big events. I know what a big stage looks like, and I know a lot about events from speaking at them. If you don’t have that experience, I think you should start small. You should do a workshop, and you should learn from facilitating a workshop what it’s like on a smaller scale before you do a 350-person event.”
Regarding marketing, there is a pre, during and post-event phase. “Prior to the event, obviously you’re marketing to get your last minute ticket sales. During and right after the event, there’s an event halo. Everybody is talking about how great the event is, so it’s easy to sell tickets in that timeframe.”
She says to be ready with the event website, marketing materials, auto-responders and ads 90 days prior to the event. “Everything has got to be ready to go, not ready to start.”
Lisa’s Lessons on Hosting a Live Event:
- Be prepared to invest a lot of money
- Figure out how to create leverage
Connect with Lisa:
- Money, Mindset & Marketing – November 2017 – Early bird tickets are now available.
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