Planning an event is not for the faint of heart—nor can it be done by just one person. Whether you’ve taken on the task yourself or have been assigned to plan an event, here are nine steps to help you plan a successful event.
- Write Sales Copy – Who do you want to attend and what are the benefits to them? Write your sales copy, complete with attendee benefits. Don’t bother with cheesy testimonials from people you know. If you’ve held similar events in the past, you can include testimonials from actual attendees. Manufactured testimonials from your online “friends” rarely do much to impress. No sleazy sales tactics are needed, though you do need to ask for the sale. In fact, there’s a good chance you’ll get more sign-ups if your online sales page DOESN’T resemble those long-form “But wait, there’s more!” sales pages.
You will also need to write copy for your email messages to your audience, social media engagement, and follow-up correspondence. Prepare as much as possible in advance so you will be ready to go when needed.
Note that your event may simply need a page on your site, or it may require a separate website altogether—your choice. In addition to sales copy, you should include some images to break up the text and give more visual appeal. Include your photo and others that represent the content you are offering. If you have guest speakers, they should provide photos and bios for display on the site.
- Plan Your Pricing – If you’re going to include early-bird pricing (and you probably should), make a plan for what that looks like and when it will be offered.
- Create a Planning Calendar – Ideally, you should create a calendar with dates for different prices you will offer, along with plans for when you will send announcements to your email list, social networks, affiliates, etc. Your whole marketing plan should be factored into your calendar to make sure you stay on top of the event. You can find free printable calendar pages online.
- Set Up Your Shopping Cart – Please, please, please don’t ask attendees to register via email or call you! This is a big barrier to entry. If you want to fill your event, make online registration as easy as possible. You can use something as simple as PayPal, or a more sophisticated shopping cart solution such as www.e-junkie.com.
Another option I love is www.eventbrite.com. This service handles all of the registration details, including payment processing, email to attendees, and more. Note that for free events Eventbrite is free to use, but for paid events they will charge a service fee that you can either charge to your buyers or absorb into your costs. I recommend absorbing it into costs to remove another potential sales barrier.
- Choose Your Service Provider – Before you launch your event, do your homework and know which platform you are going to use to deliver the event. For teleseminars and online conferences, my favorite solution is www.instantteleseminar.com. For webinars, consider www.gotomeeting.com or www.webex.com. Check pricing and recording options before your event and if you haven’t used the service before, stage a practice session so you can learn how it works.
- Invite Affiliates – If you have a network of people who would be interested in selling seats to your event, go ahead and ask if they would like to earn a commission on any sales generated. Also, if you have guest speakers for your event, an incentive for them to participate could be earning a percentage of any sales they refer your way. Affiliate commissions range from 10% to 50%, though the more you pay, the more incentive others will have to promote it for you. While it may be hard to imagine giving away half your profit, consider that you’re actually earning more for attendees that you wouldn’t otherwise have.
For affiliates, you will need to write the copy that invites them to participate. You should also make things easy for them by writing up sales copy they can use in their blogs, newsletters, and social media. That means writing a variety of versions from several paragraphs down to a 140-character tweet. To run an affiliate program, you will need to use a more sophisticated shopping cart solution such as 1shoppingcart.com or e-junkie.com.
- Develop Content and Scripts – For the actual delivery of your event, class, conference, or whatever you are doing, you will need to prepare content and scripts. A script should be used to open and close the session to make sure you sound polished and include any important details—like where attendees can go to download a handout or how they can mute or unmute their phone lines. Of course, you should introduce yourself, since not everyone may know much about you, and always mention your website and places where attendees can get more information.
If you are delivering your session in lecture format, prepare your training materials well in advance. I personally like to create a topic outline with key points that I want to get across. I never script it word-for-word because I want to deliver it naturally, though if a script is more comfortable for you, by all means create one. I also like to plan for more content than I think I will need, just in case there is time left over. I always have bonus topics handy.
If you’re introducing guest speakers, you will need to read their bios out loud. Ask the speakers to provide the bios so that you don’t butcher their information or pull details that are outdated.
- Promote, Promote, Promote – If you want people to attend your event, you need to invite them—and then remind them repeatedly. You should begin promoting well in advance—ideally at least 60 days ahead of time (though 30 days can work if you’re aggressive with promotion).
Of course, as I mentioned before, you still have to ask for the sale, and providing some incentive is a good idea. Early-bird discounts are standard practice. You can also give away some bonuses for attendees such as a workbook, handouts, or a downloadable ebook. Get creative! The more unique your event and its benefits, the more likely you will attract interest.
Start by sending an initial event announcement out via your newsletter and social media networks. Be sure to include a big early-bird discount of 30% to 50% off and a link to the registration page. You can also feature the event on the home page of your website and via any trade associations that you belong to. See if you can announce your event in their next newsletter.
Repeat announcements on social media networks often. For email, I’m not a fan of sending frequent communications. At the same time, you do need to remind people to register and expose them to the event several times before they make a decision (especially if your price point is high). Don’t abuse your email list, but do leverage it for event promotion. Pay close attention to your response rate and unsubscribe rates, too.
If your event is a bigger-ticket item, you may want to offer a free preview call. Invite potential attendees to learn about the event and ask questions. Better yet, hold a free educational teleseminar loosely based on topics from your event. Offer up some great content and then close with a special offer to attend your event.
- Hire Some Help – If you’re coordinating a smaller event, you’re the only speaker, and you’re comfortable with all of these details, then go forward and prosper! But if this sounds overwhelming to you or you have multiple speakers, consider hiring an experienced virtual assistant to help with your event. Remember that you will also need to make sure your event sessions are recorded, recordings need to be download and made available for sale after the fact, and you may also want to have them transcribed. All of this requires even more work! The International Virtual Assistants Association (www.ivaa.org) has a directory of providers to choose from, as does www.assistu.com.
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