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The truth about running your own event as a business owner

Today’s episode of the podcast is all about the reality of what running an event looks like.

In this episode I share my thoughts on the pros and cons of running an event, and the key things you need to know about the costs and logistics involved, that you need to consider if you want to run one.

 

KEY TAKEAWAYS COVERED IN THE PODCAST

  1. The pros and cons of having speakers
  2. Knowing how to choose the right price
  3. The pros and cons of getting sponsorship

I'd be fascinated to hear your take on events – do you love them or are you not so keen? Please feel free to connect with me on socials and let me know!

LINKS TO RESOURCES MENTIONED IN TODAY’S EPISODE

Find out more and sign up for my Dream Business Live Event on 14th June

Connect with Teresa on Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter

 

Transcript

You are listening to Your Dream Business podcast and I am your host, Teresa Heath Wareing. Hello and welcome to this week's episode of the podcast. How's things? I hope you are doing well. I am recording this off the back of a very busy week and the start of many other busy weeks.

And the reason my week was so busy last week is I had one of my in-person events and I have another one coming up in June, and I thought that would be a good topic for the podcast. Because often what people end up doing is, especially if they're a freelancer, one of their thoughts is to go and maybe teach to do the thing that they do as in like if they do social media that they might do an event to say, I'll teach you social media for the day.

And they might have in-person events. And, and also, another event I went to when I was a speaker, one of the lunch discussions was around, whether or not, people want the in-person stuff, whether they'd prefer the Zoom stuff, whether they're sick of the Zoom stuff, and there were some really interesting responses that didn't quite match up to maybe what I thought.

So this episode is gonna look at my thoughts on events, how I've managed my own events, kind of the pros and cons of doing them, and also kind of what came up in this discussion and what the reality of running an event looks like. So let me start by talking about the types of events I've done. Now, I have done two VIP retreats where I have taken people away for a number of days. We have hired a beautiful hotel and stayed away and worked in our businesses.

And then I've done two in-person day events, both in Birmingham. Both at the same location, both fairly similar in structure, but different in terms of what I taught. And then obviously I have spoken at an absolute ton of events.

So I have spoken at huge, massive conferences where I am one of many, many, many speakers. I have spoken at smaller events, I've spoken at masterminds, I've spoken at other people's kind of events where they're doing something similar to what I do. I have literally spoken. I've spoken at events where it is nothing to do with what I do.

They just bring me in to speak. I've spoken at networking type events. I've done everything, like literally everything. As I often joke, my first sort of speaking stuff. When people asked me about how I got into speaking was in a play barn. For those of you who might not know what a play barn is, you are not missing out.

But basically it's like a bull pit type play thing for kids. And I did a talk for Biz Mums and there was literally like three mums in there, in a play barn and me. So it was wild, as you can imagine. But I really have done everything kind of, oh, there's not much I can't think that I haven't done event-wise.

And I've spoken at events in the UK, in Dubai, in Greece, in Cyprus, in the States, in Ireland. So again, I've had a really good mix of locations as to where I've spoke as well, which again, makes a bit of a difference. But anyway, this isn't about speaking. This is about what if you wanna run your own event and the truth about running events, and I'll tell you the truth about running mine.

So let's start off with kind of the type of event I run. So my event is very different. So I run an event where it's about really working on your business and also, kind of spending that time focusing on you as a person as well, and making those connections. Now at this last event I just did in Birmingham, and I have one coming up in Newcastle in a few weeks, which this May episode may have gone out by then, I'm not sure.

But one of the things I said to them, cause I was thinking like in the morning as I was getting ready that like I'm on the circuit, like the speaker circuit and there are some people that come to every single event that I've pretty much done in this industry because they are serial event joiners and they love an event.

Absolutely fine. Nothing wrong with that. Great. But they don't sign up for mine. Now I could take that very personally and think they just don't like me, and that's all right. That's fine. But then I thought about it and thought. The difference with my event and a conference is that you have to work on your business.

It's really easy to go to a conference and just sit there and watch speakers all day and have a lovely lunch and chat with people and do the party in the after party and all that jazz and say, I'm working on my business. When really, you just sat in a conference all day. Now some people will take what they've learned in that conference and they will run with it and do work with it, and they will, you know, really make the most of that time.

Some people don't. Some people literally just have a lovely jolly day out and I just thought, I'm not gonna attract those people. The type of event I put on is not designed to attract those people because you have to work on your event and you have, sorry. You have to work on your business and you have to work on you, and you have to make those connections.

It is about having conversations with people that you don't know and about getting to know those people and about speaking up when I ask you a question. So, that was the first thing that I found really interesting. And in one way I almost feel like, gosh, my ego must be so big when I run an event and it's just me, but it's not me as you know, come and hear me speak all day.

It's me as a facilitator. It's me as a coach helping you do the work on your business. It's giving you an entire day out, whereas lots of events out there. And of course a lot of the events I speak at are speaker events. So let's just talk about the difference in that. And now the first thing is, I don't think I could run a speaker event.

The logistics in that is unflipping believable. So, and I have friends who run events that have speakers, and I'm sure if I had them on to talk about it, they would agree with me. No end. That you've got to make sure you've got the right caliber of speaker, the right type of speaker, and the right kind of person to come and speak at your event because, It's your event with your name on it.

So if you were to have some people come along and they weren't all that, then that's not gonna be great on you. The other thing with having speakers is you are relying on other people. I know that I just have to get ready my stuff for the times that I need them. I am only responsible to myself really.

Whereas if I have other speakers, and it always blew my mind, like when someone says to me, I need you talking for this date, they always get it in for that date. And if I was them, I would always make that date sooner than when I actually needed it. But it blows my mind how, and I've spoken to many event organizers, how speakers don't get their talks in.

Like until days before or even on the day and it's like, what the hell, man, I could, I'd literally have a breakdown. I couldn't cope with that. So personally, even though sometimes those speakers will bring in other people and those speakers promote your event as well. So even though that can help with sales, for me, I just couldn't cope with the stress of that.

I couldn't cope with managing other people. Maybe one day. I'm not gonna say never. You know, when I have a team to organize that and I don't have to do anything to do with it, then maybe, but I don't, I can't see it being a thing I ever offer, to be honest. So let's talk about some of the pros about having an in-person event.

So some of the pros for me are that connection piece. Now I do a huge amount of work online and obviously I'm Zoom all the time, but nothing can be being sat in a room with someone and literally being physically in the same room, having conversation. We all know what it's like on Zoom when we're trying to have a conversation and if someone talks over someone else, it kind of cuts them off or it silences them, or it's really hard to, to take those social cues where it's much easier in person.

So for me, the people who have met at my in-person events have built really long lasting and solid friendships and business friendships and business connections. So that is absolute key for me, and that is one reason why I love the in-person stuff.

When you go to an event, you get that solid time out. You don't get that at home. Even when we say we're gonna be on a Zoom, we're gonna do the thing. We are so used to working from home that the deliveries will come or someone will interrupt you or you have got a million other things popping up on your screen.

Cuz I'm exactly the same. So actually, when I'm in an in-person event, and especially when I'm holding an in-person event, you can't get a hold of me. I'm not paying attention to anything really other than maybe when I sit down for five minutes over lunch or something, I am fully switched on in front of those people the whole time.

So it really is an opportunity for you to focus on your business and get your head down without the interruption of other people. I think as well is having those proper conversations. I think people are much more vulnerable in person when they can like, almost see the whites of people's eyes. I think they're more willing to share and more willing to kind of have those conversations.

And for me, as a facilitator, as a speaker, I am much more relaxed in person because I can read the room better, I can see who I've got in the room, especially at my own event. Now, this last event I did, I had a handful of people in there that I didn't know really well. That's one of the advantages of having such an amazing community because I don't have to kind of read the room or, or kind of really work out who I've got in the room.

And I know if people are signing up to my event only they've had some experience of me. They are very unlikely to sign up to my event if they've never seen a single thing. Whereas you are unlikely to get people that see you when you speak on a stage. Like, you know, there are lots of people going to the events I go to. They don't just go for me.

So I would say I'm a little bit more, not guarded, that's not the right word, but I'm a little bit more professional I guess. Whereas I can be really laid back. I mean, I swore quite a bit at this last event, which, you know, I might rethink that. But anyway, oh, can I just tell you why I swore at this last event because I was doing a meditation.

I like to do meditation cause it takes your brain wings, I into a different state and your more creative, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. But the fire alarm went off. That's brilliant, isn't it? And it was a test, and I knew there was gonna be a test, but I just hadn't put two and two together and worked out that the point in which I was doing the meditation was the point in which they were gonna do the fire alarm.

So the fire alarm went off while people were in a meditation, not ideal. But then I had to then go, okay, that happened. Let's take you back in. So I took them back in, dropped them back down into the right brain state, and it went off again. And I swore quite a lot. I was very frustrated and I was like, I'm so sorry.

So we did it one last time and we all had a bit of a laugh and a joke and, and I think that's the other thing cuz everyone can read the room. They know like they can read people better and you really can make those kind of funny connections and have that really personal kind of thing. So, for me, the other advantage of having that in-person event is for those people who don't know me as well, suddenly then get to see what I'm like in real life, but also the connection I have with my members.

So one thing that's really nice is lots of my members come to these things cuz they know what I'm like and hopefully think I'm good and that's why they keep coming to them. But they see, and I have to say at the beginning of these events, listen, if you think, God, she's really over familiar. I know these people really well, and they know me really well, so, It's not that I'm just really cheeky to these people, it's that I know them and I, you know, we have a kind of a relationship and a laugh and that sort of thing, but it gets them to see how well I know those people and how much I guess I really do care for them, which I absolutely do.

So, for me, if you are not in my world, that's actually a really good advantage and I have had many people join off the back of attending an event with me, and that is amazing. That is so, so good, and a byproduct that I did not expect. I didn't set up the events thinking, oh well, if people come to the event, they're going to then join my membership.

That wasn't at all, but that just happened to happen and that was awesome. However, I've painted a really lovely picture of events and I do love them and they're brilliant and it's great, but I need to tell you the reality of them. And actually, let me jump to that, that event I was at when I was speaking.

And so this woman asked the question around the table and bearing in mind, I suppose these people were slightly biased cuz they were at an in-person event, but there wasn't loads of them. I think there was about like 15 people there. And she asked them, Like, are we tired of Zoom? Do we still think there's a place for Zoom?

Are, do we want in-person events? And pretty much everyone around the table said yes. They want in-person events, they want to be able to get in person with people. They prefer that personal connection. They like sitting in a room, like being away from their business. And I spoke to her afterwards cuz she invited people to say what they thought.

And I kept my mouth shut, which is very unusual for me. Because I kind of had my own thoughts on this. As someone who has run events and I said to her afterwards, find that really interesting. I said, obviously, it's a very biased group given that they're all at an event. I said, but in my experience, events at the moment are really hard to sell and not just me.

I had, I'm speaking at an event soon and they actually sent an email out saying if we don't get more people signing up, then basically we have to postpone it. I have been given some very expensive event tickets for an event in the States, for free, and they're not giving those tickets away for free if they are full, like, if they are filling the spaces, there's no way.

So genuinely, I think events are really struggling at the moment. Like I said, I knew, I, I know a number of event organizers. And I sort of said to her, you know, I find it really interesting cuz people say they want events and then she finished off the words of, but they don't flippin come.

And it's really interesting of people want events but they don't come or, and then this kind of spans onto the question of, and if you're thinking about doing an event, how much do you charge? Which could really kick off our pros. Because in my experience, in my friend's experience that have events, there's no money in them.

Like it sounds such a cool idea. Like my daughter was counting up the number of people coming to the June event and she was like, how much have they paid? And I told her and she worked it out and she's like, wow mum? Obviously she's 13 and her idea of money, mine are very different. But it's like, yeah, no, that's cool, but obviously she's not taking into account all the other costs, So let me just go back to the customer event.

Knowing what to charge is a really interesting one. You charge too low, people think it's gonna be rubbish. They won't turn up. You charge too much, people think I'm not paying that for a day. But bearing in mind, some people will pay from like 40 pounds all the way up to 400 pounds for a day event. And it depends.

Like a 400 pound day event is probably many, many speakers, but in my mind, Not that I'm slagging off a day event with many, many speakers. Like I said, I adore speaking and therefore they are very much a key part of my business. But, It depends what you want to get from that event as the, as the person going.

If you wanna work on your business and come up with a strategy, then coming to an event of mine that costs around a hundred pound could be more useful than going to a speaker event when you just watch speakers and go, yeah, that was lovely and really inspirational, or gave me a few ideas, but actually I've not worked on my business all day.

But if you wanna be educated by as many different people, then definitely the 400 pound thing might be worth doing. It's a really, really interesting industry, I suppose in sector is the events. Like I said, the event I'm going to in the States should have been 1500 pounds for two and a half days. Like that is a lot of money.

So it's a really interesting one. So, but like I said, if you go too cheap, people either won't sign up cause they won't, there's no value. Or what I had the first year, last year when I did my in-person event, my first in-person event, not the VIP stuff, I went cheap. And then people didn't turn up on the day because they could afford to lose the money.

And that's not good either. So you are always gonna get a dropout on the day. Always, always. So the number of people who bought the tickets will always drop on the day, some people won't attend. Now, the first event I did, I think I probably had about eight or nine people not attend. And this event I did just last week I only had one person not attend.

So actually my dropout was really good for this week. Now you might think, well, it doesn't matter. They paid their ticket and yeah, in one way you can look at that. However, as we'll come to, you're still paying for them at the venue and. I work things out based on the number of people going, and if people don't go, then it kind of can mess things up and I have to be flexible and tweak.

Again let's say you are putting on a multi-speaker lineup where you've got two or three speakers speaking at the same time. If you don't get lots of people turning up live, then you're gonna have empty rooms. So like I said, it's not just about the money, it's about the experience and the other people in the room and the speakers.

If I go and speak in an empty room, it doesn't feel as nice as if I go and speak in a full room. So, That's the first thing is knowing how to price it. The second thing is pricing it enough to make you anything in your cost. Now, roughly, the VIP event that I did the first time round, made no money, like literally no money.

I was a nightmare. I just got overexcited. The second one made me a bit of money, but when I say made me a bit of money, it didn't pay me. It paid for everything physically that I had to pay out, but it did not pay my time. So if it had paid my time, then I'd have been out of pocket again. The in-person events have always covered themselves, but they never make a lot of money.

So if I make like 500 pounds off it, Great. But again, does not include my time. So, and if I was to add my time, I would never make enough money off it because some of the things you've gotta think about is obviously you've gotta think about the venue cost and if you want a nice venue, kind of the cheapest that I found that includes meals.

Cuz quite honestly I think you should include meals. People don't wanna go and think, oh I've gotta go and find some lunch or I've, I dunno where I am. I've gotta go and search for something to eat. So I've included drinks, meals, pastries, all of that jazz. So the kind of cost that I've had it for is anywhere between sort of 40 to 50 pounds ahead.

So if you are putting that on for an entire day and then you are only charging them a hundred, you are, if you're lucky, you're getting kind of, you know, 40 or 50 pounds extra on top. However, you have to have a minimum number. So a room, and this is the other thing to understand, they will say a room can take 60 people and you have 40 in there.

And it's full. Like, I don't know how they squeeze these numbers in, but apparently they do. So in my experience, the rooms always come up smaller than they actually say. But the room, so the room I've got coming up in June, I think the maximum number weirdly is 60, and I think my minimum that I have to pay for is 45.

So that means that even at a higher price that I'm charging my breakeven point. If I was charging a hundred pound, my breakeven point is about 23 people just to break even. And that's with no extra cost. That's just for the venue. So I have to get 23 people at the a hundred pound mark if I just wanna pay for the venue.

So that's your first thing. The second thing is all your other little hidden costs that you don't necessarily think about. So for me it's things like badges. I mean, you don't have to have badges, you can literally just have stickers. You don't even have to have anything you, you know, so that you could miss out on that.

Any kind of swag, obviously when I did my VIP retreat, they had nice swag, like proper nice stuff because it was expensive. I had some of that leftover, which I gave to my, my in-person event last week, because I had the right numbers, but, Even if I don't do swag, I do workbooks. So there's the time in creating the workbook.

Again, my time isn't included. And then there's the cost of printing those workbooks, the cost of printing, the badges, and if you want their names printed on them, you're going to pay even more cost of things like lanyards for them to attach their badges. Things like pens or pencils if you wanted some of them.

And then we've always had kind of some after event drinks. So this time we had it at the venue, so we had drinks and snacks after the event. So that was nice. So again, that comes an additional cost. So actually by the time you add all these things up, honestly events are not money makers at all. The other thing about events is your cash flow, you're gonna have to really watch it.

The VIP event, and in the Newcastle event, the venues I chose, you had to put a deposit down and it's a hefty deposit. So you're basically confirming the day and the date. It isn't booked until you pay a deposit without any money actually coming in for the event.

So therefore, your cash flows kind of buggered straight off the bat. You have to do a lot of promotion. Lots and lots and lots of promotion. I am tired of promoting my events now because I had two that came very close together, and basically I cannibalized my own event, which is not a smart move and I won't do that again.

But because I had one in May already booked and I'd already talked about it. And then when I spoke to Andrew and Pete and speaking at Atomicon, they talked about me doing an event around Atomicon. I then did one in June, which basically meant I had May and June. So obviously if people were going to one, they wouldn't necessarily come to the other.

Basically cannibalize my own sales. Nal, but it feels like you constantly have to promote it and I find that really, really hard. The other thing to bear in mind is you can have sponsors and lots of the big events have sponsors. I have had sponsors for my events. Adobe has sponsored them. However, one thing, depending on the type of sponsorship, you've gotta have the numbers.

And that's, that pressure concerns me. Like if I've, Todd told a sponsor that we get a hundred people and we don't get a hundred people, that would bother me and I wouldn't be comfortable taking that sponsorship. So that is another way of helping your breakeven point if you can get sponsors. But they want numbers and it depends whether you want that added pressure.

What else did I have? So yeah, lots to organize. Events are not easy. Even mine, which is only me, there's still a lot to organize. Obviously you've got the normal stuff of sales pages, checkout pages, thank you emails, thank you pages. You've then got emails running up to the event to go, “Hey, I'm so excited to see you.”

You then need to do the whole dietary stuff and is there any additional needs and access needs and all that stuff. And then obviously you've gotta report all that back to the venue as well. So, like I said, it feels like I should have ended on the pros, not the cons. Cuz it feels like why the hell would anybody do an event?

It is hard work. But I have to say I adore being in a room with people. I adore seeing people in real life and having that personal connection. And I think it does a whole lot for them and their business and their connections. So, If you are looking at events, I like everything. I just don't want you to go in with your eyes closed.

I want you to go in with your eyes fully open and understand this is the things that you need to take into consideration. Like I said, the biggest one for me is getting people there, because right now everyone I'm speaking to is struggling with filling events, which I don't understand. I love an event. I love seeing people.

We were locked in our houses for God knows how long. I don't understand why people are struggling to fill events, but I don't know, maybe, you know, I mean, I'd be fascinated to hear your take on them. Are you back? Do you love events? Are you not keen? I know it's a whole day out and suddenly, okay. One thing I do get is for the participant, it's extra cost.

They've gotta pay for the event, they've gotta pay for accommodation, they've gotta pay to get there. So I do get that, which is why I've tried to keep my events reasonable, but with still trying to make some money or at least covering my costs, so, It's a tricky one. It really, really is, but I just thought as I'm right in event season and I'm doing all these events, not only am I speaking at 'em, but I'm doing my own.

I thought this might be an interesting episode for you to listen to. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed my ramblings about events. Even if you've not thought of doing one, I hope it just gives you a little bit of insight. I will leave you till next week. Have a lovely, lovely week, and I will see you then.

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