In my head my first event would be a conference too, but, when I think about the logistics and the moving parts and the amount of people I'd have to cater for, an intimate event sounds so much better. We all have lofty ideas and goals when we're launching anything. The bigger the better. But that old adage doesn't always transfer to a live event. Planning an event is serious business and if you don't start small, you could be setting yourself up for some problems.
The one saying that works for live event planning is, you don't know what you don't know. As a first time organizer, there are so many things you'll learn throughout the planning process and at the event itself. Experience is gonna be the greatest teacher here, but you want to learn those lessons while having 12 attendees instead of 50. Don't look at the first-time organizers who launched a conference for their first event. You don't know what they had to go through behind the scenes to pull it altogether. So, in today's post, I'm gonna share 10 reasons to plan a small live event.
1. Budget. Can you afford to cater a live event for 50 people? The only way to know this is to put it all on paper, add up the numbers and see if the numbers are within your budget. And here's the follow up question once you’re done with all of that. Can you sell 50 tickets? I've surveyed my audience and their biggest pain point when planning a live event is selling tickets. In the event that something goes wrong, you are financially responsible. Are you ready for that? If the answers to these questions are no or at the very least, iffy, trust your gut and your pockets.
2. Content. Is your content for the masses or is it for a select few? There's nothing worse than going to a conference and the content is general, to say the least. Because it's so many people, they have to make the keynote and other speakers' presentations, general, so that it appeals to everyone. In 2018 and 2019, I realized the breakout session trend. Just in case you don't know, a breakout session is usually about the size of a workshop, and the content is very specific. Because the general sessions are so, well, general, organizers incorporated workshop ideas into their events. These ideas include hands-on training, software training or a deep dive into a particular topic. If your content is in any of these areas, stay small.
3. Educator. Who do you have in mind for your educators? Your content and educators go hand in hand. So if your content will be specific and niche, your educators will likely be also. Usually, niche speakers are better able to connect with a smaller audience. And because their topic is so specific, the intimacy that a small group provides, allows them to answer specific questions, or provide the support that someone may need in that moment. This is not possible at a larger conference. If this is the kind of impact you want at your event then you need a start small.
4. Location. Where do you want to host your event? This is a big question because your venue usually takes up to 25% of your overall budget. If your initial thought is a low key area, then you're already planning a smaller event in your head. Usually workshops and retreats tend to be in non busy areas. That's a strategic decision because most attendees who gravitate to those types of events are paying for the time to be away from the hustle and bustle of life and or their business. Being in an area conducive to learning or relaxing will make sense if you’re planning a workshop or retreat. Not saying that you can't hold a workshop in a larger city, but if someone is coming to learn, they may be more interested in a calmer environment.
5. Meals. Do you want to provide a food experience for attendees as well? If the area where you want to host your event is rich in culture and tradition and that translates to the area's cuisine and you want to share that experience with your attendees, you need to plan a small event. Think fresh seafood if you're in the Northeast, Southern classics in the south, Mexican in Texas and Southern California. I talk a lot about the attendee experience and how that starts in the very beginning of your planning. When you're laying out your vision and theme on paper, these little nuances of creating an attendee experience will come up. This is when you'd know you're already planning a small scale event because making little things like those possible at a conference, isn’t always possible without a big budget.
6. Other activities. What activities do you have planned for your attendees? For retreats, organizers plan nature hikes, yoga on the beach, etc. What makes sense for your event? Do you want to have a photoshoot with the llamas at your local llama farm? That actually sounds like a cool idea, I'll take note of that. I think of my friend Cinnamon, cool name right!, who lived in Seattle. She hosted a small event for her mastermind and they used one of the days to explore the area. You can't do that with 50 people. It will look odd. I'd even venture out to say that you might get a few looks and whispers too. When you're planning your live event you just have to remember that it needs to make sense. The different elements in the event, needs to make sense for the type of event you're hosting.
7. Photographer. Do you want a photographer to capture the intimate moments? Photographers help to make a live event. The photos seal an emotion and moment in history that you can't relive because it's gone. But you will always have the photos to remind you of that moment. If you're planning a conference, you'd need to hire multiple photographers to capture the same essence that one photographer can do at an event for 12. If you can't afford more than one, then get ready to settle for photos of whoever's on stage at the time and general audience photos. With a smaller event, you can capture the person who was cracking up at that one joke, the start of a collaboration venture between two attendees, the embrace between two attendees who finally met in real life and so much more. It means a lot when you look back and can specifically remember what was happening in that scene.
8. Sponsorship. Who is sponsoring your event? This isn't absolutely necessary but if you've made the decision to partner with a brand or two to sponsor your event, think about who they are at the core of their service or product. Local brands can bring awareness to your business and your offer. Entrepreneur based brands can draw you into a larger community. If you're thinking about these kinds of sponsors, chances that your attendees are already familiar with them, if not using them, are high. It makes the event feel that much more cozy.
9. Theme/Vision. What is your vision and theme? I can't stress the importance of your vision enough. Without a vision you don't know what you're doing and you can't plan effectively. Really, your vision is on the driver's side. Before you start planning, really listen to what your heart is saying. Ask yourself questions about your dream, your impact, your goals, your accomplishments. For some organizers, they already know the answers to these questions and have been thinking about planning a live event for some time. If you personally think your vision is pointing you to a conference, go back to point number 1, budget, and answer those questions again. If the answers are no, then find a way to keep the elements of your vision but transform them into smaller, more manageable pieces that would make sense for a workshop or retreat.
10. Welcome (Dinner/Packages). Do you crave intimacy with your attendees? If you do, then hosting a small event is for you. Let's say you're hosting a two-day event, and you want to use the evening prior for a welcome dinner or to give out welcome packages, having a small event is right up your alley. You'd get the opportunity to learn something about everyone and even familiarize yourself with their names and businesses. Guess what, it doesn't stop there. Imagine writing personalized thank you notes with tidbits about each person’s business after the event is over! Although the event is over, here's another part of the attendee experience that attendees would love. That you took some time to write a civilized handwritten note, as Wendy Williams would say. They'd love you forever.