What I Learned From My First-Ever 3-Day Event (Which Had Just 50 Attendees But Grossed Over 6-Figures, Thank You Very Much)

photo - Sam at Big Yes

Sam at The Big Yes 2013

In June, 2013 I made a quantum leap in my business by hosting my first-ever live event, “The Big Yes: How To Overcome Procrastination, Perfectionism and Self-Doubt and Make Money from Your Creativity.”

It was a huge investment of time, money and resources. It was terrifying. It was totally worth it.

Here’s what I learned:

1) Ask Yourself: What Is The Point Of This Meeting?
In any gathering, especially a big event, make sure everyone involved knows what the purpose of the gathering is, and what’s expected of him/her.  Stay laser-focused on your topic, and don’t allow scope-creep to weigh your agenda down.

You’ll want to survey your attendees ahead of time to find out exactly what they are hoping to get out of it – what is the transformation they are wanting?


2) Seek Alternatives To One-Way Communication
I’ve heard it said that an audience will remember almost nothing about what you say (except maybe a really good story).
They will remember some of what they say.
They will remember almost all of what they do.

Get them talking to each other, sharing insights. Get them up out of their chairs. Have dance breaks. I had an improv class after lunch on Day One. Make sure there’s a break every 90 minutes. And make it a long break – 25 or 30 minutes is good – so they can check email, go outside, get refreshed and come back ready for more.


3) Hire Geniuses
Ask around, find the best event planners in your field, hire them and listen to their advice. Hire the best; don’t cheap out. The money you spend on them you will get back ten times over by averting ill-advised budget allocations, lack of follow-through and other rookie mistakes.

For example, I don’t speak “hotel” and I had no interest in learning the ins and outs of hotel contracts. My event planners, the wonderful folks at Powered by Sage,  more than paid for themselves just in contract concessions alone. On site, they were able to communicate with the Banquet staff with the kind of clarity that only comes from experience, and I was so grateful not to have to engage in any of the discussions about where the bagels should go and the proper alignment of the dip-dang centerpieces.


4) Have Yummy Food
It’s exhausting to sit in an airless hotel ballroom, so having fresh, light food is critical in keeping people’s energy up. Go the extra mile to accommodate vegans, gluten-, sugar- and dairy-free eaters and people with allergies and sensitivities.  Your attendees will love you for it, and a few days of eating high-protein, low-carb food will do your energy a world of good, too. (And believe me, honey, you will need all the energy you can get.)


5) Buy New Clothes and Great Shoes
You are the star of your event. You MUST look and feel your best. I don’t care if it sounds shallow: appearances matter. And wearing new clothes that fit well and are stylish (including wearing pristine, comfortable shoes) will help your attendees see you as the leader you are.


6) Pick A Groovy Destination With An International Airport
I chose San Diego because it’s not too far from me (so I didn’t have to fly) and it’s a lovely place to visit, so many of my attendees ended up extending their stay to relax and sightsee. (Which helped with my “room block.” If you don’t know what a room block is, let me refer you back to Tip #2: Find a brilliant event planner.) It’s also an easy city to get around in, and the weather is lovely year-round.


7) Employ “Stick” Strategies
Just because they bought a ticket doesn’t mean they’re coming. Be sure you stay in close communication with them in the weeks leading up to the event, teasing topics, surveying them about their concerns and reminding them how fabulous this event is going to be.


8) Give Them Toys
Many people think better when their hands are busy, so I put pipe cleaners, colored markers, and notepads on each table. A very inexpensive treat that received oohs and ahhs of delight.


9) Don’t Back Off Of The Pitch
Of course you want to sell them something – and they have come all this way to sit in this room with you because they need your help. Don’t let some blushing shyness or sudden terror of being sales-y get in the way of you making your irresistible invitation.

I started my sales pitch by saying, “Hello, this is the sales portion of our presentation,” and got a big laugh. I taught them about sales strategy as I was selling them. As one participant told me, “You know, Sam, the levels of transparency here are sort of freaking me out…” Yep.  That’s how I roll.


10) Let Your Weird Out
This is your party, and it’s your time to shine. Let your audience in on your passions, preferences and the things that bring you joy. If you want to pray, boogie, swear, make jokes, cheerlead, whisper, yell or lead a conga-line, honey – go for it. Your tribe will love you for it.


Having your own live event does wonders for you and your business. It elevates your profile, it establishes you as an expert and a thought-leader and it’s a wonderful way to connect with your people.


One last word of advice: keep an unwavering eye on your goal, because along the way there will be bone-crushingly expensive decisions to make, terrifying moments of being sure this was all a terrible idea and all the other roller-coaster feelings that come when you are growing.  So…just hang on and enjoy the ride!

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