Considering Conferences and other big events

Landlord Law ConferenceWe have a Conference coming up in a few weeks time.  The Landlord Law Conference.

It’s actually the fifth conference we have run and the fourth year we have done this.  Last year we did two conferences – our ‘usual’ one and an extra one in Wales because the law is changing radically there.

Both went really well, as events, although we did not earn as much as we had hoped from them.

Running conferences

Our first Conference was a real experiment.  We were not sure what to expect and were delighted when we had in the region of 80 delegates.

The first two conferences took a lot of organisation.  Much of the work revolved around keeping records of bookings, doing the invoicing and chasing up payments.

During the third year, I took on an employee (or rather a self-employed assistant) the wonderful Bev, who did all the checking and lists for me – much better than I would have done.

This left me free to do the marketing – the other big, big job with Conferences.  You have to market them remorselessly to get enough bums on seats.

However, I suspect we have saved a lot of money by doing it all ourselves.  I understand that there are people who specialise in running conferences and cost a fortune. We can’t afford that so it’s a good thing I found I had a bit of a talent for organising events.

On the day

I am also very fortunate that my husband turned out to be brilliant at running them on the day, making sure that all the speakers keep to time and that everything goes like clockwork.

Leaving me to float around and talk to people.  We are a good team.

Photos and films

Right from the start, I insisted upon getting the conferences filmed, which was a really good move as the film footage has been used for online training courses and earned us extra money.  As well as being an excellent opportunity to get video testimonials – invaluable for marketing.

From the second year, we have also employed a photographer to go around and take photos.  Again a really good move.  The photos have been used not just to market subsequent conferences but for a lot of other things, and have been useful in all sorts of ways.  We are lucky in having found a brilliant photographer (Phil Smithies, I know his parents)  who did us proud.

Useful tech

So what sort of technology has been helpful for us?

Infusionsoft, of course, has been invaluable.  I have campaigns set up which send out acknowledgements when people pay and reminders before the day.  It is also my main marketing machine, sending out information emails to our mailing list telling them all about the Conference.  Probably the majority of our bookings come from the mailings.

Last year I spent a bit on getting a new ‘woo’ shopping cart done for our main website which has absolutely cut down on the work.  We have done very few invoices this year and another big benefit is that most people pay up front and don’t have to be chased.

I know lots of people use Eventbrite for bookings for events, but maybe I’m old fashioned, I prefer our shopping cart and Infusionsoft solution.  It’s more flexible and it’s easier for me to do special discounts.

For the sales / information page I use Optimse Press – it’s fiddly but there is more flexibility than with my other landing page software Leadpages.

Venues

We have run conferences in a ballroom at an ‘Athenaeum’, a Cambridge college and in a hotel.  The Athenaeum (in Bury St Edmunds) was our first venue and I loved it. It also had a great four-star hotel just over the road.

The trouble is that we have now outgrown it.  With conferences, you make your money by having lots of delegates and we really need to have at least 100 (ideally considerably more) to make much of a profit.  Which the Athenaeum can’t accommodate.

The Cambridge College was good (and amazingly, had on site parking) but very expensive plus they did not have the capacity we needed.  Also, the accommodation side of things did not work well for various reasons.

So probably the best solution so far has been the hotel.  The Welsh conference was in a lovely hotel in Cardiff which worked well – apart from the fact that they did not have enough parking!

This year we are in the Hilton Hotel in Manchester, so it will be interesting to see how things go there.

Next year I have my eye on a nice venue just outside of Norwich (where we live).  Looking to make life a bit easier for ourselves …

So are they worth it?

I think so.  All our conferences have been a great success as events and have given us lots of great online training and marketing material in the film footage and photos.

They are also a good marketing event in themselves as they attract people to our business who might not otherwise be aware of us.  A big successful conference is a flagship event which inevitably improves your profile as an organisation.

And they are quite fun to do and enjoyable on the day.  Which is the main thing.

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