How to Host a Workshop or Live Event

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Last year I attended, spoke at and organised more live events than ever before. While hard work, they are also incredibly rewarding and so much fun to do. I’m thrilled that doing them is such a huge part of my business now. The Blogcademy, in particular, has changed my life so much!

The first live events I hosted were parties for blog readers and people in the wedding industry, I then moved on to doing small afternoon-long, in-person blogging workshops before launching The Blogcademy, with Gala and Shauna, in 2012. Needless to say I’ve learnt a lot of lessons about what does and does not work when putting on events.

You need an assistant

When we first started doing The Blogcademy we didn’t have assistants for every class, but oh boy I wish we did! Having someone to help you prep for the event, set up the space, break it down afterwards and make sure you get from A to B is so vital and makes the whole thing so much less stressful!

If, like us, you are hosting an event in a city you don’t live in it’s also great to have someone that knows the area who can drive you around and take delivery of and bring along any supplies (like goodie bags) with them.

Our assistant at the Melbourne class in November was a professional events organiser and she gave us some great advice. Since speaking to her we’ve created a document that we now email to our assistants before each class that lets them know what is expected from them. It also includes the timings of the day, our contact details and anything else they might need to know. Doing this makes all the pre-preparation and communication so much smoother and means we don’t have to repeat ourselves each time!

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Refunds and cancellations

Whatever your event, you need to have a solid refunds and cancellations policy. This must be clearly explained on your registration and FAQ pages. Include things like if you offer refunds, if there is any cancellation fee, by what date cancellations will be accepted and if tickets can be transferred. You should also include information about what happens if you need to cancel the event.

Over-communicate

I am a massive over-communicator and like to keep everyone in the loop at all times. As soon as someone signs up to your event, be sure to email them letting them know that you have received their payment and what, if anything, they have to do next. We have a document which we email to our Blogcademy sign ups with more information about the class and private forum.

On your website, give people as much information about the agenda of the event as possible. People like to be clued up before they book things, especially if it is a lot of money. While you obviously don’t want to give everything away online, a list of what topics you’ll be covering is a good place to start if it’s a workshop that you’re hosting.

How will people pay you?

We use PayPal to take all payment for The Blogcademy. It isn’t perfect and yes there are fees involved, but when you’re running multiple events it’s just the simplest option. Having to invoice each student individually would be a huge ball-ache. As a side note, we also keep all our payments in USD, wherever the class is taking place in the world.

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Offer instalments

Offering an instalment plan is a great way to secure more bookings, sooner. Just make sure the final payments are due no later than 30 days before the event so that you can pay any suppliers or venues. It should also go without saying that people need to have paid the full amount before they can attend too.

Give your event it’s own website

If you’re serious about making this event a big part of your business then you should give it it’s own branding and website. We are very lucky at The Blogcademy that Shauna is a genius graphic designer and Gareth is a web developing God, but even if this wasn’t the case, this would be where we’d have first invested any money.

Having a dedicated website for the event shows that you’re taking it seriously and it’s not just an experiment or sideline that will be forgotten if it doesn’t take off immediately. Don’t feel like you have to spend a fortune to begin with though. A WordPress blog with some simple custom graphics is a great place to start if you’re yet to make a profit and don’t have a huge amount to invest. You should also immediately sign up for all the social media platforms with the business name.

In a similar vein, think about taking your brand beyond just a web presence. At The Blogcademy we have branded workbooks, sponsor postcards, tote bags and badges that our students receive. Printed ‘real life’ collateral always goes down a TREAT!

Have a FAQ page and add to it regularly

With live events it is probable that people will have  a lot of the same questions so a FAQ page is crucial. Be sure to add to it if you get a question about something you haven’t included. If one person thought of it, it is likely that someone else is thinking it too.

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Have a marketing plan

Having a website and launching an event is all well and good but if nobody knows about it then no one is going to come along!

See if you can guest write for or be interviewed on relevant blogs, submit articles to magazines and speak to any PR contacts you have. If you struggle with writing then why not do a free livestream to promote the event or see if there are any other events you can speak at?

You also need a killer sales page. Selling tickets to events can be very hard work so be sure to really nail this. If you’re not sure how to do this then why not hire a copywriter?

Have a newsletter

A newsletter that people can sign up for to be notified about new events or promotions should be top of your list too. Offer some kind of incentive or freebie for sign ups if you want to get more of them!

The venue will make or break your event

Investing in a beautiful space that has everything you need for your event is so important! The best venues we’ve worked at have been big, spacious and full of natural light, provide their own chairs (or know someone who they can hire them from on our behalf) and offer on-site catering or food options. The less you have to source yourself the easier the event will be to host!

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Spreadsheets are your friend

It’s not the most fun job but it’s crucial. With The Blogcademy we have spreadsheets for practically everything! The most important things to keep track of are sign-ups (names, email addresses, payment status), sponsors (name, email, website, social media links, contact) and costs. We use Google Drive to host these spreadsheets which means all partners of the business can access them at any time.

Check your dates

When we launched our Portland workshop last year we didn’t realise we’d done so over Easter weekend! Luckily it still sold OK but be sure to check if your event clashes with any national holidays or other big events that could impact it.

You need to make money!

Time to get serious. The purpose of any business is to MAKE MONEY. Yes, you are probably doing this because you love it, but if you’re not making money (or don’t have a solid plan as to how you will make it profitable in future) then what is the point?!

Creating, hosting and leading a live event is too much work for you not to make a profit from your efforts.

A lot of the time we downplay the value of our offerings because we’re scared. We’re afraid that people will say it’s too expensive or isn’t worth the price… and well, that’s fine. If someone doesn’t see the value in what you’re offering then they are not your customer.

You shouldn’t just be your plucking prices out of the air or trying to rip people off, though. Be sure to do some market research to see what similar events cost to attend. If you are way more expensive than your competitors it might put people off booking, but conversely, if you are much, much cheaper then people might assume that what you’re offering must be inferior.

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Hire a photographer and videographer

You should definitely have professional photographs of the event, or better yet a video. Not only are they a great tool for promoting and selling future events, but your attendees will be more likely to write about it on their own blogs if they have great, professional images that they can use.

Give back

Giving back is a great thing to do. At The Blogcademy we offer a free scholarship space in each city to someone who we feel really deserves it. It can also be a great marketing exercise if people have to publish something on their own blogs or social media to be considered.

If you receive a complaint…

The more people you deal with or host, the more likely you are to receive a complaint. While it’s horrible to feel like you’ve disappointed someone, if it does happen, this is not the time to try and defend yourself, bitch or moan.

Instead, address the complaint head on and do everything in your power to rectify the situation. The people that attend your event will be your biggest cheerleaders if you give them an amazing experience, but can also be your harshest critics if you don’t resolve any problems as quickly as possible.

Supporting Cast

6 comments

  1. I’m at the very beginning of organising a relaunch event for my brand and this is invaluable – and spookily well timed! Thank you so much xx

  2. This came at a great time as I am thinking about organizing “photography camp” this year! As usual, super helpful and while most of it should be common sense, there are a lot of great points that I had never considered. :D

  3. Debs

    Such a fab an informative post. I am at the start of planning for a new project, this has been supe helpful. Thank you.

  4. We’ve been organising courses and workshops since 2004 and after trial and error have a system that works for us now. Organising and promoting events is not always as easy as it looks, especially finding suitable venues which don’t charge the earth.

    I concur with spreadsheets (what can I say, we’re planners we love a spreadsheet!), all our payments are online and we only send invoices on request due to time involved in producing invoices, we NEVER hold events in peak summer season (due to planners working) or during school holidays as attendance would be low, we try to promote via our website, blog, twitter, Facebook and email just to cover all bases!

    As always a great article Kat

    x

  5. Invaluable advice Kat. I’m considering holding some workshops in my community around feminist empowerment and self-publishing. As soon as I read the part of having an assistant a part in my brain clicked- my sister would make an awesome assistant and would help her with getting her resume off the ground.
    Thanks Kat as always- and loving seeing the snaps from Brisvegas’s blogcademy! Best weekend ever! xx <3

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