How to Create a successful Live Event or Conference
Creative at Heart founder and wedding planner Kat Schmoyer has put together one of the biggest conferences in its industry, so she knows what it takes to pull together a great event. In this episode, we're diving into the behind the scenes of how to host a successful in person event for your business.
HOW DID SHE GET HERE?
Kat never felt like she knew what she wanted to do, and jumped around to a few different jobs, before planning her own wedding. That led her to open her own wedding planning company Dear Sweetheart Events just 3 months after getting married. While she loves planning weddings, she realized she loved running the business even more, and Dear Sweetheart became the catalyst that launched her into entrepreneurship.
Kat was still working a 9-5 job while planning weddings and it was in those first few months of trying to turn her side hustle into her full-time business that she had the idea for Creative at Heart. She wanted to find a community of people that she could network with and relate to and find resources and education for running her business, so she created it! She didn’t even have a name in mind when it started, but Creative at Heart has now grown to be one of the most influential conferences in its industry.
WHAT’S THE FOUNDATION FOR STARTING AN IN-PERSON EVENT?
Like any new thing in business, you have to make sure there’s a need for it in the industry and with your ideal client. Whether that’s an in-person event or just a new service or product, there has to be a need for what you’re doing. You can easily do things like take Instagram polls, talk to friends in the industry, and just become more aware of the conversations being had to find out what people are looking for.
Secondly, it comes down to connections. That doesn’t mean you have to have a large Instagram following. People get so nervous to do something new because they feel like they don’t have a large audience to back it up, but the quality of your audience and the relationships you’ve cultivated matter so much more than the size. Just make sure that you’re being true to what it is you want to offer.
You have to cultivate connections - in terms of quality, not quantity.
WHAT ARE THE MUST-HAVES FOR GETTING STARTED?
You absolutely have to have a budget! That may sound boring, but in-person events can fail simply because there isn’t a business side of it. If you’re passionate about what you’re putting on, then you have to treat it like a business. What’s your break even point and the expenses? You’re likely not going to profit a lot of money on the first event, but that’s not to say that you can’t profit or break even.
The other important thing you need to know is the unique value proposition of your event. There’s so much education out there, so know what sets your event apart and makes it different from the rest. You need to make sure you have a foundation to stand on and know what it is that you’re offering. Build everything off of that unique value so that you know you’re offering the best experience for your attendees.
HOW DO YOU FIND SPEAKERS AND SPONSORS?
We’ve never done an official call for speakers, but we do have an application for speakers on our site. Because our conference embodies community so much, we’ve gotten most of our speakers from people reaching out to us or being referred by someone in our community. This has always worked well for us because we’re getting educators who believe in our core values and our mission. I’ll reach out and pitch to educators as well when we hear about people who are a good fit.
For sponsors, we don’t normally have very many that are actually funding the conference, but we do get a lot of sponsors that are offering products and swag bags to our attendees. We usually do a call for these sponsors and then pick the ones we think will be the best fit and whose products/services will benefit our attendees the most. For sponsors giving a monetary donation, I’ve always reached out and pitched to them directly because I know they’re a good fit.
HOW DO YOU FIND THE LOCATION AND CONVINCE THEM TO HOST THE EVENT?
We’ve always done a different venue except for this year. We’re going back to the same one, which is great because Round 8’s theme was Home, and now we feel like as a conference, we’ve found our home. In the past, we always found locations by polling our community (alumni Facebook group, the survey we did after the conference, etc.), and that’s how we found the current one that we’re repeating. When you have an idea for a great fit, you just have to reach out and pitch the idea to that venue. Make sure to explain the unique value, how you think it can benefit their venue, and why you think they’d be a great fit.
HOW DO YOU RUN THE AFTER-EVENT SURVEY AND HOW DOES THAT TELL YOU IF THE EVENT WAS A SUCCESS?
We always send a survey to the attendees that’s pretty long, but we get a great amount of responses back from those. We always ask them very specific questions about the event and the registration process as a whole and the individual keynotes and sessions. We ask them what they would change and what they would never change along with those questions about ideas for next year and where they’d like to see us go. We send the same survey to the speakers and tell them to respond with what’s relevant, because we want to see it from the educator’s perspective as well.
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