Leadership

How to Break the Mold of Standard Event Conferences

To create a new responsiveness to your events you will need to break out of the mold of the standard event management. Have the courage to pioneer a new frontier for your attendees and speakers.
How to Break the Mold of Standard Event Conferences
Image credit: Photo provided by Jennifer Spencer
Guest Writer
Serial Entrepreneur, Content Creator, Avid Learner
9 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

For every entrepreneur there is a conference or event they can attend. For each industry, there is an industry-specific meeting being held somewhere, and you are welcome if you pay those massive dollars to be in attendance.

How do conferences find their speakers?

Honestly, many of these conferences have their own people they invite year after year to speak. One would hope that spending $1,000 (or more) to attend a conference that you would get your money’s worth and more.

Related: Entrepreneur Events - Join Us Live

Sometimes these events become repetitive, dull and boring. Speakers spout the same old mantra and you don’t hear or learn anything new. But what if you could break this mold? Are you a speaker looking to present at a new and exciting conference? Are you trying to push the limits of the mind?

Do you have what it takes to make a great conference or event?

Have you got a great idea for a new conference and would like to spread the word? Before you set out with one of these goals in mind, there are two people with whom you should have a chat before you go any further.

Justin Wu, founder of Stacking Growth and Growth.ly, Thomas Ma, founder of Sapphire Stories/co-founder Sapphire Apps, Nik Sharma, and Troy Osinoff, co-founders of All Things Social Media. These four people successfully held a full day growth hacking summit in Los Angeles.

Conferences and events have a few basic elements which are fairly consistent.

This conference, which consisted of all the natural elements of a stacked conference, included networking parties and opportunities for their attendees this year.

Related: The 10 Best Worldwide Conferences for Entrepreneurs

Their plan was to move away from traditional models of paying speakers outrageous amounts of money and then turn around and charge the attendee large amounts of money just to break even. That wasn’t even a thought in their mind. They knew that what they really wanted to create was a great conference.

“I noticed that there was a hole on Facebook for groups with a highly curated selection of marketers. There are thousands of Facebook groups designed for networking that eventually devolve into a self-promotional pool with no real value created.

It's important to keep an eye on your Facebook group.

That’s why I wanted to create a group that would only allow top-tier talent in the social media space, and carefully moderate it to make sure the average post quality and engagement remained high.

I’ve been building up a network for years and decided to bring them all together in one place to share strategies, trend insights, and the occasional war story. "With the help of Nik Sharma, Justin Wu and Alex Moskov we created ATSM,” said Troy Osinoff. Osinoff understands creating networking opportunities at events is just as important as developing its speakers.

What makes a great conference? Is it the speakers? Is it the people working feverishly behind the scenes tying it all together? Is it the anxious attendees waiting to soak up every ounce of knowledge prepared for them?

It’s a combination of all the above and follow along as I glean these event tips you can use.

1. Make sure the attendees have their takeaways.

Your number one goal is to the people in attendance of your event. Secondly, you need to ensure your speakers are treated great as well. It’s a marriage of sorts and one, when done correctly, that can produce the offspring with which the attendee can bring home something of value with them and use it forever.

The first priority to establishing an event where your attendees have takeaways is in your talent search for speakers. Justin Wu explained the power of high value Facebook groups that carefully select members. This is one of your first steps in breaking the mold of standard conferences.

It’s here you can dig deep into the speaker's repertoire, view live samples of their speaking, and check the overall background of their expertise.

Related:12 Organizations Entrepreneurs Need to Join

The key is community creation. Justin Wu says, “[The] aim is to create a community and bring in speakers with actual tactical tips, case studies and walkthroughs where people can walk away with ideas that are actionable.”

Most conferences hire speakers who tell feel-good stories or motivational fluff where the attendee has no real takeaway for their business or life. This is the atmosphere you want to dispose of right away.

While you can still get this "fluff" experience in a lot of conferences, the people who target user related problems and key actions to help them solve those problems, are already on the right track.

2. Give them availability.

If an attendee has paid a lot of money to go to a conference, then they should be allowed full spectrum of everything in this conference. Most events have tier levels where the attendees can meet their favorite speaker for an extra price, or attend a speaker dinner.

While all of these are great marketing tactics, if you really want to break the mold of regular conferences, you should allow everyone access to everything.

Thomas Ma’s experience with this strategy makes sense. In fact, availability was one of the reasons he created Sapphire Stories. He understood the event industry was doing it all wrong. Events were overcharging attendees and bringing in top CMO’s from large corporate companies to speak.

“Most of the speakers at the growth marketing conferences were distancing themselves from the audience. They’d share their story, and leave the event. What frustrated me was that these conferences were asking people to pay a large fee in order to speak at the event,” Thomas Ma says.

Related: The 10 Best Entrepreneurial Speakers for Taking Your Event to the Next Level

Cutting your speakers off from your attendees is bad form. Eventually, this will leave a bad taste in the attendees minds and, when you are striving for a perfect event, that is not something you want to keep reminding paying attendees about.

The key is to nurture your speakers and allow them the space they need to create a perfect presentation. You want to provide a happy medium where the speakers are milling about the crowd engaging with them when they’re not on stage.

The Facebook group is another great way to deliver access and availability to your attendees. It allows them to see the inner workings of your conference (if you desire to show them this part) and opens the entire conference up to them.

Related: How to Promote Your Business Events on Facebook

The Facebook group is a great way to open-up your event before the event actually starts and to continue on after the event is passed. One way a Facebook group can be used is to only allow top tier people and careful selection.

This was one of the reasons the Summit was so successful -- once the members of the group saw there would be an opportunity to be in one room with these carefully selected speakers and experts, they wanted to become a part of it.

Also in creating the networking event at the Summit, Justin, and his co-founders Nik Sharma and Troy Osinoff of All Things Social Media, allowed full access into the conversations and meetings of like-minded people in the networking side of things.

In retrospect, using the group in tandem for both the networking opportunities and summit made for a brilliant example of how both experiences can be used more effectively in your next event.

3. Deliver exceptional quality.

For most corporations who hold their standard events every year it is a great way to show off the bottom dollar. However, what would happen if someone like you created an event with the only idea to deliver exceptional quality? Not to try to make a profit, but to truly step forward in the events industry with the attendee in mind all while making zero dollars.

Thomas Ma and Justin Wu had one specific goal and mantra they wanted their attendees to know about. I thought this was interesting. It said, “Proceeds from tickets will go towards food, drinks, and making sure that everyone has a great time!”

Related: 10 Tips for Planning a Successful Company Conference

By making exceptional quality the bottom line instead of the almighty dollar these two entrepreneurs created one of the most exciting atmospheres of learning and networking for their attendees.

In fact, one participant, Dominic Damico says, “It’s refreshing to go to an event where everyone in the room is vetted and up to something interesting. Whether they be an influencer, digital marketing expert, or killer entrepreneur, everyone has something to offer and is focused on building collaborative relationships. It’s been pivotal for my business.”

As a host of an event, whether large or small, this is what you want to see from your attendees. People who are excited and ready to implement what they have learned. This is the perception that was created at the Full Day Growth Summit this year.

Related: There Are Challenges When Your Tech Conference Gets Popular

These four amazing individuals were able to create this responsiveness because they weren’t afraid to break out of the mold of standard event management and pioneer a new frontier for the attendee/speaker experience.

Video of event - https://www.youtube.com -- Video credit - Lucas Frommelt

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