The Four Bs of Planning a Successful Conference for 2021
Entrepreneur's New Year’s Guide
This year was a bust for conferences, but hopeful event planners still have an opportunity to make the most of the time we have now in preparation for a wildly successful event next year (or when it’s safe to host one). Event marketing is a long game, and conferences that bring in a profit while delivering results is as much an art as it is a science.
This is something that entrepreneur Angie Lee knows well. She’s the host of the Angie Lee Show, which has 10 million downloads and counting, and she’s the host of a wildly successful annual conference called “Pays to Be Brave” that helps women tap into the courage they need to go after the careers of their dreams.
It wasn’t always a packed auditorium, though. Her very first iteration of the event brought in 11 women. But she’s learned firsthand from experience how to put on a truly successful conference. Her best advice? Get started with planning, investing and planting the seeds now.
Here are Angie Lee’s “four Bs” for planning a knockout event.Related: Your Conference May Be Canceled, but Here's How to Host a Digital Webinar Instead
1. Build hype early
Event planners may be thinking that their marketing shouldn’t start until they have a firm 2021 or 2022 date to plan their conference for. Lee strongly recommends otherwise. She started hyping Pays to Be Brave a year out from the conference date, every single year. “An event needs to feel like a party that you’re excited to go to,” Lee says. “This means you can never start marketing too early!”
No details yet about the actual event? No problem. Building event hype also includes building the hype around yourself, your company and your product early. “Right now, event planners should be hosting as many virtual workshops and events as they can," Lee explains. "This trains your audience to show up for you. Even if you’re just getting 10 individuals to show up for one of your online training, those are 10 individuals who are more likely to get on a plane and fly cross country for your in-person event when they can.” Remember that marketing for an event also includes marketing what you have to offer. You can never start too early!
2. Be ready to invest
“An event is not like a course — the overhead is high,” Lee cautions. “So if you’re going to do an event, do it right and be ready to invest.” There’s no sugarcoating it: Throwing a big conference can be quite expensive, but the more you put into it, the more that you and your attendees will get out of it.
Setting a budget up front may help you to save up or plan for it, and rest assured that this financial investment goes alongside the time investment. Choosing to market a year earlier and putting in the capital to make the event absolutely epic will almost always generate a positive ROI. But it’s important to know what you’re getting into if your goal is to throw a big conference with thousands of attendees.
3. Bring on affiliates
Word-of-mouth marketing is even more powerful when the individuals get some extra bang for their buck. Lee paid micro-influencers on Instagram within her niche to promote the event to their audiences and also brought on ticket holders as affiliates.
“Once someone bought their ticket, I let them know that they could earn $100 per each ticket they sold in the confirmation email,” Lee says. "This was tremendously successful in generating more sales, because, there’s no one better equipped to sell for you than someone who has already purchased for you, and the ticket holders get an immediate chance to cover the cost of the ticket they just paid for. This is a win-win for everyone, and a great opportunity to scale ticket sales for minimal cost."
4. Boast results
What surges ticket purchases? Attendees want to know what they’ll get out of it. Lee says having clear deliverables on the outcome that attendees will receive is critical. Niche down as far as you can so attendees are crystal clear and can imagine their results. Calling your conference a “personal development conference” or something else that’s vague and open for interpretation won’t translate into sales.
“Remember that these attendees are getting on a plane for you," Lee advises, "and they’ll only do that if they know for sure what they’ll walk away with.”
If you’ve hosted an event before, ask past attendees if they can make quick videos explaining what they got from the event and why they recommend attending. This outperforms testimonials and helps to crystallize clear deliverables in the minds of potential attendees, and is another one of Lee’s “swear-by” tips.
It has been a long, tough year, but from where Lee sits, there’s never been a better time to start hosting smaller online events and mentally planning for future conferences.