Hosting a live event is always something we’ve had in the back of our minds. There’s a lot of value in them and we’re fans of meeting up with other location independent entrepreneurs, but we’ve never acted as the hosts, only as the attendees.
Today, Dan Taylor and I talk about how to build a business around live events and what you can do to make them successful. This is a pretty intimidating topic but it’s definitely an interesting one. And no, it turns out you don’t need an audience to begin with and you can start as a beginner–although the former helps.
If you’re thinking of hosting live events or if you already are in the game then give this one a listen.
What do you think about live events? Do you have any questions for Dan about running them? Leave your thoughts on SpeakPipe or comment below to start a discussion!
Speaker 1: Welcome to the Empire Flippers Podcast. Are you sick and tired of gurus who have plenty of ideas but are short on substance? Worried that ebook you bought for $17.95 won’t bring you the personal and financial freedom you long for? Hey, you’re not alone. Join thousands of others in their pursuit of niche profits, without the bullshit, straight from your hosts, Justin and Joe, from Empire Flippers.
Justin Cooke: Welcome to Episode 95 of the Empire Flippers Podcast. I’m your host, Justin Cooke. I’m with my business partner extraordinaire, Joe “Hot Money” Magnotti. What’s going on, buddy?
Joe Magnotti: Hello, everybody.
Justin Cooke: We’ve got a fantastic episode lined up this week. We’re talking about building a business around live events. I got an opportunity to talk to Dan Taylor, over at appsevents.com. I wanted to get him to break down how you could actually build a business around a running live event, going from masterminds to thousand-person-type events where you’ve got people paying. You’ve got sponsors, there, in the booths. How do you get from a small group on a Saturday afternoon to this large, massive group that you’re making a ton of money with?
Joe Magnotti: I’m always amazed when I go to these events and they’re able to pull it off because it seems like there’s so many moving parts and so many things that have to happen to make it right.
Justin Cooke: Yeah, it was really interesting talking to the guy over at After Offers, Tim, on how he started off with, like, four people and a mastermind and turned that into a thousand people showing up to events. He had had some success with it. I found another guy that had some success, and I want to hear more about that as a business model, like how you can actually expand that. Before we do that, though, let’s do some updates, news, and info.
First thing, buddy, we’ve got a five-star Stitcher review.
Joe Magnotti: Hit me up, man.
Justin Cooke: So, Louisa says, “Love this show. I look forward to listening to it. Thanks, Empire Flippers. You guys rock.” Appreciate it, Louisa. Appreciate the five-star review on Citrix.
Joe Magnotti: Yeah. Thank you, so much.
Justin Cooke: Next point I want to mention is we are in the final selection process for our new apprentice, which will be basically a marketplace manager, do a lot of white glove and hand-holding of our buyers and sellers and really smooth out the process in giving a depositor all the way to transferring the sale.
Joe Magnotti: Yeah, we’re doing the interview marathon, tonight. So, how many we got scheduled? Four? Five?
Justin Cooke: No, three. Three tonight. We’ve done one already and we’ve got our fifth one in about 24 hours from now. So, yeah, man, we’re getting down to it and we’ve got some really good applicants this time. It’s really interesting. I was a little worried when we first set this up. We got a couple I wasn’t so sure about, but over the course of all the people applying, we got some really sharp and talented people applying. So this [inaudible 00:02:29] really interesting position. It’ll probably be coming out here to the Philippines around July-ish. So we’ll have more information on that when it’s available.
Other thing and last point I want to mention before we get into the episode is we got sued, buddy.
Joe Magnotti: Ugh. I just … Even looking at this on the little card, here, makes me cringe a little bit in the show notes. I’m just like, “Argh. Do we have to talk about this?”
Justin Cooke: Yeah. This is something we’ve been dealing with for a couple of years and, because it was live and active at the time, we didn’t. It’s, now, been a few months since it’s all been settled up and we finished it, but we still, kind of, delayed on putting this out. We’re gonna do a podcast episode about it. I ended up just writing a blog post. It’s pretty in-depth and detailed. We’re gonna have that out soon, either this week or, at the latest, next week. So you’ll be able to read about over at empireflippers.com. It’s a pretty intense story. So we share, kind of, what happened with us and the learning experience that came with it. So, hopefully, help you and your business if you run into issues like this, as well.
Joe Magnotti: Yeah, In short, we lost and lost a good deal of money, but lesson learned.
Justin Cooke: All right man. Enough about that. Let’s get into the heart of this week’s episode.
Speaker 1: This is the Empire Flippers Podcast.
Justin Cooke: All right. As I mentioned at the top of the show, I’ve got Dan Taylor, at appsevents.com, with us today. Dan has made a business out of throwing business events. He’s helped guys like Rob Walling with MicroConf, and he runs his own Google Apps training for educational businesses with appsevents.com. Dan, so great to have you on the show, man.
Dan Taylor: Yeah. Thanks, Justin, for having me. I’m a big fan of the podcast.
Justin Cooke: So, we’re gonna be talking, today, a little bit about building a business around throwing events. Generally, when you hear of people throwing events, it’s, kind of, like their own event to their own crowd, but that’s not necessarily the way it has to be. Before we even get into all that, let’s talk a little bit about the value in going to events. I’m not a big trade show guy and I’m not really big into going to events and Joe, my business partner, is trying to convince me that, over the next year or two, we need to start attending these events. Why do you think it’s important to go to events where you can meet peers and that kind of thing?
Dan Taylor: Yeah, I mean, it’s interesting. You say [inaudible 00:04:31] events plus but I think, you know what I mean, we met briefly at a DC [inaudible 00:04:34]. We’re both member of the Dynamite Circle. [inaudible 00:04:37] that was a great event. That was the case where you’re in with your peers and you get [inaudible 00:04:43] people, and I think if you go to the right event for you, it is an amazing experience to do it. I think there’s nothing like face-to-face. I think online communities are great and online is good, but I really think events are always gonna be and always gonna grow because there’s really nothing like meeting people face to face.
Justin Cooke: Skype just doesn’t always cut it. Right? Joe and I were talking about this the other day, like whether you can work with distributed teams. I think you can. It’s a hell of a lot better than it was years ago, but there’s some value in meeting up with people. What do you think the value is for the people who throw these events? Do you think it’s significantly higher? What does that do for them?
Dan Taylor: Yeah, I mean. Well, there’s a few things. Obviously, from the person who’s throwing the events [inaudible 00:05:25], one of the things is, obviously, getting to meet everyone and if you’re the guy throwing the event, you’ve obviously got a high profile. So you’re the person that’s gonna meet everyone and be in the best position to make contacts. That’s the first thing. The second thing, you need, obviously, to make some money. Most of the people that make events, despite what they say, are doing it hope to make money. Events can be quite profitable.
Justin Cooke: Is this one of those things where it’s like the actor problem where, “Yeah, sure, the top actors are making $50 million a year, $100 million a year but the people at the bottom are struggling. Do you think most people that run events are making good cash? How does that work?
Dan Taylor: No, I think that most people that run events are making money, but there’s a funny psychology with people that run events, in that … and you’ve probably come across this … is that everyone’s trying to make out that they’re not making any money. You know? It’s real. I’ve seen it so many times with events I know like [inaudible 00:06:15] because when you run events, you can estimate roughly what people are making, but everybody … They want their attendees to really think, “You know, we’re doing this for the community,” and it’s, kind of, strange because people [inaudible 00:06:27] events people always make pains to downplay the money they make.
Justin Cooke: When you attend these events, are you doing the math in your head, going, “Huh, okay. Thousand dollars a ticket. I know they got their rooms for free.” Are you, kind of, like trying to figure out? Yeah.
Dan Taylor: A little bit, yeah. The events I go to, you can normally [inaudible 00:06:38] I guess [inaudible 00:06:38]. I’ve only been doing this for like a year and a half. You know? Like most things, you know, when you do the [inaudible 00:06:50], you can, pretty much, get up to speed pretty quickly on it.
Justin Cooke: So I’m listening to this podcast, right now, of one of our listeners. I’m wondering, “That’s great if you’re Pat Flynn or if you’ve got this huge audience with a ton of people, you can throw on events. No problem. You just shoot out an email.” If I’m a guy who has never really run events and I want to get into this, can I get started or do I have to already have an audience?
Dan Taylor: I think if you have an audience, it’s obviously much easier. So if you’ve already got a community, like you’ve got a podcast, you’ve got an online community, or you’re well-known in a certain … just even if you’re a well-known character in a forum where you’ve got some kind of audience, it’s much easier. It would be silly to say it isn’t harder if you didn’t. I’ve run one event, and I’m doing another one where I didn’t have any audience, and there was [inaudible 00:07:36] event [inaudible 00:07:37], and I really had no profile in that community. I didn’t know anybody and I still managed to do it. So, if you don’t have an audience, it’s, kind of, no real secrets. You’ve just gotta hustle. You know? You’ve gotta really promote yourself online. You’ve got to do some cold calls [inaudible 00:07:51]. I think that’s just really a hustle business. If you haven’t got the audience, you can do it, but you’ve got to have the personality and the sort of person that’s gonna hustle to make it happen.
Justin Cooke: Does it make sense, though, if I don’t have an audience? Does it make sense to partner with someone who does, or are there ways around actually bringing them in on your own business?
Dan Taylor: No. That’s such an interesting point. I’d highly recommend to partner with someone who does have an audience. An example with this is Rob and Mike. You mentioned MicroConf [Eur 00:08:17]. They were already running MicroConf in the U.S. I got in touch with them. [inaudible 00:08:23] has partner on the European event, I’m running [inaudible 00:08:25] events in Europe, but we know a lot of the same people. So, if you know [inaudible 00:08:29] an event, and I partnered. So, I’d say that’s a really good event. I think to do that, though, if you’re approaching … Let’s say I was approaching you with your Empire Flippers Podcast, to do an event, you’d want to see if I had some track record. It’s gonna [inaudible 00:08:42] if you haven’t done an event for, but if you have, it’s a real easy way. If I said to you, “Look here, Justin, you can see history of events I’ve done in the Philippines,” I think we could get a lot of your listeners to come across to a Philippines event, you’d be interested because you’ve never run an event, and you’d like someone else to help you do that.
Justin Cooke: I absolutely would. That’s awesome. No, that’s totally true. I mean, I’ve never done an event before. If someone had a track record and had done a few events and said, “Hey, I’d like to run one with you guys. I think it’d be awesome. We’ll have a great time and here’s how we’re gonna set it up,” I’d definitely want to hear about that, yeah. So, I guess, if you don’t have an audience, partnering with someone who already does, kind of, makes sense. Also, I like your idea of geographically basing it. If someone has an event that they’re always running in the U.S., but they’re a worldwide audience, if you [crosstalk 00:09:28] can help them expand that internationally, because you’ve already done a few events you can show you’ve done overseas, that makes a lot of sense to me.
Dan Taylor: Yeah, yeah, yeah, definitely. My background … I’m not an events [inaudible 00:09:39]. I’m detecting. I was a developer on a project [inaudible 00:09:43], and I still consider myself a Tech, you know. So, I studied automating technical events in the area that I knew but my background wasn’t in events, or in marketing, or in any of these things.
Justin Cooke: I tell though, Dan, talking to you. You’re a personable guy, man. Do you have to be a personable guy or … I don’t know a ton of people, and I ant to get into this. Is this something you can learn or does it require a certain type of person?
Dan Taylor: Yeah, I think you’ve gotta be a personable guy. You know, like, you’ve gotta be … People can tell if you’re not [inaudible 00:10:10] fancy. You’ve got to be a person that wants to go out and meet new people. You know? You’ve gotta be in there. People can tell at an event if you’re just shaking hands and looking over your shoulder for the next important person to talk to. You’ve gotta be person that actually wants to meet people at these events and things. So, yeah, you do need to be personable, but I don’t think you need to be super outgoing. I’m not really an outgoing extrovert personality. I’m fairly low-key, but you do need to want to meet people. I think that’s key. Why would you want to do events if you didn’t wanna make new friends?
Justin Cooke: That makes sense. I guess it depends on your audience, too. So, if everyone’s, kind of, techie, then, if you’re not this crazy, rambunctious type person, I guess that would be just fine and they wouldn’t expect-
Dan Taylor: Yeah. Exactly. Look at Rob and Mike. They’re both [inaudible 00:10:51] friendly guys, but they’re not outgoing personalities. They’re very much coders and techies, and their audience is the same. So they, sort of, meet really well with the audience.
Justin Cooke: All right. So, let’s say I’m down. You sold me, Dan. I’m gonna get started. I’m gonna start doing events. We’re talking about via email. A great way to do this is, kind of, do a meetup. Go to meetup.org, or whatever, get some people together, then move into [MasterMines 00:11:15]. Then move into events. Is this the typical way that people get started, like start off, kind of, small, Saturday meetup and then it grows from there?
Dan Taylor: I’m not sure what the typical way is. I wouldn’t recommend … My view for my events of who I’ve seen is, I would never start off with a free event. Even if you do a meetup, I would always charge people, for a couple of reasons … the main one being this, people don’t really value something that’s free. If you start with a meetup, then you’re never really sure who’s gonna come out of the people. So I would always do that because people you want to come [inaudible 00:11:50] place some value on it. The thing is, you can scale an event pretty quickly. So if you start up with a meetup but you’re getting a lot of interest in it, you can easily add in more speakers and make it more of a conference … Extend it by a few hours and grow it and, conversely, scale down. You can gauge interest. I would don’t wait. If you get a lot of interest in your first event, just scale it up. They’ll go crazy, but make it bigger.
Justin Cooke: It’s interesting. We recently had Tim Bourquin on the show, and he actually did this podcast expo. Before that, he’d done a online brokerage or online day trader type event. It was like a meetup thing. He had about four or five people, turned into … I think his biggest conference was a thousand or two thousand people. He had sponsors. It just got crazy. He didn’t start off with that intention. In fact, he’d built it up and people were asking him to sponsor, and he kept telling them, “No, no, no.” They’d want to put booths up. He was like, “No, no, no.” Finally, he was like, “Oh, what can it hurt? I’ll make a little bit of money in the back,” and made a ton of money with it.
Dan Taylor: No, I [inaudible 00:12:52] podcast yesterday. Yeah, yeah, that was really interesting. Then I think you can do it this way. I just had lunch today with Simon Whistler, from the DC [inaudible 00:13:01]. He’s got a Rocking Self-Publishing Podcast and he did a meetup in London, and a lot of people turned out. He’s now thinking to move back into a bigger event, a [MasterMine 00:13:09] event. So he’s, kind of, looking to do it this way.
Justin Cooke: So can this be hacked? Are there ways that you can get a bigger event than just do the meetup, the [MasterMine 00:13:18]? For example, one example would be Chris [Ducker 00:13:23] and Pat Flynn recently met up, and they teamed up together to do a 20- or 30-person MasterMine. So they were able to pull in a bigger grip, charge right away. Are there other ways, any tricks you can think of that can speed it up so you don’t have to do the four-person on a Saturday, at a Starbucks? You can actually start-
Dan Taylor: Yeah. You could go [inaudible 00:13:41]. It’s pretty easy. If you don’t, there’s no real magic bullet, either. You have to just hustle and chase a lot of people. I’d come by and say what you said is a great idea, to merge with another person, but at that secondly, I just want to [00:13:55] what I said before. I’d highly recommend going straight to a paid event. [inaudible 00:14:00], from Tropical MBA … They started off with a paid event and [inaudible 00:14:04] in getting a bunch of people together. Then, they grew that to the DC Conference, but it was still a paid event from day one. So I think don’t undervalue … I wouldn’t waste time on going for a free event. I’d go straight for a paid event, even if it’s a small amount of money.
Justin Cooke: Okay, got you. So I have no audience. I’m ready to get started. What are the first three to five steps to get me down the road to get this done?
Dan Taylor: Well, the first thing is just get a website up. It’s amazing how long people put that off and [inaudible 00:14:29] around. It’s just pretty basic stuff in there. Get up a website. Get event [inaudible 00:14:36]. I highly recommend using Eventbrite for your ticket processing. It’s a really simple way to do it. They charge three percent, but it’s probably worth it. Then, depending on the type of event, get a couple of speakers. If it’s an event where you’re gonna speak, obviously, put yourself on there. Say you’re gonna speak, but it’s always good to make contact with one or two other people. If you’ve got a couple of big names on there, then, they’re gonna promote it to their audiences and people are gonna do them. People are gonna recognize them, as well. You can, then, start your online marketing. So, number one, you need to get a website up.
Number two, try to [inaudible 00:15:09] interest with a couple of speakers. You’ll often be amazed how many people are flexible to come without commitment of payment. You can always say to the speakers, “Look, it’s a small event. We’ll cover your travel costs. If we make a lot of money, we can probably agree a speaker’s fee.” You can do it like that. Secondly, after you’ve got the speakers, I’d say start your promotion. Start promoting yourself online. Figure out where your audience hangs out. Do they hang out in certain forums? Do they hang out on Google Plus? [Word on Words 00:15:38] and things with Facebook Ads and make a [inaudible 00:15:41] to their audience. It’s really, kind of, a standard marketing exercise at that point.
Justin Cooke: One thing that’s interesting about that. So, let’s say that I’ve gone to the forums. I’m starting to get the people. They’re starting to get juiced up. I’ve got a couple of marquee names, speakers in our niche … very niche, but I’ve got a few people. They’re lined up. They’re ready to go. It’s starting to work out. Now, I want to get some sponsors. This is, kind of, the marketplace problem or benefit, depending on your perspective. You now have to get these sponsors. Is it a lot easier once you’ve already got the audience? Is that why you [inaudible 00:16:10] the audience first?
Dan Taylor: Yeah, definitely. [inaudible 00:16:16] most of our events, we have sponsors contacting us. No? Tends to be small or medium size sponsors, but once you’ve got going … Hopefully, if you’re doing the right thing, your sponsors are gonna be hanging out in the same place as your audience because your sponsors are always people that want sales to get to your audience. So, they’re gonna be in the same forums and things like that. In the beginning, unfortunately, with sponsors, there’s no other way other than just smile and dial, old-fashioned cold calling and, even, cold emailing to get sponsors. At least that’s the only way I found.
Justin Cooke: If I’ve got a hundred people that are committed. They paid, let’s say, $500 to come to this weekend, trying to meetup, how do I price this with sponsors? There’s a hundred people. They’ve paid $500 each. What do I take this to the sponsors with? Is it niche-dependent?
Dan Taylor: The way they normally do it is try [inaudible 00:17:05] to get your first one or two sponsors. Then, you’re gonna get one or two things. You want to have some sponsors on the website because it’s, kind of, a social proofing. When the other sponsors see you’ve already got sponsors, they realize there’s a bit of competition for these spaces. You can say, “Look, we’ve only got three slots. We’ve already got two.” So, you want to offer it low in the beginning just to get a sponsor. An event always looks better with sponsors.
Secondly, you’re gonna get an idea. If you say it’s a thousand dollars to come, the general reaction you get is, “Yeah, a thousand dollars,” and you go, “Okay, what’s your lowest?” And you’ve pushed it to five thousand. If you don’t get interest at five thousand, you cannot drop it again.
Justin Cooke: So, if they’re not batting an eye at my price, I might go, “Ha, it’s time to raise this a bit.” That was too easy.
Dan Taylor: I think it’s funny, you know. Just like [inaudible 00:17:52] I’ve been selling for a long time. Now, I’m in a situation. We’ve got a lot of sponsors, but I’m looking to get some big [inaudible 00:17:59] across all our events near the Samsungs and HPs and some big people. So now, I’m at the point I’m selling myself again. I’m cold calling these people and trying to get to speak to the head of marketing for certain regions and things. So, I think this business, you’ve always gotta be willing to hustle and do that kind of work, it’s definitely quite a bit of phone calling involved, and you have to be ready for that.
Justin Cooke: So here’s the question. Let’s say that Joe and I put on an event. We’ve got confirmed 200 people going. It’s a conference in Vegas on buying and selling websites, and I’m calling up GoDaddy or HostGator to get them to sponsor. Where would you start off with me-
Dan Taylor: You mean you’ll pitch-
Justin Cooke: … if you were me? Yeah. I’m calling GoDaddy. I’m trying to get HostGator. I’m trying to get Bluehost, someone to sponsor the event. We’ve got 200 people. They paid … I don’t know … 500 bucks for the weekend, each … let’s say a thousand bucks for the weekend-
Dan Taylor: The way you’ve always gotta pitch it to your sponsors is that your event is the most efficient way for them to meet their exactly-targeted audience. What you gotta say to them is what I said to you in the beginning, and it’s the truth. There’s nothing like face-to-face. All the online in the world isn’t the same as face-to-face, and when you actually get face to face with your people … and it really helps if your sponsors are part of their community. They actually get to speak to the people. They don’t just get sales, but they get feedback. People tell them what’s wrong with their product. People tell them what they’re choosing instead of their products.
I don’t know, but I’m just guessing … Blue Host, every customer they get is probably a small dollar amount. So maybe the clients they could get from your event is in the high … maybe I’m wrong. Maybe there’s other suppliers [inaudible 00:19:34], but I think it all comes down to how much money they could potentially make and what influences it. As a general rule, if you’re talking a thousand people, you should be charging in the thousands of dollars for a sponsor. You shouldn’t be going less than that … kind of, a thousand as a general rule, I would say.
Justin Cooke: How would I get someone like that at GoDaddy or Bluehost, whatever, to take me seriously if this is my first event? Do you recommend looking for sponsors on your first event, or should you get a few under your belt first?
Dan Taylor: No. I would get sponsors from day one. Like I say, if you can show the event, you can show the speakers and the speakers are probably gonna have heard of, if they’re in the area, and you can say the numbers. Once you’ve got to that stage, and you’ve actually got people coming, and you’ve got speakers on the website, I don’t think not having previous events is a big issue. It looks like you have a real event at that stage. I’d hundred percent go for sponsors from day one.
Justin Cooke: So let’s talk about putting on a good show. Generally, that requires getting quality speakers. Hopefully, I would imagine that you’re already in the space and you’ve built relationships with other people that are in the niche. Let’s say that you want to go after a couple of speakers that you don’t have a relationship with. You’re cold. Obviously, you could try to go through people that you’re both acquainted with. That might be an option. How to you go about attracting quality speakers?
Dan Taylor: Two things. One is exactly what you just said, mutual contacts. When you’ve been in business a while, like you and me have, you know a lot of people who know people. So, that’s always the best way to do it. The second way, if you’re gonna approach people, cold, as long as you’ve got some other names on your website as speakers and, then, that interests speakers … if they see that someone else in the area is speaking, they’re automatically interested. So, generally, as long as you’ve got some other speakers first, then, you’ll be able to attract other speakers who you don’t know.
Justin Cooke: Have you ever canceled an event because enough people didn’t sign off?
Dan Taylor: I have, once. I didn’t like it. I felt really bad. I’d say what I have to know and what I would always recommend is, before you cancel, always see if there’s a way you can downsize. Let’s say you’re trying to get as more of a large conference. Maybe you can just get a couple of speakers, make it smaller. Even if you can’t break even or only make a small profit, it’s always better to run the event if you can. There are occasions when it just doesn’t stack up and, then, you cancel but I’m very reluctant to cancel.
I’ve run over 30 events, at this stage. We’re doing over 40 this year. I’ve only canceled one, and that was a strange case, as well. So yeah, you can, but I’d be very reluctant. Try to downsize it. Also, try to think … Look, think about the long term. You’re gonna run this event. Maybe you’re not gonna make any money. Maybe you’ll even lose a small amount, but you make an amazing event. Everyone tells their friends, and you build it to be a bigger event next year. I, generally, don’t get into any event that’s not a recurring, annual event [inaudible 00:22:22]. So always try to run it because [00:22:24] term could pay off.
Justin Cooke: I would hate to have to cancel. I call the speakers, tell everyone, “I’m sorry you’re not going. Oh, I booked my tickets already.” That’s gotta be painful.
Dan Taylor: It’s a nightmare.
Justin Cooke: You don’t want to do that too many times or you’re probably not gonna be an event guy.
Dan Taylor: No. I mean, if this was a really small event and it wasn’t much of a hassle, but if it happens, honestly, I would be super-cool about it. I even paid a couple of people’s flights, who’d already booked their flights and couldn’t get a refund. I was really focusing on the good will. It’s not often you have to cancel. You can run a smaller event, or you could even take a bit of a hit and think longterm. You know?
Justin Cooke: I like your idea of downsize the event. Okay, taking it down a couple of notches and letting everyone know, just being just very transparent about it, and I don’t think anyone’s gonna fault you for that. If you have an event, obviously I want it to be baller. I want it to be baller. I want to have a great opening party, closing party, great events. I want everyone to be excited the whole time, but you don’t want to be at baller crazy expensive, either, depending on your audience, I guess. So I don’t want to overcharge them for every single, little thing. So what can you save money on? How can you cut costs a little bit, and what do you want to make sure that you don’t cut because it would make for a crappy event?
Dan Taylor: I’d say parties and social events, I would say that’s where you don’t want to skimp … kind of, be looking as in, “Where’s the [inaudible 00:23:48]?” I’ve made mistakes. I’ve definitely had events in the beginning where, probably, I didn’t put enough effort into the parties and the social, and I realized that was a good to do it. So I definitely would focus on the events, but in terms of hacks, remember that, a lot of the time, you can get venues for free.
Even, sometimes, venues will pay you. For example, I’m running an event in Prague, and we’re doing a party at the Hogwart Café Building with the big atrium. They’re actually paying us some money to run the event there because we’re bring a lot of people. So always look at the venues. Remember you don’t always have to buy drinks for everyone all night. Maybe you can get the first couple of drinks in for free. Most venues probably will pay the first drinks. Although, strangely in America, it doesn’t seem to work. In America, they always seem to want money for everything. IN other countries you can get them to pay for your drinks. So don’t always worry about getting drinks all night, but I’d get a good venue and negotiate with the venues, as well.
Justin Cooke: Yeah, that’s a pretty interesting tip. So if you can get stuff, if you can save money and save money on ticket prices, save money across the board, a good way to do that is through the venue or the hotel because you’re obviously getting them rooms paid and they’re happy with you. They like you. Right? So you can get stuff out of them.
Dan Taylor: Yeah, and also another hack is most hotels will give you a percentage of all the rooms, but you can typically get ten percent from the hotel. So anyone who books rooms through you, you’ll get ten percent of the fee, pretty standard in most countries.
Justin Cooke: That’s a nice little backend payday. That’s helpful.
Dan Taylor: Yeah, exactly.
Justin Cooke: So, we’re talking a little bit about the social aspect and don’t cheap on the social … Maybe it’s alcohol free for two hours or something like that. That makes sense. How important do you think the social is to people’s walking away from the event? Do they go back? How important do you think the party and the social aspect is for these events?
Dan Taylor: I think it’s as important as, sometimes more important than, the sessions. Going to a conference or some sort of meetup, it’s not like going to a training event. They’re going there to have fun. They’re getting away from their regular life, and they want to meet people. They want to make contact. So you can’t underestimate that. Having a good social is as important as the sessions and the speakers.
Justin Cooke: I like sneaking away with a few people. In Bangkok, for example, a few people I’ve met a few times are online. Then, actually going off and having a few drinks with them, kind of spending the evening hanging out and partying … That’s a good peace for me. You can actually make connections that way. So, yeah, I get what you’re saying.
Dan Taylor: Yeah, definitely. As an attendee, I always try to make a few good connections at an event. If I’m going, I don’t be the guy trying to meet everyone because it, kind of, drives you nuts, but try to either meet up with some people you’ve already met online or build a few really good connections.
Justin Cooke: Do you ever go shut down for a while? You’re the guy running this event. Do you ever go back to the room and just mellow out, listen to some music, or something, to try to get away from the crowd?
Dan Taylor: Yeah. Honestly, my events now, I don’t even go to most of them, now. I’m in a situation, now, where I’ve got a manager who’s doing really well, and I’ve got a few staff in the Philippines or Europe, so they’re starting to run. So I go to some of my events because I want to stay in, but exactly what you said. It’s, kind of, full on because everyone knows you as the organizer. So people want to talk to you all the time. It is pretty full on. You do need to get some quiet time, for sure.
Justin Cooke: So let’s talk. Joe would kill me if I didn’t ask you about some money. We gotta talk about money because Hot Money [inaudible 00:27:08]. So let’s talk a little bit about revenue and profit for these types of events. If I’m doing, let’s say, just ticket sales. I’m not doing sponsors, the first one, and I’m charging 500 … What’s the general profit margin? Is there a general, or does it range significantly?
Dan Taylor: It’s a huge range, and I’ll tell you why. I could tell you some basics. Let’s say you’re charging $500 for a two-day event. So you’re gonna spend, say, $15 for EventBrite for your processing, $15 to pay pull a credit card, and probably a hundred for your venue. So, you’re down 350 at that point. So, that’s got your venue. That’s really your base costs for the venue. Then it’s the case of … Are you gonna have to pay your speakers? A lot of events, speakers pay themselves to come and you just give them [inaudible 00:27:57] place. If you’re in that position, you can really keep your costs right down and that 350 can be almost all profit. If you’re paying for speakers, then that’s, kind of, your upfront costs. Maybe you’ve got a fixed cost of three or four thousand dollars in expenses for a couple of speakers. That’s a fixed cost. So you’ve got to get above that three or four thousand dollars to get into profit but, above that, it’s all you. You’re making your $350 a ticket.
So I was just saying if you’re not paying anything for speakers, then, as long as your promotion costs aren’t high … As long as you’re promoting using free methods and forms, and stuff, you can be making $350 a person straight off the [inaudible 00:28:31] for your event.
Justin Cooke: So getting the speaker, that’s quite a hustle for you. Basically, you’re adding profit. Every good speaker you get comes speak for free. So, that seems to be an interesting tactic. Are there better industries than others?
Dan Taylor: It seems like [inaudible 00:28:46] all the industries. I just know the few that I’ve been working but, yeah, there’s a huge variation. Just a general tip, don’t go crazy on trying to pay all your speakers. Generally, you should be looking to pay, maybe, one or two of your keynotes and, maybe, one or two more people. That’s the easiest way to deplete any profit, is to go crazy on paying a big fee to all of your speakers. You know? A lot of people want to come, just to promote themselves. Especially, for example, if someone has just written a book, it’s counterintuitive, but they’re the people you can get for free because they want to promote the book. You’d think maybe the guys you have to pay, but it’s not the case like that.
Justin Cooke: Do they ever do the thing where like, “Hey, I’ll come, but I need 200 book sales?” Can they put requirements like that on it?
Dan Taylor: No. You get some people who are just ridiculous. You come to them, and they’ll say, “I need $10,000,” and he’s stupid. You say, “Look, there’s no way,” and if they’re cool, they’ll stay in with you and say, “Look, I’ll come for free and maybe we’ll make more,” but some speakers just make crazy demands, and you just gotta say, “No.” You know?
Justin Cooke: I actually wouldn’t hate that for someone who was pimping a book like, “We’ve got 500 people there. Let’s say 500 people. We’ll get you 500 book sales,” or whatever it is. Right? Then, you offer that as value add for your attendees. So they’re getting a free book, basically.
Dan Taylor: Yeah, you can’t go into anybody sales, but I’ve had two people who’ve written books who’ve been to two of the events I’ve organized. I said to them, “Put a stand in the back. Get all your books there. You’ll sign them and you’ll do it,” and they’ve always sold a ton of books. So, yeah, a hundred percent, someone who’s written a book, get them to bring a stack of their books along and try to sell them. You could even offer one of your people to man the sands, as well.
Justin Cooke: One thing I don’t like are events where they’re just pitch-fests. I understand the need to [inaudible 00:30:29] promote their website or talk about what they’re doing and what they’re up to, but when they’re just pitching the hell out of you … plus you paid, as a person to go to this conference, and they’re just pitching-
Dan Taylor: You can’t let sponsors speak to the people. You’ve gotta tell the sponsors they’ve really gotta just not pitch their products and give something that’s value to the audience. Sometimes, you can’t get it through. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter what you say to a sponsor about getting some dry pitch, and no one’s interested, and it doesn’t benefit him, and it definitely doesn’t benefit you. So, yeah, if you’re gonna let sponsors speak, run through it with them and make sure they’re just telling something your audience will find useful and it’s gonna benefit them because, as soon as they start pitching, I’m really reluctant to let any sponsor on the stage unless I’m sure, nowadays, that they’re just gonna give some of their value and just mention the name of their company on the back end.
Justin Cooke: You were saying, briefly, that probably a good idea to get a pre-schpiel from them. So you wanna hear their presentation beforehand. That would be awkward if I was asking someone who is a big name, or my keynote or something, to do that. Can you do that with everyone, or is it better to just do it with the newer, greener speakers?
Dan Taylor: With us, specifically, I was inferring if you’re letting any of the sponsors say a few words, obviously, but when you have presenters, yeah. Honestly, most people won’t be offended if you ask them, at least, to have a Skype chat in reference to what they’re gonna talk about. That’s the way you can keep it quite informal. You either get them on the phone or on Skype and just quickly discuss what they’re gonna say or if they could send you their presentation.
You know, you really want to be clear they’re not pitching their products, and you also want to be clear that they’re pitching, that the level of that session is correct to your audience. If you’ve got a bunch of coders, it should be a techie session. If you’ve got a bunch of non-technical people, you can’t go too techie, and that kind of thing.
Justin Cooke: That’s interesting. Yeah, I don’t want a bunch of people talking about how to build early site if we’re talking to a hundred thousand dollar website investors.
Dan Taylor: It’s not gonna offend speakers. I ask speakers, all the time, to change their pitch, and they’ve always been okay about it.
Justin Cooke: So let’s talk a little bit about revenue streams. How are you making your money, and where are you spending it?
Dan Taylor: It’s pretty simple. In terms of revenue, you’ve got two revenue streams. You’ve got your ticket sales for attendees and you’ve got your sponsors, or partners, or exhibitors, or whatever you call them. I tend to call them sponsors. So you’ve got two revenue streams. You’ve essentially got your venue costs. You’ve got the costs for speaker expenses and fees, and you’ve got your [inaudible 00:32:58] marketing costs. So you’ve, kind of, got three costs. It’s pretty simple in terms of your accounting. Your attendees and your sponsors are the revenue sources you’ve gotta maximize.
Justin Cooke: Okay, so that makes sense for the revenue. Let me ask you this. Let’s talk about, “Okay, I’m just done. I’m doing this event. I’m gonna get one going. I have to throw it in a very short period of time. So I’ve got three months, and I’m gonna try to throw an event.” Is that even possible, first off? If it is, what do I need to do first?
Dan Taylor: Three months is, generally, what I consider the minimum. I’ve done one in two months, and that was a real stretch. You can do an event in three months, for sure. I’d say better is five to six months, and you’ve really got a good lead time. If you’ve already got an audience, you can do it. If you don’t have an audience, I’d say three months is quite an aggressive time because, first step is you’ve got to get a website up, second step, get a few speakers, and third step, start promoting the heck out and really marketing it.
So, if you don’t already have an audience, you’ve gotta, pretty much, know where to find it if you’re gonna do it in three months, and you’ve gotta know if these guys hang out in this forum, and this Facebook Ad, and this [AdSense 00:34:05] focus [inaudible 00:34:05].
Justin Cooke: Yeah, you’re gonna have to leverage someone else’s audience to get that done or let’s say that I’m very well known in [Black Hat Forum 00:34:11], or something. I can go in there and invite people because that’s my audience. It’s through someone else’s platform, but it’s an audience all the same.
Dan Taylor: Yeah, exactly.
Justin Cooke: I love this. This is really interesting. It’s a great podcast interview. It’s fun. What blogs are out there talking about this? Where can I go to get more information about how to do this? I really want to read my way through it, and not just listen to it on a podcast. Where shall I go?
Dan Taylor: It’s funny, in our email chats, you mentioned this about blogs. I’d love to give you a bunch of lists but, honestly, I haven’t found any blogs that have given me any useful information. Maybe I should start my own or write a [inaudible 00:34:49]. There’s really nothing out there, I’ve found, that’s been that useful. It’s not a thing people are really sharing information on. You know? They’re probably out [inaudible 00:34:57]. I did a quick Google, but there’s nothing I’ve found that’s actually helped me, anyway. The only thing I found is trial and error and speaking to a couple of guys who’ve already run events.
Justin Cooke: Is it because there’s just not as many people out there doing it or it’s not generally viewed as an actual business process, or are people very secretive with their approach and their process?
Dan Taylor: I think it’s the second one, because like I said, I’ve been fairly open about it because that’s just how I am business-wise. People are making good money running events, and they always play it down. It’s something people keep very low-key. So, I think it’s the second one. I think people just are making money and then just being quiet about it.
Justin Cooke: So, first off, they say, “Aw, we’re not making money.” I have heard that. That is the typical thing. Then, it’s, kind of, like they consider their process and their approach their IP. So, I love this. It sounds like there’s so much opportunity if there aren’t any good blogs to read up this information.
Dan Taylor: Yeah, I’m thinking to get into that. I don’t want to oversell you. You can make a lot of money for events but, as you know, you can make a lot of money from anything in business. It’s not the easiest way to make a lot of money, but it’s definitely not the hardest, either. It’s just a way that most people haven’t thought of.
Justin Cooke: Yeah, it’s, kind of, fun, too. I get the idea, at least from my perspective, where I really wouldn’t care to necessarily make money on it. Eventually, I’d want it to but I’d start off because I think it’s a fun thing to do. For us, I think it moves people down the value chain. So, if you like it, you interested, you want to meet some other people that are in the buying/selling sites. Then, all of a sudden, you get to hang out with all these good people and get all kinds of tips and tricks, that’s cool. You’re making yourself a leader in that space, just by bringing people together. You’re throwing the party, so to speak.
Dan Taylor: A phrase I’ve said, “[inaudible 00:36:46],” when I as was at DC Bangkok, a lot of guys, [James Franco 00:36:55], [inaudible 00:36:55] from the Tropical MBA, [Tim Conley 00:36:55], and a lot of guys that have big online audiences were moving into running events. It’s definitely a trend. Like you said, it’s not just to make money. It’s the [inaudible 00:37:02] that you really get to meet your audience face to face, have fun, and also, kind of, position yourself as [inaudible 00:37:09] leader in your area.
Justin Cooke: Any gotchas to look out for or is there anything that, if you’re gonna do this, you make sure you avoid? Obviously, make sure you don’t [inaudible 00:37:16] money. That would be helpful, but any tips we can get from someone who’s been doing this a while?
Dan Taylor: Yeah, it’s all about limiting your downside, I guess the same as in any business. Don’t commit to pay a lot of speakers up front. Try to get speakers for free, especially until you’ve really got a good revenue, and don’t commit a lot for the hotel, either. There’s a lot of places you can get free venues. I talked about this with Don on the Tropical MBA Podcast. There’s a lot of places you can get free. If you do get a paid venue, make sure you don’t have to give much of a deposit up front. Just limit your downside. People that lose money on events generally go crazy in the beginning because they think it’s gonna be the next “South By Southwest,” and they blow a few thousand dollars, and it maybe doesn’t become a big event, and they’re already down. You don’t want to commit a lot of money up front.
Justin Cooke: So the manic-depressive approach isn’t great. “Oh, we’re gonna crush. We’re gonna get a thousand people. I’m gonna pay plenty of speakers.” Then no one comes, and you’re like, “Oh, God. Now I’m in trouble.”
Dan Taylor: You can say the [inaudible 00:38:15], but just don’t put the money behind it.
Justin Cooke: Don’t pay the speakers up front in cash. That’s [crosstalk 00:38:22].
Dan Taylor: Don’t pay the venues, either. Make an agreement with the venue that you don’t pay much up front, 10 percent maximum.
Justin Cooke: Dan, thanks so much for being on the show, man. Obviously, people are gonna check you out at appsevents.com. That’s A-P-P-S-E-V-E-N-T-S dot com. Where else can they find you online?
Dan Taylor: Yeah, I just [inaudible 00:38:41] an online profile, but Dan D-A-N at appsevents.com. Drop me an email. I’m always pretty quick in answering questions if I can help anyone, I’ll give you a list [inaudible 00:38:50].
Justin Cooke: Awesome, man. Thanks, so much, for being on the show. Appreciate it.
Dan Taylor: [inaudible 00:38:55]. Thanks, Justin.
Justin Cooke: All right, let’s get into our tips, tricks, and plans for the future.
Speaker 1: You’re listening to the Empire Flippers Podcast with Justin and Joe.
Justin Cooke: So, if you’ve listened to some of our previous podcasts, you’ve heard that I mention scheduleonce.com is a great way to schedule appointments, schedule calls. It’s fantastic. You get a link. You can pick your times. It works across multiple time zones. It’s been really helpful.
Joe Magnotti: Yeah. I just did a call today with a guy that he used my Schedule Once link. So it was, kind of, nice.
Justin Cooke: In fact, I’ve had several people that clicked the link and said, “Wow, this is cool. I’m getting this. I’m singing up.” So I’ve had several people after the fact end up signing up for themselves. Either way, there’s another one out there that’s a pretty good competitor. It’s called assistant.to, assistant dot T-O. It’s actually run by a company called [trybetty.com 00:39:40]. Basically, it’s a very similar thing where you can easily schedule appointments, works across time zones, but actually works inside of Gmail. So when you go to type an email to someone in Gmail, or Outlook, actually, there’s an option there. You can just put the date and the time that you want it. You can select for multiple time frames. It pulls up a nice little calendar, and you can select the different options and it’ll just drop those links right into Gmail for you.
Joe Magnotti: Cool. Yeah, I would definitely like to check that out, but I like the Schedule Ones thing, too. I don’t know.
Justin Cooke: I like it, too, but I always have to go and grab the link and make sure the scheduling’s right as far as my times, whatever, because … I don’t know. The problem for me with assistant.to is that my it really slows down my Gmail, so I’m struggling with it a bit. If it doesn’t for you, and you find that it’s useful, I think it might be a Philippines thing. So, if it doesn’t do that for you, then I think it’s a really good alternative.
Joe Magnotti: All right. That’s it for Episode 95 at Empire Flippers Podcast. Thanks for hanging with us. Make sure to check out our show next week and to check us out on Twitter @empireflippers, and we’ll see you.
Justin Cooke: Bye-bye, everybody.
Speaker 1: You’ve been listening to the Empire Flippers Podcast with Justin and Joe. Be sure to hit up empireflippers.com for more. That’s empireflippers.com. Thanks for listening.
Photo Credit: TropicalMBA
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