As a serial entrepreneur and business advisor, I have the lucky perspective of not only having tried things on my own once or twice in my own businesses but also seen others come up with the same ideas in theirs. One thing that seems to be consistent is that at some point, every entrepreneur decides that it would be advantageous to run some sort of event.

Whether it's a community dinner, a workshop, an awards ceremony, or a full-scale conference, businesses eventually see value in attaching their name to something outside their core business.

At my former company, Evernote, we decided to create a conference. By connecting our existing userbase of customers to industry thought leaders, we were able to create an annual event that was valuable for everyone involved. In my current company, I've organized many events, and have learned some things that ensure your event will go off without a hitch.

Here are some key takeaways you can use when planning your own event.

Have a clear theme.

It's easy to fall into the trap of wanting to throw an event simply because you think it would be good for marketing your business. Unfortunately, unless you're Apple or Salesforce, that's probably not enough to motivate people to attend.

For example, while planning the upcoming AntarctiConf event, the organizers, myself included, decided to test the idea of "bucket-list locations" as the basis for a conference series.

Define your audience.

When you think of events like Coachella, Burning Man, or ComicCon, you can probably picture the attendee types clearly in your head. For TED, Apple WWDC and Dreamforce you likewise may have a different, but also a defined persona.

For any event you run, you should have a clear picture of your potential attendees -- as that will help you to create an event tailored to them.

Create a checklist.

Ever go to the grocery store with a clear purpose in mind but without a shopping list? By the time you get home, you might have the things you needed, but you probably also have a lot of other things you didn't.

When planning any event, it is imperative that you create a timeline so that you know what you need to do and when - especially for the day of the event. This will free you from all the distractions that can and will come up along the way.

Secure your location.

Whether you're creating an online or in-person event, you need to decide on your location fairly early in your process. If you are running something in-person, you need to give people time to plan out how they will be arriving at your event.

At AntarctiConf, for example, we needed to give people more than a year's notice, as we had special circumstances to deal with, as it is on a cruise ship.

Curate your content.

The most important part of an event for the attendees is what they will be attending in the first place. Here is where you need to spend a reasonable amount of care and effort in determining your overall speakers and content schedule.

At our Evernote events, we utilized a combination of department heads to show the latest trends as well as partners who could show upcoming features.

Get help.

It's not only difficult to plan these things alone, but it's also not a great idea. Determine what skills you have on your team, and then find partners who can assist you with what you lack.

At the recent MetaConf conference organizer summit in Bellvue, WA, the main takeaway was that there is more you don't know than what you do, so it's best to ask.

Promote your event.

We've come a long way from being able to simply post an item on Meetup.com and have people show up. There are too many events happening in the world every day for you to know about without proper marketing.

At AntarctiConf, we were able to tap into a large network of conference organizers, speakers and podcasters to get the initial word out, and the ongoing marketing efforts from there did the rest.

Run with it!

Once your course has been set, go for it. No matter how well you've planned, things will go wrong. Deal with things as they arise and everything will work out for the best.

Manage the expectations of your speakers by ensuring their talks will be recorded -- and live-streamed.  If they end up speaking to an empty room -- it happens more than you'd think -- their content will live on.

No matter what, your first event will be something you can learn from and remember for years to come.

Published on: Mar 29, 2019
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