For four years I’ve taught HTML, Blogging, Internet marketing classes and more at the local branch of the public library here in my town. Over the years, I’ve fine-tuned my classes into two hours of jam-packed information. I’ve received “rave” reviews since I started, and have been told many times that I need to get these presentations to bigger audiences. Many that took my classes have said that they would have paid for the info they got in them.
Well, either it’s all gone to my head or there really is a market out there for business owners willing to pay for a solid, quality conference to learn how to get their websites rolling. Or maybe a bit of both.
So after the spring session ended and my teaching classes was off until the fall, I thought I’d make a go of hosting a real seminar/conference, get some real industry professionals to speak, and host an awesome info-packed event for STL businesses.
But I failed. Kinda.
I started planning this event in late April, picked a date and set forth to find great speakers. I signed up Scott Allender (@n3bu1a), then talked to Carolyn Shelby (@cshel) and got her to commit to keynoting, and we were off and running.
Within a day of launching the MarketSTL website, I received a few registrations, but no online payments. Interesting. A few days later I received a check in the mail. Then all was silent for two weeks. Another registration and payment. Then nothing.
In the meantime, I’m posting new event information on the website. I’m getting the venue all ready and set up. I promote the hell out of it on Twitter. I submit press releases to sites like STL Today. I fill out event info on dozens of websites telling about the event and pointing people to the website.
But all is quiet at the registration desk. On June 3 I decide it’s time to pull the plug, regroup and give it another go later. Ugh.
So what did I do wrong? I did a few things wrong, and I’m the first to admit that I’m not an event planner. I goofed, but that’s ok. Saint Louis businesses need this event, and I’m going to give it to them.
What’s kind of funny is that I know of several local SEO companies/people who were carefully watching the event status. They wanted to see what happened. If it succeeded, would they jump in and do their own once I’ve tested the waters? Or did they just want to see me fail? I dunno – but I’m not giving up that easily.
Screwup #1 – Promoting it Online
Ok in hindsight this was a pretty dumb move. Here I am promoting an event that helps businesses use online methods (SEO, social media) to get more customers and I’m promoting it in the exact place that a vast majority of my target audience isn’t located. A big duh!
Sure – I need to set up a twitter account (@MarketSTL) and submit press releases. I need to add the event to as many websites as possible. But in order to promote an event like this, the real thing I need to do is start doing offline promotion. I should be hitting up local Chambers and Meetups. This is where my audience is. And that’s where you’ll find me over the next few months.
Screwup #2 – Short Leadtime
Launching a website at the end of April and having the event 5 weeks later wasn’t smart. The search engines haven’t even indexed the site yet, so the only people that will even come across it are those that I physically told about it. No SERPS to help me, no indexing to push potential attendees my way. I’m such a dummy.
Screwup #3 – Individual Speakers Instead of Panels
By having a few panels made up of local professionals instead of just one speaker let’s me leverage these personalities to help promote the event even more. A panel of three would give me three voices promoting their appearance instead of one.
Screwup #4 – Doing it Alone
Here’s a big one. I thought I could pull this all out of my a$$ like it was no big deal. Well, it is. Coordinating all of these things to go off smoothly (all while running a company and keeping clients happy) wasn’t so smrt.
But I’ve learned from my errant ways and now have several people (including my hot wife) to bounce ideas and tasks off of. Makes it a lot easier.
Other Personal Notes
There are a few other things that I wanted to post which really aren’t screwups, just random thoughts and observations.
I’m still wishy-washy about the venue. I chose Caito’s Restaurant because they’ve got a great central location, free wifi, awesome food and they are nice people. I really like this choice, but wonder if it’s scaring people away because it isn’t at a hotel or ‘conference center’ of some type. My wife convinced me that for the first event, this is a great place to host it. If we need to expand, we can.
Ok this one you may laugh at but that’s ok. Is calling my event a seminar hurting me because people think there’s some money-taking scheme attached? Should I call it a conference? It’s not really big enough to be called a conference, is it? Maybe a one day business workshop or a convention? I like business workshop. Convention sounds like it’s huge. Which do you like?
Here’s another way to leverage the online/offline crowd for promoting the event. A payout of $20/ticket could be an incentive for more people to blog about the event, thus I’d get more links, more exposure and hopefully that would lead to more ticket sales. I’ve launched this program at a payout of 10% commission per sale. Since I’ve added a second ticket for only $100 more, the commissions will be based upon which ticket you end up selling instead of a flat fee. More money for you!
Ok, that’s enough for now. I feel better now that I’ve put it all out there. I’d love to hear your comments, suggestions or whatever else you would like to interject.