Tips for Hosting an Event

Episode 49: Tips for Hosting an Event, with Greg Bray

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Tips for Hosting an Event? Discover and elevate your event planning by following these professional tips for hosting an event.

Greg Bray is the President of Blue Tangerine, a digital marketing and website development agency that specializes in helping home builders grow their sales. They achieve that goal by helping clients build a better website and drive more qualified traffic to the site, all while using data analytics to measure results. Greg considers it a privilege to lead this team of talented professionals.

Greg began developing home builder websites in 2000 and has been hooked ever since. The tools have matured since that time, but one thing hasn’t changed: the goal to grow sales! 

In 2006, as VP of Operations, Greg purchased the company and achieved his dream of owning his own business, renaming it Blue Tangerine Solutions. In 2014, he partnered with Triad Analytics to expand the agency’s marketing services. In 2017, the companies formally merged and became today’s Blue Tangerine.

Tips for hosting an event? Greg enjoys teaching the techniques and skills that he’s learned. He can explain complex technical topics in easy-to-understand language. He has presented at the International Builders’ Show (IBS), the Southeast Building Conference, the Best Home Building Practices Summit, the New Home Sales and Management Retreat, as well as other webinars and events. He is proud to be the founder and co-host of the Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast and Summit.

There’s another important piece to add to Greg’s already impressive resume and that’s Blue Tangerine’s authority position it’s where Greg and I are going to focus our time and attention today. Greg and his Blue Tangerine team are the creators of the Annual Home Builder Digital Marketing Summit. We will discuss Greg’s leadership and Blue Tangerine’s influence within the digital marketing industry, as well as their dedication to organizing the Annual Home Builder Digital Marketing Summit.


What you will learn in this episode is about tips for hosting an event:

  • Why and how Greg and his team started the Annual Home Builder Digital Marketing Summit
  • Why the initial step for creating the event was crucial to establish a clear vision and goal
  • Latest and effective tips for hosting an event
  • Why the Summit is not only a marketing tool for Blue Tangerine but also an opportunity for business development
  • How being on stage and owning the room from an authority perspective has benefited Blue Tangerine
  • The various ways partners and sponsors can amplify an event from a dollar strategy standpoint
  • The pitfalls Blue Tangerine faced and what Greg might do differently when looking back



Tips for Hosting an Event: Full Episode Transcript 


Welcome to the Sell with Authority podcast. I’m Stephen Woessner, CEO of Predictive ROI, and my team and I created this podcast specifically for you. So if you’re an agency owner or business coach or a strategic consultant, and you’re looking to fill your sales pipeline with a steady stream of Right Fit prospects and get the at-bats in order to build and scale, well, then you’re in the right place. Do you want proven strategies for becoming the known expert in your niche and attracting all the clients in need? Yep. We’re going to cover that. You want to learn how to step away from the seat of sameness so you actually stand out from your competitors and own the ground you’re standing on. Yep. We’re going to cover that too. Do you want to future-proof your business so you can successfully navigate the next challenge that comes your way? Well, I absolutely will help you there too.


I promise each episode of this podcast will contain valuable insights, tangible examples, and best practices, never theory, from thought leaders, experts, and owners who have done exactly what you’re working hard to do. So, I want you to think practical and tactical. Never any fluff. Each of our guests has built a position of authority and then monetized that position by growing their audience, nurturing leads, and, yes, converting sales. But all the while, they did it by being helpful. So every time someone from their audience turned around there, they were given a helpful answer to an important question. So their RightFit prospects never ever were made to feel like they were prospects. I also promise you that every strategy we discuss and every tool we recommend will be shared with full transparency in each episode so you can become the known expert in your niche. So you can fill your sales pipeline with a steady stream of Right Fit clients who, again, were never, ever made to feel like one of your prospects.


Learn more Tips for Hosting an Event by checking out the Blue Tangerine event session on their website here.


Tips for Hosting an Event: Greg Bray’s Introduction


Okay. So, I am super excited for you to meet our very special guest expert today, Greg Bray. If you’re meeting Greg for the first time, he’s the president of Blue Tangerine, a digital marketing and website development agency specializing in helping home builders grow their sales. Greg and his team do that by helping their clients build a better website and then drive more qualified traffic to the site, all while using data analytics to measure results, which, of course, is rock solid. Awesome. Greg has presented at the International Builders Show, the Southeast Building Conference, the Best Home Building Practices Summit, and the new home sales and management retreat. He is also the founder and co-host of the Home Builder Digital Marketing podcast, and they recently published a research study entitled How Consumers Buy From Home Builders Online, which is packed with sales and marketing insights helpful to home builders.


Okay, so there’s one more vital piece to add to Greg’s impressive resume and Blue Tangerine’s authority position. And it’s also where Greg and I are going to focus our time and attention today. Greg and his Blue Tangerine team are also the creators of the Annual Home Builder Digital Marketing Summit. When Greg and I were in Disney several weeks ago for a workshop, he and I got to talking about the summit that they host, why they started it, how they started it, how they attracted sponsors, and how those sponsorships have steadily grown. And then rewind it all the way back to the beginning, how Greg and his team knew that it was the right time for Blue Tangerine to take on the task, and candidly, the risk of hosting an in-person event, like what were the data points they looked at, what gave them the confidence to move forward because all of this was actually taking place under the pressure of Covid.


Tips for hosting an event were no small feat to learn. So, as Greg and I were talking at the workshop, and we’re talking through all of these different details, I said like, holy bananas, would you be willing to talk about that? Would you join me here on the podcast to share all the details about tips for hosting an event? So I let Greg know that I thought that his insights around this topic would be super helpful because you may have thought about tips for hosting an event and maybe have tried to decide if hosting would be helpful to your clients and prospects, like getting everybody in the same room where the only thing that they might have in common is you, but maybe you’ve been stuck when thinking through all the logistics, all the expenses, candidly, the risks, and all of those details. So Craig agreed to take us behind the curtain and share all the details, which, of course, is amazing. So, buckle up; you’re about to get in the trenches of a practical and tactical masterclass on tips for hosting an event. Okay. So, without further ado, my friend Greg, welcome to the Sell with Authority podcast.


Thanks, Stephen. This is awesome. I’m flattered to be here, and I sure hope at least something valuable to the listeners today trickles out.


Learn more Tips for Hosting an Event by tuning in to Our “Seed & Open Loops” Framework


Tips for Hosting an Event: Initial Things to Consider


This is gonna be a fantastic conversation, in all sincerity, thank you for your generosity in saying yes, making the time in your schedule, and then being so willing to take us behind the curtain and share the successes as well as the pitfalls too that there might be in order for us to try to avoid. So, thank you for all of that. before we dive into that conversation, actually take us behind the curtain and share more about your path and journey so our audience has a little bit more context, and then we’ll dive in.


Well, just to be completely transparent, Stephen, for everybody, we’re gonna talk about events today. I am not a professional event planner, so I just wanna put that on the record. That was nothing you said in that intro. Greg’s an event planner, so, so we’re going to make sure that that’s clear. I actually come from a computer science degree background and have been a web developer. is where I started my career and got into building websites. The owner of the agency that I worked for at the time had been a home builder in the past and had started kind of focusing a little bit on his personal network. So we got into that home-building space over time. He decided he wanted to go back to building homes and didn’t really want to be on the technology side.


So, long story short, I ended up buying that piece of the agency from him and became an owner. I’ve always had a love of business and building business. That’s kind of my passion beyond just just internet and web, which is business building. You know, I have a master’s degree in business. and so I thought, Hey, sure, I can do this. And we bought out the agency I bought. I mean, there was a small team of eight or nine of us at the time, and we brought over those clients. He, the other owner, went off to build homes. He was, he was selling two homes a month that was more revenue than we were bringing in a year, so it was like, he was just he was happy to, to not put us all out on the street and just have somebody take it.


 but we continued to try to grow that niche in homebuilding. And then, of course, I bought it in 2006, and I was going to triple sales in two years and do all these fantastic things. You know, the entrepreneurial optimism, right? You have to take the leap, right? But yet, it’s also the thing that’s your biggest risk, which is that you are overly optimistic and don’t take advantage of that. Sorry if it’s too much detail. Of course, in the home-building world, for those who remember, 2007 was not a good year because home builders led the great recession to march down. It all started in housing and then cascaded through the rest of the economy. So we took some heavy lumps at that point. and to the point of asking if I should even be doing this.


Learn more Tips for Hosting an Event by tuning in to Our “Seed & Open Loops” Framework


Tips for Hosting an Event: An Opportunity to Meet Your Clients


Is it time to get a job flipping burgers somewhere? You know, what, where, where are we going? It was a tough time, but we made it through it. The team that stayed took 30% cuts; you know, it was a shared sacrifice. And some of those people are still with me today, and they went through that with me at that time. So anyway, we’ve grown since then. Building is, and is always going to be, a big industry. There’s a significant shortage of new homes in this country at this time. And, so we’re continuing to grow that. We added a business partner a few years ago to bring on more marketing, so we’re not just developing but continuing to try and help home builders make their website their best new home salesperson.


I love it. And I think that you being cognizant of the entrepreneurial mindset, the overly optimistic, the sort of the overly optimistic view or lens think is also going to be great for this conversation too, because yes, overly optimistic, but you’ve also been through the trials and tribulations, which probably makes that lens maybe less overly optimistic today. And so when we talk about hosting an event and how to decide that if is this the right time and how you guys work through all of that, there again, I think that that’s going to be a more pragmatic lens than maybe it would’ve been 15 some years ago. so, so let’s, let’s start stepping through this, but first, let’s go high level for you to describe the event and, maybe, why you started it, and then we’ll rewind backward into kind of the process of starting it and some of the decisions that you’d need to make. So, let’s go to the high level first. Describe the event and why you started it.


Tips for hosting an event and learning that process have always been on my bucket list. I have always felt like that was something that would be fun just to be part of the critical drivers that kind of went into some of that. First of all, our client base, we work with people all over the country, and while we even have a couple, we’re international. We have a Canadian client. So we recognize that. We don’t see most of our clients face-to-face sometimes, even if we don’t happen to cross paths with them at a show or at one of the industry events. So, the idea of, how do we get them together so we can have a bit of face time? How do we have more of that personal interaction? It is expensive to visit them individually.


And so that was one of the drivers, right? We wanted some ability to build those relationships in a way that you can do personally, but that’s just more difficult to do. Phone, email, and now Zoom calls. but that was one of the key drivers. The other key driver is in the home building industry in general, in my opinion. If there are some of these folks out here that differ, okay. When they talk about sales and marketing, they talk about education around sales and marketing. It is 90% sales and 10% marketing. it is kind of what you get when you go to the conferences as far as the kind of education that’s available. We felt like there was an opportunity there to provide more marketing-level education to our potential prospects and clients out there to help them do better.


Learn more Tips for Hosting an Event by tuning in to Our “Seed & Open Loops” Framework


Tips for Hosting an Event: Level Up the Education You Deliver


 We’ve always been kind of an education-focused marketing strategy, if you will, whereby teaching people how to do things, and they recognize that you know what you’re talking about. They also recognize it might be harder than they think, and they need some help. And so, hey, let’s see who can help us. You know, the person who was teaching the class, right? So, speaking has been a part of our strategy webinars; you know, putting out information on how to do things has always been part of it. So, so we thought, gosh, these other events where we’re going to, we’re trying to provide some of that. Still, it’s not really getting as deep; it’s not really covering as broad or, or as, as many different topics as we think our potential audience could benefit from. So can we do that and do an event to do that? What drove some of that desire? Is there really a need? Can we prove there’s that need? And whether people will come is the big question. Of course.


Okay. I love that. because it really gave us a great, sort of look into how you decided which will, which will dig even deeper into this, but when you mentioned existing industry events, 90% focused on sales focused 10% on marketing-related topics, so 90% sales education, 10% marketing focused education. And so that’s, you like spotting a whole sort of a, all an opportunity in the market. So, we’ll come back to that in just a little bit. So, okay. So you went a high-level sort of descriptive as far as what the event was going to focus on. Give us sort of a framework of the event that you had in September, just a few months ago, September 22, because I think it’s annual every September, correct?


Well, it’s going to be. So, Steve, from a historical standpoint, our first one was in September 2019 or October 2019. Okay. Right. And we were, and we were so pumped. We’re going to do this twice a year. This was so great. We’re going to do this, okay? So, we scheduled it for April of 2020. Right. Um is when we scheduled the next one. And, for those of you who are still doing the math on your fingers of what month that was, this is when a few weeks before, in February and March, the whole world is going, and we’re not traveling anymore. We’re not going anywhere anymore. So we were like, oh, boy, what are we going to do? So we canceled that and rescheduled it for October 2020 because surely everything will be done and cleaned up by October 2020.


Right. You know, and it won’t be any problem whatsoever to do it then. And so, at that point, of course, things still were not the same with people traveling. So we went to a virtual version, and we can get more details about that. We tried again for the following April of 2021, and it was like they were still not available, so we went virtual again for April of 2021. And then we finally said, okay, we’re, we’re going to give it some time. And so we went for September of 2022, which is when we had the next in-person one. So that was really high-level scheduling there. And sorry if I sidetracked from the question.


Learn more Tips for Hosting an Event by tuning in to Our “Seed & Open Loops” Framework


Tips for Hosting an Event: Creating a Sample Timeline


Yeah. I don’t think you subtract or, you know, sidetracked from the question at all. I think you added some really additional context here. because I actually filled in a hole for me. I didn’t realize that it was in person; I went to virtual and returned to in-person. So that’ll be something that we should talk about too. Okay. So, let’s rewind back to the beginning. So I don’t know if that was 2017 or 2018. When did you decide to have that first September 2019 event?


I think we got serious about thinking of tips for hosting an event at the beginning of the year in 2019. Okay. We, we had been, we’d been talking about it for several years. Okay. It had kind of been on the radar of things we’d like to do, and we finally said, you know, it’s, it’s put up or shut up time. Let’s see if we can make this work. So, it was kind of end of 2018, early 2019, that we really, I’d love to say, Stephen, that we have some grand 10-year plan that we’re always working through, but we’re kind of making it up as we go, just like everybody else. Right, right. So early that year, though, we knew it’s gonna take more than a couple of weeks to put something together. So, we had to put some thought into it far enough in advance.


So then, so the sort of the put up or shut up kind of moment in early 2019, and you guys have been batting this around for a while, like, what was the last straw? What was the data point or maybe series of data points that gave you and the team confidence of, okay, it is time to put up, it’s time to actually do this and pound a stake in the dirt and say that this is what we’re going to do, but, but be able to say that confidently. So, what was it or, or, or was it just we’ve talked about this enough, and we’re just going to throw it out there, and we’re going to do it. So I think helps us better understand that.


I think it was more. We’ve been talking too long; let’s try it and find out if we can make something happen or not. Okay. It really came down to this. As I mentioned, it has been on my bucket list for years and years. Okay. It was one of those things where I finally had enough people in the room who thought it might work to not just be a total dream. and you know, our marketing director had some experience with some event planning, in her past as well. So, she had done some of those logistical heavy-lifting pieces that I was not as familiar with. Okay. You know how much heavy lifting can go behind an event. Mm. And you know, spoiler alert, it’s not trivial. So there’s some heavy lifting that goes on behind there just to say, oh, let’s just get everybody to show up tomorrow. it doesn’t quite work that way.


Okay. You make the decision, and you have a person on your team who has some experience in doing that kind of heavy lifting and planning. What was in looking back? What would you say were some of the first few steps you needed to make? And maybe those are steps, maybe those are decisions that you needed to make to help you get some early-on confidence and momentum. Like what were some of the first few steps?


Learn more Tips for Hosting an Event by tuning in to Our “Seed & Open Loops” Framework


Tips for Hosting an Event: Make it Profitable


I think the critical step early on was the vision and goal around it all. Hmm. Right? To just say we want an event isn’t good enough because you’ve got to decide what that event’s going to look like. Is this 300 people in a giant ballroom, or are there ten people around a table for lunch? You know, when, when you talk about an event. So, that vision drives so many decisions, starting with the venue. Right? And what type of venue do you need to have to be able to support that kind of event? What does success look like at this event? If you want 300 but only get 50, is that still a success, or is that a complete financial failure? Right. How much are you willing to spend? What does the budget need to look like? What is the kind of target audience that you’re going after?


And what alternatives do they have to find education in other places? What are the events you’re competing with? There are other events out there that are more well-known and more well-established. Are they going to be the same type of stuff, or how are you going to differentiate? It? It sounds an awful lot like a marketing plan, doesn’t it when I start laying it out like that? So just saying it’s, and those were, those were where we, the questions where we started. I think one of the biggest ones I would throw out there for those thinking about it for the first time is the goal of your event to be a financial revenue-generating activity for your company. Or is it a marketing tool for your company? Yeah. And to me, those are very different goals. And, I think probably one of the first questions that you need to ask is,


Okay, why do you see them as two very different goals?


Tips for hosting an event — and making a profit? Being a revenue-generating event is an entirely different financial model that deals with the number of attendees, the price points, the kind of activities you’re going to do, and all of that. And covering your team’s time Yep. It has to be factored into all of that as well. When you try to put that financial model together. Financial, a marketing event is, gosh, I might spend five grand to put a booth up at a trade show somewhere. What if I spend that five grand on my own event? Right. and just make that investment because I’m going to have the right fit clients in the room that I want to talk to, and therefore, it’s going to be even better than spending the five grand on the trade show booth at that other industry event. Instead, that changes the finances dramatically in terms of what I need to do.


Because now, gosh, I go to this trade show, and there are thousands of people, but I only talk to 50 really good ones. Right? Well, if I can get those same 50 really good ones in the room with me, and it costs me that same five grand or even better, they pay a few bucks to be there and help cover my costs, that’s a totally different focus, and goal, in my opinion, of what that event’s trying to be. And it changes many of those decisions about how you move forward logistically in the setup.


Learn more Tips for Hosting an Event by tuning in to Our “Seed & Open Loops” Framework


Tips for Hosting an Event: Building Relationships in the Room


I love this analysis. Okay, so ultimately, what did you and your Blue Tangerine team decide? Was it revenue? Was it marketing?


Marketing? We went all in on the marketing side, especially at the beginning. Now I’ll tell you; it’s evolving. Okay. It’s evolving into how we keep it marketing but also make a nickel. You know, that’s nice as we continue to grow it and get some traction. But we never want to lose sight of the fact that the ultimate goal is spending some time, quality time in the room with our Right Fit people that we would pay to sponsor somebody else’s event to go to if they had that same audience in the room for us.


Okay. So let me, let me see if there’s this delineation that it’s a, a marketing opportunity, but because, because education is so important to, to you and the fact that you would recognize that there’s a whole regarding marketing related education in this industry, in your industry, it seems like bringing everybody together for this deep marketing or excuse me, this Yeah. With this deep marketing focus, we’re marketing an education-focused event. It is a marketing opportunity for Blue Tangerine. But my guess is from a business dev perspective. Maybe it’s not a revenue opportunity for the p and l for the event per se, but from a business dev perspective, it’s for Blue Tangerine. It’s probably not just clients who come to the event, right? So it is probably prospective clients who come to the event. So then that tells me that there’s a business development component to this, too. Or am I misreading this?


No, you’re, you’re absolutely right. So there are the clients that come, and that is where you build that relationship. Because you get someone face time, but you’re also trying to increase your engagement with those clients, right? Okay. and add services and deepen that relationship. Okay. But yes, I am absolutely trying to get prospects, those right-fit prospects, to be there and be able to engage with them in a non-threatening way because they’re there to be educated, not sold to. Right. and so the fact that you’re hosting the fact that you are the authority in front of the room there, there’s something about being the person holding the microphone up upfront that just puts a big sign over your head that says, expert. Right. Even if you really just barely figured out how to turn the mic on, it’s just like. There’s just something about that. Yeah. It’s psychological, and I’m sure there are psychologists who could tell us why, but there’s somebody puts this person up in the front of the room, they must know what they’re talking about. Right. Even though I bought the room, I’ve told myself to be up there, and now I’m the one that everybody’s like, it’s my room. So, but still, psychologically, there’s this, there’s an expert up there.


Learn more Tips for Hosting an Event by tuning in to Our “Seed & Open Loops” Framework


Tips for Hosting an Event: The Basics of Promotion


Yeah. For 100% o Okay. So, let’s take that piece a little bit deeper, and then we’ll come back to the nickel piece that I’m going to tie into sponsorships here. So you stand in front of the room, holding a microphone, and I know that it’s not just you, that you have several experts in that kind of stuff teaching and sharing very generously. But being on that stage, literally owning the room and then owning the room from an authority perspective, how has that benefited Blue Tangerine?


It definitely benefited us with the opportunities. Let me step back on all the different benefits. Number one, a deadline to create content is a benefit. Okay. Okay. Because, hey, I have to have something to say, right? So, that forces you to create some content, and you can reuse that content in other places, either before or after, right? Yeah. So, so there’s, there’s that benefit, the benefit of all the things you say, leading up to it, inviting people probably has more exposure and more marketing power than the actual event itself is having the ability to talk about the event to people. so when you think about a few people in the room compared to the thousands that heard you were going to have the event and all the reasons you had to reach out, how often do we have clients and prospects that, gosh, we want to talk to them. Still, we don’t want to be annoying; we want to bring something of value to put in front of them.


An invitation to an event they might learn something from has a lot of value. So now your social media, your emails, even mailing an invitation card to people, all of these touch points with folks that may most likely not be able to come, even if they want to, the schedule just doesn’t work out right? Because of the particular dates, location, or what’s going on in their personal lives. You still have a non-threatening touchpoint, multiple because they’re on your list, and they know that, oh gosh, here they are with the event reminder again. You know, but they, they’re not going to unsubscribe for that because they understand you’re trying to get people to come to the event it’s not offensive in some way. Because you’re inviting them, again and again, to make sure they don’t miss it. so we get a lot of value just from the outreach that goes along with it. And, of course, then you’ve got the, Hey, did you miss it? Oh, campaigns and the recordings and the sharing of slides and some of those kinds of things that you can do afterward as well. So it’s a lot more than just the hours in the room that come out of all of this from an outreach marketing connection standpoint.


Learn more Tips for Hosting an Event by tuning in to Our “Seed & Open Loops” Framework


Tips for Hosting an Event: Initial Considerations for Sponsors


Yeah, and my guess is the people who attended live in 2019 attended virtually and so forth and then attended live again in September of 2022. You see new faces, and you see some returning faces, and then, and then collectively, it just gets larger and larger. and maybe it doesn’t go from 50 people to 2000 people, but it is collectively getting larger and larger. Because if somebody didn’t attend the first one, this marketing strategy that you just mentioned, did you miss it? Eventually, there’s enough fear of missing out when somebody says, I have to go to this thing. There are some really smart people learning some really cool, intelligent things. I have to be a part of that.


Yeah, absolutely. And, Stephen, we can tap into the whole partner and sponsor piece of all of that, too, if you want to, now or later. But I think finding ways to amplify that is important because you get some partners who are after that same target audience. But don’t compete with us and invite them to join in again; we’re talking to the sales and marketing directors of home builders and then the owners of smaller builders who don’t have an in-house marketing person. That’s who we talk to. Well, there are other people that want to talk to that same person. Yeah. because they have something different to offer them. And so building that network of who those partners are giving them some opportunities to help fund it, they understand that this stuff’s expensive.


They get it. They know that it takes money to put this together. They want to be there, and they’re looking at it from the same opportunity. Well, I sponsor all these trade shows. I do boost here. I do boost there. You know, this is just another one of those opportunities. And you make it a better one or more affordable or whatever for them. And they’re all in. They want to be there. And then they help you sell it. They invite their clients to come. They reach out to their prospects. Because they need something to talk about, too. They have the same need. It’s like, Hey, I’m going to be here. We’d love to have you as a guest. You know, join us. Spend some time with us. These folks have put together a great program, and they help you get that message out to all of them. And now, all of a sudden, you’re in front of their list, too.


This is so brilliant. And thank you for being so generous in taking us behind the curtain here. Let’s use that as a springboard to loop back to the topic you highlighted before about how to host an event. Hey, this is evolving, and now we’re thinking about, Hey, can we make a nickel at this? And so you mentioned partners and sponsors, and, really, there’s the amplification of that you started to describe, right? And partners are helping you get this into the hands of people that you may not have had access to otherwise. So yay for that. But then also sponsors who are going to wanna sponsor this with, with dollars and maybe somebody as a partner and sponsor kind of they’re, they’re doing both of those. They’re giving you money to be a sponsor, or there might be partners who are like, well, we’re not going to sponsor, but we’ll help you amplify it. We’ll help promote this thing. So let’s talk about that. And sort of the duality of it, of amplification getting you in front of an audience that maybe you wouldn’t have had access to otherwise. Then, there is the financial component of how that’s grown with respect to sponsorship and those hard dollars. The dollar amounts aren’t important, but your strategy around them is important.


Learn more Tips for Hosting an Event by tuning in to Our “Seed & Open Loops” Framework


Tips for Hosting an Event: Keeping Costs Down


So, from a dollar strategy standpoint to start with, I think it’s critical to realize that you have to think a little bit outside the box, in my opinion, on the venue. because hotels are expensive. The traditional hotel ballroom that so many events use is very, and they want commitments on room blocks. They want huge food minimums and guarantees, and they don’t let you back out if nobody comes. You know, there, there, there is a lot of money if you use those. So, we decided to look at alternative venues that don’t have all of those same requirements. So our very first one was in a meeting room at a brewery, all right? It wasn’t at a hotel at all. So, we had no commitments to any hotels. If anybody was traveling and wanted to find a room nearby, we just put up a list of some hotels within a reasonable distance to get a room.


We didn’t make any commitments when thinking about tips for hosting an event. We had no blocks; we had no discounts. Now granted, right, there were no discounts because of that, but we didn’t have to make any commitments. This place did not offer its own catering. So, they had no food requirements. We could bring whatever food we needed to bring in because it was just a meeting room, but it was in a brewery. So it had a little bit of a different kind of, it’s not just like the library or something you kind of boring right? and they, and they, and we, they, they served some beverages, an after our afternoon break that, that was part of the brewery, that, that we included a certain number of drink tickets for everybody that was there. And I wasn’t a drinker, so I don’t know if it was any good, but I’m just saying that it seemed to attract some people.


It was a little different. Afterward, we offered a tour of the brewery at the end of the day to those who wanted to stick around and do that. We learned a lesson on that, but we can get into that a little later. But my goal here is to make a much smaller dollar commitment upfront with a much lower risk of going outside the traditional hotel ballroom scenario. Okay. Especially when you have no idea how many people are going to, and just for context, yeah. Our first one had 30 paid attendees. Okay. 30 people who paid a few hundred bucks to be there for sponsors, to be there with us. and they put in a thousand bucks each. Okay. Right. So we covered the hard cost of the venue and the food because we catered lunch and had snacks.


You know, we had a continental breakfast and brought in lunch, and we were done before we gave them a couple of drink tickets. We were done before dinner. It was a one-day thing in and out. and so it was not a huge financial risk because the whole, the whole question you need to ask next is, if nobody comes, and I have to pay for all of this out of my own pocket, am I going to put me out of business? it is where you don’t want to be, right? because some of these places can happen, you know? and so at that point, we said, okay, yeah, we, again, a marketing event, we would spend five grand going to some trade show and all those things without even working very hard to spend that much at a trade show.


Learn more Tips for Hosting an Event by tuning in to Our “Seed & Open Loops” Framework


Tips for Hosting an Event: Finding the Right Partners


You bet. spend a lot more than that, too. and so that was kind of where we started, just from a cost standpoint. All of those factors are included in that sponsorship, financial piece, and everything else. So, I think that that’s my tip for thinking outside the traditional hotel ecosystem. Now, as we went back last year, we did go to a hotel, but we went to a more boutique hotel, not part of a big chain. Now again, you end up with smaller rooms, which minimizes your total potential attendees. And yeah, you want to fill the room, but at the same time, a smaller room that’s full feels different than a large room that’s only half full, in my opinion. and people, people don’t wanna feel like, how come there’s nobody else here? That whole half of the room’s empty gives ’em this weird feeling as opposed to even the same number of people in a smaller room.


Man, this is really crowded. You know, this is, this is full. They, they filled the room up here. And, so, there are some of those little psychological games that you try to play as you do some of this. Of course, I’m telling the team, I want hundreds and hundreds of people, and they’re like, Greg, take it easy. Okay. We know you want to be inbound with HubSpot or whatever, and that’s different from what it’s going to be. Okay. That’s, I don’t know if you guys have been there, but that’s like a crazy huge show. But maybe someday we’ll be there, but we don’t have to be there if we have the right people in the room.


Indeed. Okay. So, let’s take that to sponsors and see how it has grown. Again, thank you for sharing the dollars. Feel free to do that again if you want to. But you’ve gone from four sponsors, so X, to now Y. So, how has that changed for you?


So, that has been a sales process in and of itself. It’s finding the right partners and kind of pitching them on the idea. Yep. kind of feeling them out for what it might be worth to them. looking at the other places that they’re sponsoring, right? Who is doing it? Who else is doing similar types of events, and who’s sponsoring them? And saying, oh, those people might be good, good partners there. Sometimes you have to give them a little bit more exposure depending on the dollar amounts, such as a speaking slot or something like that. We’ve experimented around the, at the first one, our sponsors were all presenters too, right? They all had a piece of the agenda. And it was, it was, it wasn’t as much of a sponsorship as much as it was.


Tips for hosting an event – thinking about sponsors. They were helping cover the costs, but we were the ones doing all the contracts. So they gave the money to us, and then we paid all the bills. Okay? we called ’em sponsors to the attendees, right? And all that. But, as it’s grown now, it’s more the traditional sponsorship where we’re doing all the work and, then, you wanna play. This is where you need to be to come in and do that. And I think it’s still an experiment of what the market will bear. How much is this worth to them? and how we grow again, which is the number one goal. Make sure that we don’t have to put any dollars out of our own pocket to make this happen. Right? That’s the number one goal.


Learn more Tips for Hosting an Event by tuning in to Our “Seed & Open Loops” Framework


Tips for Hosting an Event: Selling Sponsorships


The next goal would be to cover all my people’s time. Because when you’ve got several hundred hours of work that goes into this on your team, yep. that’s real money, too. ’cause they could be doing something else instead. Right? And so that’s where it’s like, this is a big marketing thing. So the fact that it’s consuming our marketing team for five months of the year is not trivial. But are we getting a return on that yet? Even if we don’t get enough dollars to cover it, it is a constant question. Constantly, constantly asking.


So, 2019 will be the first event, and sponsors will have their first crack at it in September 2022. Again, dollars aren’t important.


12 sponsors.


Sponsors. You’ve gone from four to 12. Amazing. Okay. Let’s talk about the partners and the amplification of it. so how, in your opinion, has the audience attendees grown as a result of the work that partners have helped you do?


Yeah, from a growth standpoint 30, 30 paid attendees at the first one. This last year, we had 85 folks in our room. Amazing. Last September, which included s and sponsors, as well as the attendees. Our goal for this coming year is to, you know, our room maxes out 120, the room that we’ve, we’ve gone with. That would be a sellout if we can get up to 120 in the room. again, I’m not trying to go for the three to 500 thing yet. Yeah. We’ll see if we get there, right? But again, you gotta embrace what you’ve got and make that one of the perks. This is small and intimate. That’s our messaging right now. Small, you’re going to get to know everybody in the room.


You know, that’s the perk there. So, we’ve also grown that through these partners by giving them some invitations to help. Now, you’ve always got that sponsor who doesn’t do anything. Right. They feel like they’ve paid you this money; it’s your job to bring them the goods. Yep. And then you get, and then you get the partners that really recognize, hey, the value to me is to get my right people in the room too. We’re going after the same people. I want to talk to my audience about something. So you need to help them, like give them some of the graphics that they can use to help talk about it. Make sure you’re giving them messages. Ensure you’re inviting them and asking them to do it. Right. It’s like, oh yeah, sure, we can do that.


Learn more Tips for Hosting an Event by tuning in to Our “Seed & Open Loops” Framework


Tips for Hosting an Event: Other Ways to Drive Attendance


It’s like, if you hadn’t asked them, they wouldn’t even do it. kind of a thing. The other one that we stumbled on a little late, this last time, that we’re gonna do a better job next time is giving all the sponsors a scholarship for one attendee that they could give. Basically, they could give away one free attendance to one of their clients or prospects that they wanted to. We had one of those sponsors who doubled down. They, so we were giving ’em the ticket. They gave travel to their person as well. They also bought their person’s plane and hotel to be there for their free ticket. That’s how bad they wanted to be in the room with that prospect is that they, they said, Hey, if you’re willing to go to this, we’ve got a scholarship, and we will buy your plane ticket to be there.


Because they badly wanted to spend time with that person, and they needed a safe way to do that. That wasn’t, Hey, can I come to your office and bother you for a few hours? They weren’t going to get that, but, Hey, can I give you this ticket and fly you out to be at this great event that we’re going to be sponsoring and partnering with? They, they loved that. And I’m thinking this year at our different sponsor levels, our top-level sponsors might get more than one scholarship. You know, because it had, and again, the engagement we got from them after we gave them the scholarship, they’re talking to everybody, trying to give this thing away, right? And they, they had to talk to 10 people to find somebody where the time worked or, or was willing to do it or, or whatever.


But those other nine they talked to about this event, right? They heard about this event, and they looked at it to see if they could make it work or if it would be worth their time. or everything else. And so I think that was one, again. We stumbled on that kind of late, and it kind of came out of the, oh, we’re not quite hitting our signup target as quickly as we’d like to. What else can we do? The conversation is where that came from. but yeah, it’s definitely something that made a difference in their engagement and going out to talk to people about it.


Holy bananas. This is a brilliant strategy. Let me make sure that I fully understand it. So, by offering the scholarship to the sponsor, the sponsor then offers the scholarship to somebody who they want to serve. In this case, I think the business owner whom they want to serve is a home builder who is also potentially one of your prospects, right? Correct.


Yeah. We all want to talk to the same people.


Learn more Tips for Hosting an Event by tuning in to Our “Seed & Open Loops” Framework


Tips for Hosting an Event: Using Scholarships Strategically


This is brilliant, brilliant. Because you’re offering the scholarships, and that’s bringing more right-fit prospects into the room, right?


Oh my gosh, that’s super smart. Okay. This has been such a helpful conversation as we come in for a landing here because our time is quickly running out. Thank you so much for doing that. So what, in looking back on almost four years, would you and your team do differently now that you have all of this context and sort of the wins as well as a few scars? What would you do differently had you had it all over or to do it all over again?


Oh man, that’s a that’s a loaded question. Because you know, you always want, you always, you always want to take the things you’ve learned. Now it’s like, man, if we’d only known that we could have done there. Here’s a tiny one that we’ve learned, Stephen. Okay? It’s a date selection. Okay. So our very first one was at the beginning of the month. And somehow, because it was in the first 10 days of the month, the signups happened at the last minute because it’s September now, and I haven’t signed up yet, but it’s like next week. Having it at the end of the month makes a big difference in the perception because it’s far away in August. September 10th is very far away on August 31st compared to September 1st. Huh. There, there’s some difference there in the, oh my goodness, I’m going to miss out.


Or I, but compared to doing it September 20th or 25th or something like that, the ability to recognize the kind of impact that can have another mistake we made is we ended up kind of accidentally scheduling right on top of another industry event that was going after some of the same people. You know, and we knew that was out there, but we had some things that forced our hand from rescheduling internally. But it created some issues where there were people, oh, sorry, I’m already going to theirs. I can’t go to yours. You know, if, if you’re doing it at the same time. That was something that happened to us. On one of those, the virtual ones, they were good from an attendee stand.


Learn more Tips for Hosting an Event by tuning in to Our “Seed & Open Loops” Framework


Tips for Hosting an Event: Virtual vs. In-person


We have more people with virtual ones. Because they only had to commit to a few hours for a webinar-type scenario. But the value to us was that the engagement didn’t happen. You know, because they all left as soon as it was done. You know, and I granted, we got the list that we got to share with the sponsors, and they got to email them all and put them on their list. But there’s something about face-to-face communication; it just connects with people in a different way. So yeah, I think the other big learning that, again, to say do over, we’ve incorporated this as we move forward, right? Our first one was a one-day-only event, and we wanted people to stay for the brewery tour that I mentioned. But most people said, no, I have to catch, catch a flight and get home tonight.


I’m going to arrive on time. And so we only had three or four people stuck around out of our 30. Okay. And now we have the set from last year, which we did a day and a half, where we started after lunch on day one. So they could come in in the morning and then go till like four o’clock on day two. But that evening, reception on the night in between is hugely valuable as far as getting that more casual FaceTime. And it’s what the sponsors want, too. They want that time to sit, network, and visit. This year, we’re going to go for the full two days. We’re going to start in the morning on day one instead of after lunch. They’re going to have to come the night before, but we’re still going to make sure that that networking event is in the middle because it’s in the middle, and they won’t leave. Skip it and type a thing. So, those are some of the learnings. I know we’re getting short on time, but these are just some of those little things that we’ve learned over a period that we were trying to incorporate as we move forward.


Brilliant. Incredibly helpful. Thank you for being so generous with your insights, taking us behind the curtain, sharing numbers, processes, pitfalls, and what you might do differently, and looking back on that. Amazing. So before we go, before we close out and say goodbye, please tell everyone the best way to connect with you, Greg.


So our website, blue Tangerine, is like the I’m on LinkedIn’s the best way to connect with me. But my email is [email protected]. Happy to answer any questions or help wherever I can. I love to share, and I love to help other people be successful.


Awesome. Thank you, my friend. And okay. Everyone, no matter how many notes you took or how often you go back and re-listen to the words of wisdom that Greg so generously shared with you. The key is all of these different scenarios, all these other successes, all the data points, all the decisions, all of that that he mapped out for you. In full transparency, you have to take it and apply it. And if you do, you’ll accelerate your results and have a great event of your own. And, Greg, we all have the same 86,400 seconds daily. And again, I’m grateful that you said yes to coming onto the show and being our mentor and guide to help us move our businesses to that next level. Thank you so much, my friend.


My pleasure. Thank you.



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