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How To Book Clients With Your First Live Event

  |   Business Tips, Classy Marketing   |   24 Comments

So you've been wanting to host your first live workshop or event, but you're not even sure where to start -- or how to convert it into actual paying clients and customers? These proven tips from a pro event planner are gold!

 

Guest post by Lauren Caselli, savvy event planner + gutsy boss lady

 

Remember that goal that you set for yourself to “finally start speaking” in 2016?

 

Or the time that you told yourself you’d host a live workshop FOR REAL this year?

 

Or how you’ve always toyed with the idea of possibly teaching to a roomful of your dream clients, buuuutttt…you weren’t actually sure how you’re going to pull it off?

 

And now it’s almost the end of the first quarter and you’ve made no progress toward that goal?

 

Yea, girl. I feel you.

 

Back in January of 2015, I was frustrated and really overwhelmed with the whole “building a business” thing. I had a few copywriting clients (which is what I did before I moved over the planning events for digital entrepreneurs and tech companies), I had booked my very first live event client (a women’s retreat in Asheville), but the daily grind of focusing on blogging and social media and marketing…it started to wear me out.

 

I was posting…but no one was reading.

 

I was delivering SERIOUS content…but no one was subscribing.

 

And all the while, I saw people totally blowing up in front of me. Snatching clients out of thin air. Marketing themselves so effortlessly in Facebook groups.

 

And I got so frustrated.

 

So, I decided I needed to do something different. I needed to create a community who had my back. Not necessarily for any sort of monetary gain, but because I needed the support of business people who “got it.”

 

I emailed 10 female entrepreneurs in my area who I had either knew in passing and invited them over to my house to talk about business.

 

It was the best thing I ever did for the growth of my business both offline and online…but it took me a few months to figure out how to use the events, meetups, and happy hours that I was already hosting to turn them into client-generating machines.

 

So you don’t make the same mistakes that I do, here are four ways to create a live event that ACTUALLY converts into clients.

 

HOW TO HOST YOUR FIRST LIVE WORKSHOP OR FREE EVENT – AND GET CLIENTS

 

1. Create an event that doesn’t exist where you live.

 

You know all those things that you hate about events that currently are run in your area? This is your big chance to change that. This actually isn’t even that hard to do, ESPECIALLY in the business world.

 

The BIGGEST thing that drives me crazy about live, informational events in the majority of the business world is how stale they are. They’re literally the content of fluffy blog posts delivered in tiny conference rooms with no windows and no actionable content (okay, rant over!).

 

Honestly, if you created an event in a gorgeous space, with a fun workbook, and some creative content? You’d be 98% further ahead than most of the business building events I see out there.

 

When I set out to create the Boss Lady Bash, it was because I had gone to a networking event for 90 minutes, didn’t know a single person, stood in the back of the room awkwardly by myself, and then went home.

 

I said “Never again. I will never again go to an event where everyone feels so unapproachable.” And I like networking! Imagine if alternate-universe-Lauren hated networking and had wasted 90 minutes by herself in the corner? She’d probably swear off networking events forever.

 

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2. Make your very first event free.

 

The biggest mistake I see people making when they’re hosting their first event, even if they have a client base, is that they try to charge a nominal fee for the event to cover the event costs.

 

As a professional event planner, I can tell you that you are not going to make it rich on a majority of the events that you run. There is a lot of overhead and a ton of time that goes into them, and people are funny and fickle about attending an event where they have to get out of their house, show up, and be engaged. They can be a source of consistent income sometimes if your community is large, but there’s an even better way to use events to monetize your business.

 

When you’re first starting out with events, you want to get people in the room. You want raving fans, you want people who find your content so amazing that they can’t BELIEVE it’s free. Because the worst is when you put an event on, people pay, and you don’t deliver. People feel like they’ve been totally ripped off. It’s miserable.

 

So start with a free event. It can be at a library, you can partner with a bookstore or local business, and you can even forgo the snacks and the powerpoint. Just get people in a room with you so that they know how amazing you are first hand.

 

See? Free! I can hear the sound of your community building already.

 

When you’re just getting started, I recommend doing one event for free with no pitch, and then making a concerted effort to do one a month or one every few weeks so that people get used to looking forward to your events.

 

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3. Offer the most amazing presentation — or event experience– you could possibly offer.

 

This might go without saying, but getting people in the room is half the battle — in fact, I’d rather you have a room with 10 people where you delivered a kickass presentation/event vs. a room with 100 people where your presentation/event was just…meh.

 

What makes a great event? Anticipating people’s needs (making sure there are chairs and tables to write on if you’re doing a 3 hour workshop, having coat racks and umbrella storage if it’s pouring outside and people are wet), introducing yourself and mingling with attendees before and after the event, and connecting people who you’ve met to other people in your community or at said event.

 

If you treat these people like gold and they aren’t even clients yet, they’ll be imagining that this is how you’ll be treating them, if not even better, when they are clients.

 

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4. Design content exactly around an offer that you have up your sleeve.

 

The best way to book more clients with an event is to have a pre-packaged offer ready to go at the end of the event. It doesn’t have to be a long sales pitch, it could just be a quick informational piece about one of the services that you offer.

 

But make sure that your free event is directly related or a teaser of your offer (for example “How to Start a Business” could be your event, with an offer of “1:1 Marketing Coaching for Brand New Business Owners”). This way, people understand and can see first-hand your expertise, and are more likely to book you at the end of the event.

 

In terms of hard-selling vs. soft-selling, it can be tricky to decide which you want to do, since sometimes people get gun-shy and nervous when you hard sell to them in person and then they immediately lose their trust in you.

 

However, if you can phrase it in a way that’s just “letting them know about a service or product you have that may make their lives easier”, the people who are really into it will approach you afterward for more information. And those are the people you want as a client anyway.

 

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Phew! There you have it! If you’re thinking about creating your first client-booking live workshop or event, I have a special download for you.

 

Click over here to snag your free printable about how to outline your workshop!

 

 

 

Lauren CaselliLauren Caselli is a strategic event planner and consultant for creative entrepreneurs and tech companies who helps her clients create amazing live events, workshops, conferences, and retreats that build brand awareness and books them more clients.

 

Despite living less than five miles from Erika in Bozeman, MT, they remain internet friends, which furthers her belief that the internet is a majestic and sort-of-insane place. Want to get started on creating your own live event that converts? Download her FREE PDF “How to Plan Your First Workshop.”

 

 

 

 

Erika here. Lauren is incredible, yes?! (I seriously cannot wait to attend one of her #BossLadyBash get-togethers.) Before you go, we’d both like to know what questions you have about hosting your first event. Do you have any event-hosting fears or concerns you want to run by Lauren? Also, have you held a live event before and can share your experiences?

 

Let’s discuss — and help make each other’s biz dreams happen!

 

Images © Orange Photographie

 

 

 

  • Wow! Thanks Erika and Lauren for this excellent post!

    I’ve had this ringing in my ear for the past couple of months that I should do a workshop at my local library to train local small businesses on Canva. I was definitely thinking free! My town is a very small rural town and I really don’t think they realize what potential Canva has or is, for that matter, to help them market their business. Of course I was wondering if I should put in an offer of my Canva Course for Business in the workshop. I think that is the hardest part for me… the dreaded sales pitch. Then I was thinking maybe I should give it out for 50% off plus a free ebook. Lots of possibilities but just need the courage to even book the space. LOL Thanks for giving me a nudge to get that going!

    Take care,
    Lillian

    • Oh my gosh Lillian. I love the Canva workshop idea!!! Wow, that would be so super useful in any community, but particularly in a smaller town where there’s not a lot of resources like that. You’d stand out in a major way, which would be excellent.

      I’m crossing my fingers over here hoping that you book the space and DOooooo IT. 😉

    • Lena and Aggy

      Such a good idea Lillian! I think if you phrase it in a way that’s like “Creating Gorgeous Graphics for FREE: Marketing Your Business” you’ll get people to show up. The beauty of live events is that you don’t even have to hard-sell Tony Robbins style. If you deliver, then simply “let people know”, they may come a knocking. And the nicest part is that some people may even just ask you to do it for them. They may say “I love all your free content, but can you just make the graphics for me?”

      Keep me posted! I’d love to hear how it goes!

      Best,

      Lauren (I don’t know why it won’t let me post as my name. So weird!)

  • YES THIS! Lauren, you rock. As Erika can attest, I have been working on in-real-life meet-ups for bloggers for quite a while but haven’t actually hosted one yet. I’m bumping this way up on my list of priorities for my business. Thanks so much for your insight! It’s encouraging to know that the first few events don’t have to be something epic or spectacularly beautiful – just get people in the door.

    Thank you Erika for always showcasing amazing women on your blog! My circle is expanding!

    • YES, I loved that point of Lauren’s about just getting some people together, period. It doesn’t have to be fancy, you don’t have to put on a presentation, you can just mingle and get to know one another. So natural and organic that way. (Plus it totally suits my introverted nature, haha.)

      I am a huge fan of your ideas for real-life meetups and can’t wait to hear how they end up working for you!!

    • Lena and Aggy

      Girl, I know you’ve got it in you. You let me know how I can help. I’m just a tweet, tweet away (or an email or an IG or a…well, you know 😉

      Seriously, let me know how it goes!

      xx

      Lauren

  • Oh gosh – I’m no where near hosting a live event… buuuuuuuuut…. I noticed a new site header and its lovely!!!

  • This is such a great idea! I’m not so great at speaking in front of public, but it’s something that it’s worth the effort. I have been thinking for a while to host a blogging workshop, since there aren’t many where I live. Hope I get to do it soon! Thank you for all the tips ladies 🙂

    • I’m not great at it either, Maru. What I like about Lauren’s approach is that one doesn’t even necessarily have to speak if they don’t want — they can just hang out and chat/work together. (That’s totally more up my line.) I hope you try out the blogging workshop, you’re so super talented so I know you’d have amazing insights to offer!

      • Aw thank you so much, Erika, that means a lot! You are right, it sounds less scary like that 🙂

    • Lena and Aggy

      Maru, you totally don’t have to like to speak! When I hosted my first event, the Boss Lady Bash, I just wanted to feel surrounded by amazing women, SO I convinced other awesome women in my community to act as small group facilitators, so THEY were the ones doing the talking in small groups. I simply planned the event, marketed it, got sponsors, gave a brief introduction and the beginning and the end, and let my gorgeous facilitators do all the hard work. It worked like a charm! And now I’m way more comfy in front of people live!

  • Hmm, now I am really curious if there are actually any other bloggers in Brookings, SD…

    It would be really fun to go to an event or host an event, I just haven’t found anyone in the area that even KNOWS what blogging or online entrepreneurship really is- it’s basically a farming and manufacturing (traditional/not good with interwebs) community.

    • Lena and Aggy

      I bet there are tons! I felt the same way about Bozeman, and even though I wasn’t looking specifically at online entrepreneurs (just creative women business owners), I didn’t think I’d find them either. But the first place I looked was the wedding industry (because there’s always a wedding industry, even in the tiniest towns), and I looked for makers close by, and that’s where it started. There are creative women EVERYwhere, so it may be worth broadening your scope just a little bit.

      Send me an email if you have questions. Seriously, I love helping people make connections and communities in real life. It’s SO important.

      xx,

      Lauren

  • This makes me excited about planning my next Sparkle event for women. Thanks!
    Marva | sunSPARKLEshine

    • Lena and Aggy

      Wahoo! Can’t wait to hear about it. Seriously, if you have questions or are running into roadblocks, tweet me at @lcasellievents. I’d love to offer help however I can!

      xx

      Lauren

  • Rose Guthrie

    I was just laughing at the beginning of this post because I can totally relate to this. I think I will look at doing an event also as I have experience doing in events in my past life so it wouldn’t be new grounds. Excellent post!

    Thank you for sharing

    • Lauren Caselli

      Hey Rose!

      Right?! Events can be so frustrating, but SUPER rewarding once you get them down. Ain’t nothing better than getting your people in a room with you!

  • Mia Davis

    This is a wonderful post! Thanks to Regina Anaejionu for tweeting this! I’m in the midst of planning a free workshop and my first offer stepping out on my own as a coach so this is right on time. I was thinking of finding a beautiful home for my event on Air BnB to host for the day. What do you think about this idea?

    • Lauren Caselli

      Hey Mia! So sorry I missed this, but YES I often use Air BnB to find great venues. They can have gorgeous living or outdoor spaces and be the cost of a hotel room for a night. Great idea! Let me know if you have any other questions.

  • This was great. I’ve made the move to take my business real world (I miss people, SO BAD) and this is a great way for me to transition by sharing my experience with people who may not know my online persona (for SUCH a lack of a better word). Seriously ladies, this one is a major light bulb for me, it feels like a game changer! Thanks so much.

  • I feel like I just hit a gold mine. Like she snuck into my room and saw my whiteboard of plans. Thanks for these tips… I am taking my lunch hour now to go plan plan plan . The where, the how, the who, the what..

  • lets talk about everything

    you always give such nice advice!!

    xoxo,letsjusttalkabouteverything.wordpress.com

  • Bay Yussuff

    What an awesome post! I am inspired to plan a live event as I am looking to increase my visibility online and offline.