7 ways to host an EPIC event!

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A big part of my job is hosting events: Webinars, Meetups, User Conferences, Drinks sessions – whatever. And whenever I tell people how I run events l I literally get asked the same questions all the time:

    “Why do you do it?”     “How do you get speakers?”     “How much does an event cost”     “How do you get people to come along to the event”     “How long does it take to plan?” 

So, I figured it was easier to write up some tips & tricks that I wish I had known before I embarked on my first event. I’m no Guru, packing all the great wisdom but I can throw in my 2 cents!

1. Is it just about schmoozing and big names or building a community?

Whether it’s a social, company or industry event, at the end of the day, it’s really is all about appealing to your target customer. There’s always shades of grey, but events pretty much come down to two things: generating heaps of publicity with big lights, razz-ma-jazz and red carpets; or building a community where people can learn, inspire and spread the gospel . . . and maybe sip a cocktail or two.

Sure, you can mix the two, but to run a really great event you need to commit to one or the other – it makes one hell of a difference to the quality of the day.

Not to mention the levels of boredom felt in the audience.

I always recommend creating goals to measure success. For instance, if it’s about fame, fortune and names on big screens then one of your most important success factors might be appearing on the homepage of 3 top publications that brings in 10k users in a day (i’m really throwing out random numbers and ball park figures, but you catch my drift). If so, your event needs to appeal to the general public. You have to have a hook, line and sinker. An angle that will attract the masses in swarms. 

Similarly, If it’s about bringing your community together educate, motivate and meet new partners then you’re major goal might be to gain 20 new marketing partnerships, 10 company advocates, and a White Paper with all the speakers to pass out to the community.

2. No one wants to arrive at the party wearing the same dress as someone else

It’s a pretty simple point but probably the most important thing you need to do before diving too deep into the planning. So calm your boots, take a moment, and make sure you do your research and DON’T host your event on the same day some major conferences is going on. Seriously, I know this might sound like silly advice. I spoke to an unfortunate chap who told me about no one turning up to his event as he hadn’t realised a massive conference was taking place on the same day. A quick 5 minute look at lanyrd, eventbrite and meetup will suffice!

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3. Don’t be creepy, annoying or weird – but do be persistent.

So, this is probably the most asked question: how do you get cool people on the stage san plying them with Tequila, bribes and money.

Firstly, I flat out refuse to pay people to speak. Not saying you should. Just saying I don’t. And I wouldn’t.

Why you ask? Well:

1) Its way more rewarding getting people for free, who are actually interested in speaking and not just about racking up more numbers in their account.

2) I’m cheap

3) I never even thought about paying a speaker until a handful of people talked to me assuming that i did.

If you want awesome speakers then you have to expect that a million other event organizers do too. I get a bajillion-million emails a day and look at them for about a millisecond before deciding whether to delete, archive, or send to trash. If you’re looking to speak to a top CEOs, then you better believe they do the same thing.

Typically, I’ll email top CEOs about 5-10 times. I realise this makes me sound like an epic stalker. But I swear to god it works. And, yes, before you ask, important folk do check their own email. They might not reply, or forward you to their marketing team or PA, but most of the time I at least get a ‘thanks for reaching out, but sadly I’m busy that day. Keep in touch.’ Or they’re willing to take a call, chat and about the cool things you’re working on. I was in San Francisco for work over 2 months and had Skype calls with at least 5 of the biggest names over there. And that only ever happened around my 5th email. Why? Because I was persistent!

 My top tips and tricks on how to get these sort of people on the phone:

  • Catchy Subject with all the information is vital. Try and make it sound personal too. You should always research the people you’re looking to talk to. Watch videos, read bios, actually learn about them. For instance: Loved [book title]: Amazing if you did a keynote at my event [name, date, location]
  • Sum up exactly what you want in 5 sentences or less. Anything more and people likely get to the ‘archive and read later’ mental state.
  • Don’t throw out statements like ‘there will be 400 attendees in the audience.’ Big time CEOs and cool speakers don’t care. Talk about how you’re emailing videos out to thousands of subscribers, offering them a chance to spread the company word and there might be opportunities to scout great talent at the event.
  • Don’t talk about your life too much . . . no once cares at that point. The brief “my name is and I work for” is a total waste of time.

4. Don’t throw dolla’ bills like you’re Lil Wayne in the Club.

Budget is pretty much the numero uno from the get go. It’s pretty simple, if you have a budget, stick to it. And if you’re looking to make money from it, double it. In the wise words of Jay Z:

     “Got a million ways to get it      Choose one      Bring it back      Double your money and make a stack”

I’ve spoken to so many event organisers who didn’t take the time to sit, concentrate and breakdown the costs and budget allocations. If you don’t do this, then you’re going to reach a point where someone quotes a price and your face literally goes:

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WTF! WTF! WTF!

We’ve all been there. A few weeks or days before an event you realise you have 5 dollars to your name, your panic stricken and you start racing around looking for any sort of sponsorship, offering discounts here there and everywhere. Cheeky money shockers are the last thing you want on your mind, so do your best to set realistic goals. But most importantly, if you are desperate for money, try not to bring in partners that don’t make sense to the brand to cover costs It looks a tad desperate.

5. Style is a reflection of your attitude, intention and personality

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Whether you work in fashion, music, design or tech; style and tone are vital when addressing your market. Everything in the lead up to the event depicts your company message: tone in emails, website and flyer design, the overall look of the event and venue on the day, the food and drinks.

It’s so, so, so important. It’s all an extension of your thoughts and beliefs so make sure it’s consistent, bold and powerful.

6. Listen to your mother when she said mind your Ps & Qs

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The party’s commenced. All hands are in. The booze is flowing at a rapid rate. The music is pumping. Its that wonderful high after an awesome event as you and your team celebrate the hard work FINALLY paying off.

The morning comes, your [maybe] nursing a hangover, and your completely exhausted. You’ll want a moment of calm and relaxation, just don’t forget to put time aside to send out post-event thank yous. The day after an event I always try and take the time to sit down and write a personal email to the speakers one-by-one, telling them how much I appreciated them taking the time out of their day. I’m not paying anyone, so I can at least take the time out to really let them know how they helped make the day awesome.

It’s the little things.

Then I send out a group email to all the attendees, with a link attached a survey. Feedback sheets are literally the only way that someone will tell you if they honestly enjoyed the event.

Surprise, surprise, no one is going to tell you that your event sucked to your face. It might not be fun, but honest feedback makes for a better event next time.

7. Just play. Have fun. Enjoy the game. (Michael Jordan)

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Listen, event planning is stressful. Co-ordinating people is hard, there’s a lot of logistics to sift through, and money can be a total bitch. I have numerous spreadsheets filled with numbers and notes tinged with madness.

BUT

It’s pretty much one of the most fun jobs you can ask for. Think about it, you’re literally responsible for tens, hundreds, maybe thousands of people having a totally awesome day. All at the same time. In the same place. You’re literally the reason they either end up toasting cursing your name. Maybe I’m a bit weird, but I think that’s quite exhileratingl! It’ not often you experience massive thrills in your day-to-day job. You have good days, bad days, and special days when you maybe get a promotion, go home, pop a bottle of champagne, and phone everyone you know.

Events let you have the best time with your colleagues, friends, users and total randoms. You all get to ride the high, feel like proud of what you did for the day – that’s so much fun!

So, if you’re looking to steer into the event world my main advice is: CHILLAX. Stop worrying about the spreadsheets, and enjoy the challenge in the madness!

Chillax: 7 Habits of Calmness!

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What do we all crave most in todays society? Sanity? Quiet? Success? Happiness? Quality? Comfort? Excitement?

We probably crave it all! And what’s more bizarre, we crave it because few of us seem to be able to achieve these ideals. Slaves to bad routines, stress, procrastination and sitting in front of computers and television screens – it eats us all up!!

We’re so busy in our daily lives that someone you need to remember to take a moment, relax and be.

When does this moment exist, you might ask?

Personally, mine lies in my morning routine, specially adapted to instil my own sense of calm. My own personal ritual goes a little bit like this:

1) My alarm clock goes off at 6.00am

2) I begrudgingly role out of bed and make my way to the bathroom

3) Shower and throw some clothes on

4) Pour a large cup of coffee, make some food (yogurt/toast/nuts/leftover chocolate on an off day)

5) Sit down, open my book/laptop and I read for at least an hour. Fact, fiction, blogs, news, it doesn’t matter. I just read. I read because I like it and I like to learn from it. Some days I rotate and do an hour of exercise.

6) I then leave my house and soldier on with the day!

Boring? Dull? It doesn’t matter, it’s my time, I decide what I do with it, no one bothers me and I can 100% relax without any outside interference. What’s most important in my morning ritual is that there is a NO POLICY to emails, phone calls, Facebook or Twitter. It is 100% ‘me’ time. Ever since I have adopted this attitude, I realised that I have begun to train myself to steer away from the daily stress that life puts on us, particularly when it comes to technology. It’s practically impossible to avoid contact 24/7 hours a day. But let me tell you – sometimes we really have to force ourselves too!

So this blog post is to share with you the great mind of a fellow blogger who made me change my attitude in life . . .

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The 7 Habits of Calmness

By Leo Babauta

I have come to believe that high stress, constant anxiety over tasks and work and life, social anxiety … is all a part of the modern way of life.

Most people just don’t feel a sense of peace, of calm, of serenity, throughout their day.

I have to admit that I’m the same way some of the time, but I have learned a few things that have helped me create a feeling of calmness much more of the time than ever before.

It’s a series of habits that have developed over the last few years. I’m not perfect at them, but I do practice them, and they are always helpful.

These are habits, not a one-time change in my surroundings or work pattern. Changing your environment is great, but you can’t control the things that happen to you much of the time, and you certainly can’t control how other people act. The only thing you can control is your response — and this response matters. You can respond to the same event with anxiety or anger, or you can respond with peace and calmness.

Let’s figure out how.

The Habits of Calmness

These are the habits to develop that will help you develop calmness (based on my experience):

  1. A calm morning ritual. Many people rush through their mornings, starting the day out in a stressful rush. I wake up a little earlier (5 a.m. these days, though that changes), and start with a little meditation, then a few yoga poses. I then start writing, before I let the noise in. Exercise is another component of my morning routine. You don’t need to do the same things, but find the quiet of the morning and make the most of it.
  2. Learn to watch your response. When something stressful happens, what is your response? Some people jump into action — though if the stressful situation is another person, sometimes action can be harmful. Others get angry, or overwhelmed. Still others start to feel sorry for themselves, and wish things were different. Why can’t other people behave better? Watch this response — it’s an important habit.
  3. Don’t take things personally. Many times the response (that you noticed in Habit 2) is to take things personally. If someone does something we don’t like, often we tend to interpret this as a personal affront. Our kids don’t clean their rooms? They are defying us! Our spouse doesn’t show affection today? He/she must not care as much as he/she should! Someone acts rudely at work? How could they treat us this way?! Some people even think the universe is personally against them. But the truth is, it’s not personal — it’s the other person’s issue that they’re dealing with. They are doing the best they can. You can learn not to interpret events as a personal affront, and instead see it as some non-personal external event (like a leaf falling, a bird flying by) that you can either respond to without a stressful mindset, or not need to respond to at all.
  4. Be grateful. Sure, lots of people talk about gratitude … but how often do we apply it to the events of our day? Things are crashing down at work, or our boss is angry, or our co-workers are rude, or our kids are misbehaving, or someone doesn’t love us as we’d like … do these cause anger/anxiety/unhappiness, or can we be grateful? Drop the complaints, and find a way to be grateful, no matter what. And then smile. This unbending habit can change your life.
  5. Create stress coping habits. Many times, when we are faced with stress, we have unhealthy responses — anger, feeling overwhelmed and withdrawing, eating junk food, drinking alcohol or taking drugs, shopping or otherwise buying stuff, going to time-wasting sites, procrastinating, and so on. Instead, we need healthy ways to cope with stress, which will come inevitably. When you notice stress, watch how you cope with it, and then replace any unhealthy coping habits with healthier ones. Healthy stress coping habits include: drinking tea, exercise, yoga, meditation, massaging your own neck & shoulders, taking a walk, drinking some water, talking with someone you care about.
  6. Single-task. I’ve written numerous times in the past about single-tasking vs. multitasking, but I think people multitask now more than ever. People text while on the train, while walking, while driving. They tweet and post to Facebook and Instagram, they email and read blogs and news, they watch videos while getting things done, they watch TV while eating, they plan their day while doing chores. This is a great way to cause a level of anxiety that runs through everything you do, because you’re always worried you should be doing more, doing something else. What if, instead, you just did one thing, and learned to trust that you shouldn’t be doing anything else? It takes practice: just eat. Just wash your bowl. Just walk. Just talk to someone. Just read one article or book, without switching. Just write. Just do your email, one at a time, until your inbox is empty. You’ll learn that there is peace in just doing one thing, and letting go of everything else.
  7. Reduce noise. Our lives are filled with all kinds of noise — visual clutter, notifications, social media, news, all the things we need to read. And truthfully, none of it is necessary. Reduce all these things and more, and create some space, some quiet, in your life.

Crazy Chuck Palahniuk

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Chuck Palahniuk

Having just finished one of the most ridiculous, fabulous, hilarious, vile novels I have ever read, I find myself handing out my copy of ‘Snuff’ by Chuck Palahniuk to all my friends insisting, ‘I don’t know what it is, why it was written or why I am making you read it but I absolutely insist you do!’

I finally got around to reading ‘Snuff’ as it was the last novel by this man that I had yet to conquer. The title of the novel really gives the basis of the story away – a sordid journey following one woman’s ambition to star in the first known snuff film and the questionable men who are there to help her succeed for her own benefit. Yes, it sounds horrible, pointless and completely unnecessary, which indeed it might be, but somewhere along the way the readers find themselves engulfed in his vulgar humour and spurning off his random list of facts to friends and co-workers.

But don’t be fooled! Though Palahniuk woos you with his quips and puns, lolling you into a false pretence of mutual banter, he throws some stomach churning moments that make you want to skip a chapter or two!!

Having completed his entire novel works, it still remains that Palahniuk is undoubtedly one of my favourite authors of all time. When I pick up one of his novels I know I am guaranteed a bizarre and enthralling journey that makes me question every aspect of the society we live in. I also know that it will have me wide-eyed in shock and laughing inappropriately on the London tube.

Do I always enjoy the plots in his novels? No. But I enjoy the fact that the only thing I know to expect is the unexpected. Witty, powerful, poetic, disturbing and questioning, he forces you to perceive the world in a manner that is often highly uncomfortable.

If the absurdist, misanthropist in you is ever looking for the appropriate novel – I can recommend no one greater than Chuck Palahniuk!!!!

Portnoy’s Crudetastic

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Crass, crude and utterly invigorating!

I can’t believe it was published in 1969! Even by today’s standards, this novel is pushing barriers.

I cannot recall the last time I read a book that had me bent over, clutching my belly in hysterics from start-to-finish. This novel is an all-out, rip-roaring comic fest that is entirely unrestrained and completely unapologetic. Needless to say, you will never feel the same way about bottles, apple cores and liver again!

Alexander Portney has become one of my favourite literary characters of all time. The decision to switch from a simple monologue and include dialogue with his psychiatrist was genius, allowing readers to truly understand how confused this lust-driven, young Jewish man really is. Incapable of feeling satisfaction, Portney degrades himself through a series of perverse sexual acts that are both hilarious and utterly depressing to read. The character proves a wonderful ploy for the author to challenge people’s fear of a fixed, dull life where happiness can never truly be obtained.

The only thing left to wander is where are more books like this today? I feel this is the next big story – a bold, brave writer, stand-up and deliver, please!

Searching for Sugar Man

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So I watched the above documentary about Sixto Rodriguez late last night and it was truly inspiring.

It tells the story of a singer / songwriter who never made it as a successful musician in his native America, despite incredible talent. He went on to live a simple, hard-working life, unaware that in another continent he had become even bigger than Elvis!!!!

A bootleg of his CD snuck over the borders multiplied across South Africa, his woeful, true and powerful lyrics striking the hearts of a nation suffering under Apartheid.

South Africans believed their musical hero to be dead but one of his greatest fans is out to prove them all wrong as he sets out on a mission to find his idol . . .

It’s a warm, touching story about a man finally achieving dream, questioning the true meaning of success – that fulfilment is more than money.

Humbling, charming and beautifully shot documentary that wells my heart and brought a tear I my eye!

Just purchased his album:

Skip to track: Cause

Scottish Novel: The Cone Gatherers

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Reminiscing about this fantastic gem of a book I read a few years ago.

It’s a poignant Scottish novel centered on the relationship between the two main characters and indeed, brothers, Callum and Neil who are cone-gatherers in the Scottish forests.

It’s a beautiful story similar to the wonderful John Steinbeck’s ‘Of Mice and Men’ – Callum is a simple-minded hunchback who represents the beauty  of  innocence. He is cared for by his self-sacrificing brother, Neil who battles his own demons throughout the novel.

The brother’s drift through life with an air of peace and serenity. However, when Duror the gamekeeper forms an obsessive hatred for Callum (whose physical deformity constantly acts as a reminder of his failed marriage to a bed-ridden, overweight woman)  the story reaches a dramatic climax.

It’s no comedy – but It’s gripping, easy to read and filled with wonderful imagery.

Really loved this book and strongly recommend it!!!

Glorious East of Eden

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Note: Just finished this book last night. If you have not yet read it, I would highly recommend it.

Gathering dust on my bookshelf for too long I  always found myself passing over Steainbeck’s classic for another read. Having previously finished reading ‘Lolita’ last month, I was in the mood to conquer yet another classic and safe to say that this has definitely become one of my all-time favourites.

Steinbeck’s description of sounds, smells, character traits of the two families and landscape of the Salinas Valley were so detailed and realistic that for the first time in years I found myself immersed in the plot from page one. Success, self-destruction, love, guilt, freedom – it’s all here and handled beautifully. How I wish I could have been born with the talent to write so well!

Time to watching the film adaption and indulge in some James Dean time! I can only hope it lives up to the incredible book.

What do you think? Film worth the watch???