You’ve found plenty of people to talk to online. You can navigate social media, discussion forums, and blogs like a pro, knowing exactly where to find answers, where to state your opinion, and where to just enjoy doing what you love.
But do you really want to spend all your time on your computer? Wouldn’t it be great to go out and meet these people face-to-face, maybe on a regular basis, and get to know other people who do the same things you do?
Whether you’re running a design agency, building up your hosting business, or up to your elbows in the latest programming language, getting together with like-minded people is a great way to find new potential clients, build up your knowledge, or spark creativity.
And if there isn’t an event near you, what better way to get it started than hosting your own?
Here are a few tips for how to host your own event:
Dream big, but plan small
You want to run an event. You start daydreaming, thinking about giant crowds, huge screens, standing in front of the crowd like Steve Jobs, maybe get some dry ice and lasers going, everyone’s interested in what you have to say…
Are you sure that’s how you want to kickstart your career as an event planner?
Start smaller. Focus on your town. If there aren’t enough like-minded people in your town, then branch out a bit further, focusing on the county or the region. Have small events with just a few people, meeting up to have conversations about your topic of choice. Find a few local people to host talks and start pulling together a core group, people you know are interested and want to help you make it better and bigger.
And once you know you can run an event – no matter how small – then you can start dreaming bigger. Just don’t buy the dry ice yet.
Don’t forget your wider audience
You might be focusing on a single programming language, bit of software, or people in a certain field, but don’t forget about people in related fields. Branching out into wider audiences means a larger range of possibilities for speakers, as well as easy advertising.
If you’re talking about setting up Linux servers, why not invite the local Linux User Group along? If you’re focusing on mobile devices and portable computing, maybe your local maker/hackspace has someone who would be interested? And if you’re helping businesses get off the ground, there are plenty of local schemes focused on small businesses – covering everything from tax and legal issues to hosting co-working spaces.
And if you’re planning to meet up in pubs, think about people who might not be comfortable (or allowed) in pubs – you might be missing out on the next genius in your field, just because they’re not old enough to get in. Look for coffee shops, tea houses, meeting rooms, or even cinemas – and if people want to go to the pub afterwards to continue the conversation, they’re more than welcome to.
Make sure the tech works
The crowd’s hyped up, everyone’s excited about the talk, the speaker clicks to the next slide in their presentation, and…
There’s very little that can kill an event dead faster than tech problems. Whether it’s the minutes spent before each presentation to get individual laptops to integrate with a projector or someone needing a charger at the last minute, you need to be prepared.
The best conference organisers carry with them an emergency pack of everything they might need. Examples of things you could be carrying are:
- AV cables
- Power cables
- Power supplies
- Duct tape
- Name badges
And if you’re having a group of speakers, see about getting their presentations ahead of time and combining them into a single presentation – this means you can have one computer set up and ready to go. No need to swap, no need to switch programs, just turn on the projector and click.
Build it then back away
One of the toughest things that all event organisers face, even tougher than obstinate venues, broken tech, or misbehaving speakers, is burnout.
You love what you’re seeing. You love what you’re doing. But the entire weight of these events is on your shoulders, and you just can’t keep going on the way you have been. But the group you’ve worked so hard to build up, they need you there, because, otherwise, everything will disappear.
You know you’re going to flame out in a rage and destroy all the hard work you’ve done. It’s just a matter of time.
Don’t ever let it get that far. Once you have a few people involved in your event, start getting them really involved. The minute someone says “Can I help?”, give them something to do. Make sure different speakers are available so that you only have to appear maybe once a year.
And make it so that if you can’t be there – whether you’re on holiday, stuck at work, or just not in the mood – it runs so smoothly that you’re only missed for your charm and wit, and not for your organisational skills.
Those are our initial tips for running a good event. We’ll be returning to this topic with even more advice, including getting sponsorship, finding speakers, and what to do when it all goes wrong.
And now we ask you – what tips do you have for people thinking of running an event?