Creating Your Own Event

In 2013 I Created CaboPress

A few years ago I wrote about the strategy behind my CaboPress conference. And then I reviewed the results of these strategies. Tonight I got home from running the first version of the Skip the Grind conference, and I thought I would share some thoughts on why I am in favor of you creating your own event.

First, let's get the questions out of the way?

  • Is creating your own event risky? Yes.
  • Will you be distracted from your core work by creating your own event? Yes.
  • When you create your own event, does it take a lot of work? Yes.

But is it worth it? Absolutely.

That's what I want to cover today.

Who Should Create Their Own Event?

Are you building a product in the WordPress space? Running a digital agency in the WordPress space? Serving those in the WordPress space? Any and all of you have an opportunity to get closer to your customers.

If you are running a product company, your customers might all love to attend a conference that brings them together and helps educate them to leverage your product more. They're often called user conferences, and they're not only for companies with thousands or tens of thousands of customers.

Service companies that work with agencies likely already know this – the leaders in digital agencies can feel pretty alone in the roles they have. And bringing them together can be a way of helping them from both a learning and social perspective.

Why Should you Create Your Own Event?

I crafted the Skip the Grind conference in 2019 for 2020. Then I pushed it to 2021. That's a long time to be nervous about a new conference. But the thing I kept telling myself was that taking (intelligent) risks has always been part of my DNA, even when I get worried.

The name of the game is experimentation.

You can tell yourself something won't work a million times. But you don't know if it will or not until you actually do it.

[Tweet “Nothing is as risky, or as helpful, as learning to make bets on yourself.”]

The benefits of creating your own event are plentiful.

  1. You can create the dynamics – everything from where, when, how many, etc.
  2. By bringing people together, you create shared meaning and memories.
  3. There's always the network effect – and that may be impact enough.
  4. If it works, it can be game-changing for your attendees.

But the best reason to create your own event is that it develops your “experimentation” muscles. And nothing is as risky, or as helpful, as learning to make bets on yourself.

My New Conference – Skip the Grind

For Skip the Grind I had this idea that I could teach people a few frameworks a day, for 3 days, have them leverage them for their own work, and then circle back for group brainstorming.

If it worked out, not only would I be helping business owners think about their business differently, while collecting feedback on my frameworks, but also I'd be giving them each an opportunity to have others help them think about things differently.

Think about those business owners and how much value they'd feel like they'd gotten if it went right. That's a powerful motivator.

And the good news is that it sounds like it worked.

Here are Six Tips for Creating Your Own Event

So let's say you wanted to create your own event. Here are six tips to help you.

Keep it small. I'm not just talking about the size of the event. I'm talking about the size of the effort, the size of the cost, and the size of the group. Small failures won't kill you. I rented a house instead of a big ballroom or a conference center.

Define a specific objective. The clearer you are about what your event is about, who it's for, and what they'll get from it, the better. That's hard to do with events that are talk-based, unless your objective is education. And I mean serious education – which requires scaffolding lessons so they build on each other.

Don't do it alone. I brought a friend with me who I knew would have no trouble telling me if something really wasn't working. Honest feedback is critical when you're creating something because not everyone will tell you the truth directly.

Bring something fresh to the table. I created CaboPress because I was tired with how most conferences are run. Doing only half a day of sessions, in the pool, really is different. Putting every single person in a “hot” seat several times a day was my new “fresh” thing for Skip the Grind, and it worked.

Just try to break even the first time. I normally tell you that you should make money on everything you do. And that's normally the case. But for first time events, I often try to get things right at the break-even spot. That can mean that when things go sideways the first year actually costs you money. But the point of keeping things at that break-even level is that you're not charging what you could, which keeps some of the expectations down.

Curate the attendees. Always have an application. Don't let just anyone attend your event. Ever. You're giving away control and allowing one bad apple to mess with your events. Instead, create an application and curate your attendee list.

The Bonus Tip

I'll end with one last bonus tip. Collect feedback. Not just at the end. The folks at Skip the Grind heard me ask, “is that helpful?” and, “does that work?” or, “does that make sense?” a lot.

Then, I asked them directly for feedback at the end. And invited them to write reviews and send them my way.

Feedback is the only way you can tweak and make your conference better. That's why CaboPress will have its 7th run in exactly one month – because I kept tweaking it year after year.