Your company may be putting on events in 2015 as part of its marketing strategy. It’s an opportunity to meet customers, share your products and services, offer hospitality and collect data about your audience.
Or your company may be sponsoring workshops, conferences, parties and open houses to reach well-established groups without the fuss of event planning.
What ensures a great event? What do you need to look for in your own events or ones you sponsor?
I’ve put on professional events for more than 10 years. It is a lot of work with no guarantees of success.
Follow these suggestions to ensure the biggest and best audience for your efforts …
• Focus on the attendees at all times. Seems simple enough, right? Have I given them enough information? Will this event make their lives better? Am I doing this for me or for them?
I have seen many events flounder because ego gets in the way. Even fancy catering sometimes gives the impression of “Look at how great we are” instead of “We want to take care of you.”
• A checklist of required information.
At the very least:
- Organizer (I hate trying to guess who is putting on an event, but sometimes it’s omitted.),
- Cost (never a fan of when organizers try to “hide” the cost on another page),
- Location, including street address, map and parking.
Including more information on this second list helps shoppers decide on buying tickets, even free ones:
- Speaker bio: Who is this person and why is he qualified to take an hour out of my busy day?
- Topic (Please, please make sure you have a tightly focused topic and that the speaker sticks to it.),
- Topic summary: What am I getting for my time and money?
- Food and drink (and if it’s free or not).
• Make it easy to register. Put the ticket form on the event page to collect the name, quantity, contact info and payment info.
I like to think I’m a bright guy, but I have been utterly defeated occasionally when trying to register for an event. Instead of getting a ticket, I walk away with frustration at the organizer.
• Show off your attendees. One of my favorite features in using the Eventbrite ticketing system is showing who has already bought tickets. Many organizers don’t know about this free option, but it gives additional encouragement for fence-sitters to go for it.
• Charge more for your tickets. You should provide true value to your attendees. And the ticket price should reflect that value. Don’t worry: Someone will complain about the cost no matter what you charge. I’ve put on events where tickets for similar events would cost 10 times more in other cities, and yet, it’s too expensive!!!
I make sure to show the value of attending and give limited opportunities for discounts and sales.
Undervaluing your event in ticket pricing shows a lack of commitment to your cause, and that can be fatal.
• Send a reminder email to your guests. First, you must nudge your busy audience to go. Not everyone keeps a calendar. Some people overbook their days. You absolutely must call attention to your event, especially if your guests bought their ticket weeks ago.
Second, you are building anticipation for your event. You want people excited about going. Just because they bought a ticket doesn’t mean they’ll use it — even Super Bowl tickets sit at home unused. Tell them what to expect and announce door prizes and last-minute additions.
Many details go into putting on great events. Proper marketing gives you a sizable advantage in a crowded marketplace.
Give your event every reason to succeed with these tips. They’ll bring the right audience and the maximum ROI for your efforts.
• • •
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The Birmingham Barons have never been more popular since moving back downtown.
Could a blog about them and other sports franchises be just as successful?
Five years ago, I suggested five topics for new blogs in Birmingham: history, classical music and opera, transportation, barbecue and hip hop.
I’ve seen a few food blogs come and go, but none focused on barbecue. My friends literally penned the book on “Alabama Barbecue” [aff. link] (though I wish they had done it independently of Alabama Media Group). And the Birmingham History Center blog ekes out eight or nine posts a year. I don’t know why it’s called 310 Pythian Place, but I’m sure a clever history joke is hiding in there somewhere.
Michael Huebner, most recently of the Alabama Media Group, started artsBham in November. Its coverage includes, but is not limited to, classical music and opera.
I believe these five topics would still make for great robust blogs, with weekly posts at a minimum. Monetization could come from sponsorship, events and other media (books, videos, television).
If you start blogging in 2015 and need a focus, allow me to suggest five more urgently needed blog topics for Birmingham …
• Let’s start with sports. A true fan and expert would have endless opportunities to write about the Barons, the Blitz (semi-pro basketball), Alabama Outlawz (minor league spring football), the Freedom (our 14th pro football team) and the Vulcans (rugby). Plus, UAB, Samford, Birmingham-Southern, Miles and Montevallo.
And the Magic City Classic, SEC Baseball Tournament, Regions Tradition at Shoal Creek, Mercedes Marathon, Labor Day Golden Classic, Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, Triumph Superbike Classic, Magic City Half Marathon, Vulcan Run, high school football and basketball, college track and field championships (SWAC, Southland, Sun Belt, Conference USA, Southern), men’s and women’s college basketball championships (Conference USA, SIAC) …
No Alabama. No Auburn. Just Birmingham sports.
• I personally love causes. In featuring them in a weekly spotlight on a previous site, I had nonprofit organizations fill out questionnaires to run as blog posts. I never ran out of charities and volunteer organizations to present to readers. (I could’ve put together 6 months’ worth of posts in advance without much effort.)
• Beer is still reaching its peak popularity in Birmingham, specifically craft beer. More events and fund-raisers take place at breweries, and the multiple tastings and festivals regularly sell out. Tell me about the best beers, the newest varieties, the elements of a good brew, the brewers, the retailers, how to pair it with different foods and what to make at home. Niche market with lots of passion and disposable income.
• I have revived my love of sharing Birmingham videos on my original blog. You could post a video a day featuring those shot in or about this city. You could even simply copy videos from my site. Sources for new videos include YouTube, Instagram, Vimeo, Facebook, Vine, TV and other news sites and suggestions from fans. Pair good video curation with pre-rolls and banner ads for instant monetization.
• A blog about UAB once actively existed in ILoveUAB.com. Students created and ran it, and it was a thing of beauty. After the founder graduated, the blog ground to a halt.
An independent news site about the University of Alabama at Birmingham could really grab the attention of those inside and outside the campus community. Topics could include research, jobs, events (concerts, games, talks, movies), medicine, construction, gossip, alumni, academics, students and Greek life. Plus, I hear football is a hot topic among Blazers these days …
I love these topics. I don’t love them enough to blog about them all year, but I do love them. I hope you’ll steal one of these 10 ideas and blog your way to success in 2015.
What blog ideas for Birmingham did I miss? Share in the comments!
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If you need blogging help beyond the topic, let’s chat …
Facebook communities can become powerful entities. Most of the time, they exist to keep people in touch or help with a short-term goal (event planning, fund-raising).
Two Birmingham Facebook groups have received media attention for their size and their accomplishments. One group started as a trading hub, the other as a cause.
1. Mountain Brook Trading has grown to nearly 55,000 members in a little over 2 years. It’s one of those trading groups where you can buy or sell items with neighbors, or have discussions about where to get your clothes dryer repaired.
Founder Laura Greene Silsbee has taken her closed (as in privacy, not defunct) Facebook group to two new places. The first one is a new online home at VarageSale, a platform better suited for large group interactions and commerce than Facebook. It has 21,000-plus members since opening in July.
The second one is a brick-and-mortar location in partnership with Cyd Quick Ruffino, providing a storefront for consignment sales. It opened earlier this month and received coverage on al.com.
It’s amazing to see a Facebook group turn into a full-fledged business for two entrepreneurs.
2. Save UAB Football sprang into action this month as the University of Alabama at Birmingham eliminated three athletic programs: bowling, rifle and football. With nearly 11,000 members, the closed (again, as in privacy) Facebook group has been a rallying point for students, employees, alumni and residents to fight back.
The UAB football movement has been an online juggernaut, with #FreeUAB becoming a trending hashtag worldwide in the first couple of days. The campus will be quiet for the 3-week semester break, especially after the raucous protests that greeted university president Dr. Ray Watts when he announced his decision 2 weeks ago.
The members of Save UAB Football have brainstormed tactics to win attention, recruit more followers and convince decision makers to restore the cut sports and fire Watts. The New York Times mentioned the group in one of its print/online stories.
It’s impressive to see thousands of strangers band together for a common cause.
I’ve managed my fair share of online communities over 20 years, some more successfully than others. What do you need to do to manage one successfully?
- Define the rules early on, and post them prominently. New members are always showing up, and this helps put everyone on equal footing.
- Do your job as administrator. That means weeding out spam, settling squabbles, encouraging participation and a million little tasks.
- Listen more than talk.
- Accept a group’s natural evolution. Members will leave, and some groups will wither.
Companies that create and grow powerful online communities accomplish goals they can’t do on their own. They stay connected with fans and critics. They collaborate rather than overrun. They empower others.
Join a Facebook group today to see these dynamics in action. The next community to change the world could be yours.
• • •
Need help with online communities?
Put me on your team today …
Often, I am asked about blogging. Specifically, “Why should I blog? I’m no one special.”
You’re not special, but you should blog. I’m no one special, and I blog a lot.
In November, I published 75 posts on five blogs. Four were auto-generated, and two were book chapter excerpts from authors in Birmingham (and I spent time on those long posts with light copyediting).
You don’t have to be special to blog. You just have to make the time to create something and muster up the courage to hit “Publish.” Virtually no one will see your post, and you will have put a little bit of yourself out into the world.
The challenge you face isn’t that you’re an amazing person or a boring person. The challenge is that you’re trying to convert a big nebulous thing like LIFE or VIEWPOINT (or COMPANY or BRAND) into a discrete unit called a blog post.
I don’t have that problem because I’ve been writing a long time for publications. So I’ve had lots of practice converting an EVENT or an INTERVIEW or a CONCEPT into units called articles. If I wrote them quickly and accurately, I might get paid more and have better opportunities to create more interesting articles.
You will not magically write a perfect blog post for your first shot. If it takes you an hour to write one post, it make take 10,000 posts to become an expert blogger.
I’ve got maybe 6,500 posts published in 9 years. So eventually, I’ll be an expert blogger.
I blogged about weightlifting and dieting for a couple of years on Project Bulk. On Day 1, I had zero knowledge about either subject. Zero. But after the first 6 months, fans would come up to me to talk about that one site. They were interested because I was open and passionate about learning more in these two areas.
A stranger at a tailgate party this past weekend knew me from my posts on Media of Birmingham; my last post there was a year ago. But he remembered because he’s interested in local journalism and was kind enough to read my stuff. That is high praise in my book.
You can create those memorable engaging stories for your company. (And yes, your company isn’t special either.) Don’t plan it to death: Create something, hit “Publish,” repeat.
You absolutely do not have to be special to blog. But blogging again and again can actually make you special.
• • •
Don’t wait for Santa to bring you a new blog.
Contact me to get started blogging today.
I hope you’re getting ready for a day of fun and relaxation and maybe even a little reflection. And eating, of course, mustn’t forget the eating.
I’m thankful every day for good health and many opportunities. Allow me to share a few specifics from my long list of blessings.
- I’m thankful for my clients, sponsors, supporters and cheerleaders. You bring me new challenges and new ways to serve.
- I’m thankful to run my own business. It has taught me so many lessons from top to bottom and put my energy and my strategic thinking to the test.
- I’m thankful to have ideas all the time. I give most away, and make some money on the rest.
- I’m thankful for the honest and wise counsel of friends. And doubly thankful that I listen carefully when they speak.
- I’m thankful for the gift of self-doubt. It has kept me honest with myself and humble (mostly).
- I’m thankful for having traveled far and wide this year to give talks and meet people.
- I’m thankful for being able to curb my sharp tongue, but also being able to speak up when few others will.
- I’m thankful for my daily blogging, a never-ending opportunity to be creative and to improve as a writer and a communicator.
Take a moment to reflect on what you’re grateful for, and share it in the comments, please.
Video: “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are,” a TED Talk from Amy Cuddy
Don’t fake it till you make it. Fake it till you become it.
That’s the surprising advice social psychologist Amy Cuddy, at left, gives in her 2012 TED Talk. She explains how “power poses” can inspire confidence before speeches, job interviews and other stressful situations.
I gave similar advice in one recent stress-inducing encounter.
Friday, I had to conduct a mock college admissions interview with a local high school junior. This was part of a high school speech class assignment. She admitted afterward that she was nervous, but I didn’t see (or hear) it during our 25-minute session.
I advised her to speak up. I could hear her OK, but I suggested that speaking in a louder, definitive tone would boost her confidence. I told her to try it out as often as possible: one on one, in groups, in class.
I’ve been working on my posture for 2 years, so I understand how this change in personal projection can affect others.
We can all do little things to both improve our communication and our presence. Cuddy’s talk goes a step beyond looking the part by explaining the science behind how these poses make us bolder. We’re not only changing others’ minds — we’re changing our own.
Watch the video, and try out the poses to see how they affect you.
You may become more powerful than you ever realized, even if you started out faking it.
• • •
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I gave the lunch keynote at the Alabama Media Professionals’ inaugural conference, Navigating Today’s Media, last week. My topic was “Why the collapse of the Birmingham media ecosystem is a good thing.”
If you missed it, check out the tweets from my standing-room-only presentation.
My thanks to the attendees and the organizers for a fine event!
Bill Ledbetter, tweeting my presentation, won a prize for his update!
• • •
Need a keynote presenter who gets people talking?
Contact me today.
Author and entrepreneur Ramit Sethi has a great system for email marketing. He sat down with Tim Ferriss for a two-part 2-hour podcast recently.
Listen to his ideas and tips on not only putting the right message in the email, but also reading every reply (in the thousands) and responding.
(That conversation starts around the 35-minute mark.)
• • •
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for more free tips and links on better communication …
I spoke at Southwired (formerly Digital Atlanta) on curation. The slides from “Content Curation for Smarties: Know Everything All the Time” are available on this site.
See all the great tweets from attendees at my hourlong presentation.
I’m honored to be a keynote speaker at the Alabama Media Professionals’ conference later this month.
Navigating Today’s Media will have me and ABC 33/40 anchor Pam Huff as keynoters at its daylong event on Oct. 23 at Innovation Depot in downtown Birmingham. My lunchtime talk is titled “Why the Birmingham Media Ecosystem Collapse is a Good Thing,” and I’ll have quite a bit to cover in those 30 minutes.
The official description:
Poor coverage. Clickbait. A drought in a society drowning in information. Birmingham is at the forefront of a disturbing trend: media collapse. The city loses with the consolidation of corporate owners, the dumbing down of journalists and the resulting chaos.
Consultant and veteran journalist Wade Kwon sees opportunities amid the ruins, for freelancers, for PR professionals, for brand managers. Discover the hidden benefit to media implosion in his keynote presentation.
The conference is $85, and tickets are available online.
I hope you’ll join us for a provocative and meaty look at local media situation and how communications professionals can benefit.
• • •
Need a speaker for your upcoming event?
Let’s work together …
Lead generation can be tricky for companies, whether they’re brick-and-mortar entities or online only.
In this video, Diana Urban (@DianaUrban, formerly at HubSpot) and Laura Maiurano (@lauramaiurano at Bitly) share their steps on building better landing pages to generate leads. They explain how to write the headlines, how to keep the copy short, how to select the right image and button and more.
The webinar hosts emphasize testing different landing pages to achieve optimal signup rates. The more visitors taking your offer, the more leads to contact. (They even explain how to tweak your page if you have too many leads.)
Note: The audio cuts out a few times during the video.
Watch the presentation and get to work on your offers, your pages and your sales.
• • •
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Cutting-edge communication involves a lot of gibberish. Terms I may know that you may not know. Terms I may not know but use anyway.
Terms used by the media. Terms used by competitors. Terms thrown about with little understanding and exaggerated importance.
It’s my responsibility to use easy-to-understand language and to explain terminology when asked. I should make ideas and processes as clear and digestible as possible.
I remember the first time I heard the phrase “inside baseball” in a newsroom and had no idea what it meant. I asked, because I’d rather be temporarily seen as ignorant than permanently actually ignorant.
(Wikipedia: “Inside baseball refers to a detail-oriented approach to the minutiae of a subject, which in turn requires such a specific knowledge about what is being discussed that the nuances are not understood or appreciated by outsiders.”)
(And yes, at the time I asked, Googling wasn’t a thing.)
I do public speaking regularly, and I encourage audiences to ask questions whenever I present a concept that is unfamiliar or poorly defined. People won’t always raise their hands, and I don’t blame them. I anticipate as best as I can.
Any expert in any industry knows their jargon, but their audience may or may not. SEO, retweet, trackback, moderation, affiliate marketing, curation, targeting, plugin — all terms I use and all terms I may need to explain when used.
The challenge for any client is making informed decisions. They are no more able to pick the right marketer than I am at picking the best mechanic. I can take my car to different shops, receive different estimates and review different testimonials. In the end, I’m taking a leap of faith in who will actually repair my vehicle properly and cheaply.
This blog is a way I can overcome the problem of gibberish. Answering questions from any channel (email, comments, social media, phone, raised hand) is another way.
We can all improve in our communication, and minimizing gibberish is an important step.
• • •
Need help understanding communications concepts?
Ask me today …
Before you start blogging, you need a goal. The best goals are measurable over a period of time.
(So “Improve customer satisfaction rate determined by surveys from 60 percent satisfied to 70 percent satisfied within 3 months” is better than “Improve customer service.”)
I have suggestions for goals …
- Show expertise.
- Answer customer questions.
- Show products, including features, demonstrations, assembly and uses.
- Build a mailing list.
- Sell products.
- Establish a brand and corporate values.
- Humanize a company.
- Foster community outreach.
- Go behind the scenes.
- Help people.
- Collect customer leads.
- Conduct market research.
- Improve SEO.
- Show off company through rich media, including photos, videos, charts, infographics and slides.
- Promote events.
- Inspire people.
- Experiment and test hypotheses.
- Provide public accountability.
- Foster community discussion.
- Talk with people.
- Increase revenue.
- Promote services.
- Manage crises.
- Recruit talent.
- Provide shareable content.
- Have a blog.
Just kidding about that last one. But for most of you, it is sadly accurate.
Define your goal so your blog is focused and moves your business forward.
What did I forget? Let me know in the comments, please.