Speaking with Purpose 2017 | Reflections On Running A Successful Conference

Learnings from developing / delivering an effective and profitable conference.

Last week, over 150 people attended Speaking With Purpose, a one day conference for those looking to increase their public speaking confidence and hungry to develop their storytelling techniques.

This was my first independently-produced, medium-sized, personally-funded event, with folks attending from Tuaranga, Christchurch, Queenstown, Auckland, Palmerston North, Dunedin and all over the Wellington region.

Here’s what I learned:

Pay Your Speakers

#SWP17 speakers

In NZ, paying conference speakers for their time / talent is not commonplace (unless you’re bringing someone in from overseas it seems).

Committing beyond the usual “we could maybe find a couple hundred bucks for your time” ensured there’s not only an expectation of quality but also a contractual effort from your deliverers. What better way to contribute towards building a trend for valuing this talent and skill.

Thank you again Ali, Emma, Glenis, Michelle, Sarb.

DIY Rules

swp brochure

I opted to run the whole show myself. Apart from paying a few friends on the day for their time to manage operations, I oversaw and did everything, including:

  • design and copy for the website
  • all email newsletters and attendees communication
  • the programme design (see above) plus badge design (see below in ‘lessons’)
  • venue discussions, deliberations, decisions etc

I didn’t use a ticketing service and invoiced everyone individually just to see if it could be done (both saving myself some money in ticketing fees and not passing those costs on to attendees plus allowing for a more personal touch). The seven day payment policy for attendees once they registered (which most stuck to) gave me the working capital which enabled quick payment of the 50% venue deposit (every ticketing service keeps the money till after the event you see).

A lot of the above could’ve been outsourced although it was just as simple for me to do than find someone, explain my expectations and follow up with it all.

Offers & Freebies

20% off

I experimented with the above offer although it yielded only four sales (the Early Bird rate sold out in a couple of weeks in January and 25s-and-under rate a few weeks before the event).

Finding and gifting on freebies to those in the community who do good things already, drove more traffic and sales than any other strategy as they positively shared the event details with their audience.

Was surprised with the small amount of creative pitches received for those who couldn’t afford the attendee rate (got three, reduced rated two). Although a few offered their services for the cost of attending which is an easy yes. Thanks to Francesca for doing the video above, Jane for looking after social, and Trent for taking some wicked pics.