Special Midweek Bonus Episode. TCCIRL is just around the corner, so we invited Event Strategist, Elaine Wellman, to join us for the 176th episode of The Copywriter Club Podcast. When we first published the podcast, we regularly posted two episodes a week. Now that’s a rarity… thanks to the behind the scenes info that Elaine shares about TCCIRL, we didn’t want to wait to publish this on. We talked to Elaine about:
• the path she followed from public relations to coaching to event management
• how she landed her first solo event project and launched her business
• the mindset shifts needed to recognize when business isn’t working
• when you need to “go with the flow” at events and when you shouldn’t
• the different ways you can approach events (it doesn’t have to be big)
• doing the things in your business that others won’t do because they’re hard
• the truth about The Copywriter Club In Real Life
• the extra things that are truly unique about TCCIRL
• the stuff Elaine thinks we should be doing differently
• the difference between a great event and one that underwhelms
• how to get the right people to attend an event
• how to handle the stress of hosting or attending an event
• when you need to consider getting an event coordinator to help
• how to know whether the event coordinator you’re considering is the right one
• the food that VIP ticket holders will get to “experience”
This one is a fun behind-the-scenes discussion of the planning of TCCIRL and the importance of events—you won’t want to miss it. Click the play button below, or scroll down for a full transcript. Or subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher so you never miss an episode.
The people and stuff we mentioned on the show:TCCIRL Copywriting Event
Why Events are Rocket Fuel for Your Business
The Event Planning PDF
The Event Retreat Leaders Lounge
The Copywriter Club Facebook Group
The Copywriter Underground
Rob: This episode is brought to you by The Copywriter Club In Real Life, our live event in San Diego, March 12th through 14th. Get your tickets now at thecopywriterclub.com/tccirl.
Kira: What if you could hang out with seriously talented copywriters and other experts, ask them about their successes and failures, their work processes and their habit, then steal an idea or two to inspire your own work? That’s what Rob and I do every week at The Copywriter Club Podcast.
Rob: You’re invited to join the club for episode 176 as we chat with our Event Planner for TCCIRL, Elaine Wellman, about planning events of all sizes, why it can be a good idea to work with an event planner, why some events are life changing while others are kind of blah, and how events can deepen client connections.
Kira: Welcome Elaine.
Rob: Hey Elaine.
Elaine: Hey you guys, been so long since we talked yesterday or maybe…
Rob: All we do is talk to you lately. We are in the throes of planning a pretty big event with you.
Kira: Yes, we are a month away, as Elaine likes to remind us. It stresses me out a little bit to think about it, but Elaine, we met you three years ago before our first event in New York City. Prerna Malik had introduced us and I think we were, I remember we were halfway through the planning process when we were just like, ‘Oh, we need help.’ And luckily, we met you and you were able to swoop in and help us produce the event, the first event and make it a success. So, you’ve been integral to the process and you’ve also seen how the event has evolved. We’re going to get into all of that. But let’s just first start with your story. How did you get into this business? How did you end up as an event strategist and planner?
Elaine: It wasn’t really by design. I guess I’ll try to give you the short version here because we have a lot to talk about. But I majored in college in communications and went into public relations. And some of your copywriters might be able to relate to the PR industry. I don’t know, but it is a huge burnout job for sure. I ended up at an agency, a really small company that morphed from PR to doing a lot of events. And in public relations, the area that I was in, I did events for my clients, but my major focus was on getting publicity for them. And I always liked events because they’re really tangible when you’re working on them. It’s something that you create and you see it and you bring it to life and then it ends unlike getting publicity, which is this unending, everlasting project.
So, I always liked events. And then the company I worked for just morphed into focusing on events, getting a lot of event clients, it was pretty unique. The owner is French and we got all these French companies that were doing events in New York and ended up doing a lot of trade shows, really small boutique trade shows, a little bit upscale, which was great training grounds because in a trade show, there’re so many audiences. There’s the attendees, the visitors, my own client, the trade show owner, the speakers, the exhibitor. I mean, there’s just a lot of different audiences. So that was really great training ground and one of the big clients did… their big show was in Monaco. So, for like 10 years, I went to Monaco every year on a business trip. So that was really great.
And along the way, I actually got certified as a coach and floundered around in what area I was going to specialize in with my coaching business and eventually put it all together and came back to what I can do with my eyes closed, which is events. And then switched up my coaching business to focus on events and retreats and eventually brought the coaching back in to help people DIY their event if they’re not really ready yet to invest in higher level done for you support like you guys do. So, then I work with people in that way through my group program.
Rob: The French company you worked at, that was Publicist, right?
Elaine: Actually, no. I did work at Publicist-
Rob: Because I was going to say, we found this connection that you and I had both worked at Publicist.
Elaine: We did and that was the major burnout. Oh my God.
Rob: Right. For me too.
Elaine: Publicist bought a PR agency that I was working for that I was VP of the consumer group and there was the big grip in the key to why they bought it. I made the most money that year in corporate that they bought the company and it was like the worst year of my work life at the same time.
Rob: Interesting. I wouldn’t describe my experience as awful when I was at Publicist, but it was a lot of work. I mean, it was definitely the kind of thing that you can burn out from. So jumping forward then, that first client that you did on your own, tell us about how that project came about as you are branching out onto your own, you’re not planning events with the company anymore, but doing your own thing.
Elaine: Oh, that’s interesting. I was working still part-time for that small event company and working on my coaching business, which, that went through a lot of changes. At first, I was working on happiness because I had gotten over my own depression and then I switched that wording, hello copywriters, to mindset because that seemed to resonate more. And then I eventually was like, ‘Oh, I have all this marketing background, let me do mindset and marketing.’ But I was really never able to get that coaching business going. I think a lot of it was my own mindset crap. So one day in the mastermind group I was in, I basically surrendered my business and I was like, oh my God, it’s like you’re in the Facebook group getting ready for your mindset call.
What’s working, what’s not? And I’m writing, my business is not working. Oh my God, am I going to say this out loud? And I did. And a couple of weeks later, my coach said, ‘I got a download in yoga, I’m going to call you.’ And she said, ‘I know you probably don’t really want to do events, but I’m getting proposals for an event this summer. Do you want to get me a proposal?’ And I did. And then the next thing she did was a retreat in Costa Rica. I’m like, ‘Well, yeah, that’s really fun.’ And so I just sat back for a little while and I ended up getting on her team and doing various things on her team, including several events and retreats and some other projects still working part-time.
And after about a year of doing that, I was like, ‘Okay, yeah, this is where I want to put my stake in the ground. I’m loving the event and retreat work.’
Kira: And how can we deal with the mindset piece of it because we’re talking about mindset here when you are pivoting and it is hard to realize my business isn’t working, something’s not right. Or maybe I’m just not into it. How do you recommend copywriters handle that when that happens so that it doesn’t feel like a failure, but it just feels like a next step and you handle it with more grace rather than just pushing back from it?
Elaine: Well, I love what you said, Kira, because it’s so easy for us to beat ourselves up and we’re such a success driven society and what that means and all that. But everything does lead us to where we got. I mean, if I hadn’t had been burnt out at Publicist, I wouldn’t have gotten into events in the first place. You know what I mean? So, even though that was a horrible year of my life, if that didn’t happen, I would be in a totally different place. I mean, it’s definitely real and it’s definitely challenging, but I think being gentle with yourself is really important and giving yourself some space, which is what I did.
Like I said, I mean, I did have a part-time job still so I had some money coming in, but once I surrendered that business, I was like, ‘I don’t have to figure this out today or this month,’ because now I was working on my coach’s team and with a part-time job and I was like, ‘Let me just sit here.’ And I sat there for like a year. And then I said, ‘Yeah, this is right for me.’ So give yourself space to have it work out and not feel like you have to figure it out. I think we get in trouble too when we’re like, ‘I have to figure this out,’ as opposed to really tapping into your heart and see what the universe offers you too, what’s it going to bring you.
Rob: I like that. And it feels like the same thing happens when somebody decides, well, maybe I need to do an event. It feels like that’s what happened when we decided to do our first event. It came together on its own. And so maybe we could talk just a little bit about how do you take that same, go with the flow, let the things happen, but apply it to the idea that maybe you want to hold an event for your small group or for a large group. How do we apply that so that we can make sure… Does this question make sense? Maybe it doesn’t even make sense.
Kira: It’s a smooth transition, Rob.
Rob: How can we apply that so that our first event is actually a success?
Elaine: I can work with that, Rob.
Rob: I should learn how to ask questions, it’s many episodes.
Elaine: I would say there’s an area to apply it and an area not to apply it. Okay? Don’t apply that, go with the flow to the planning, which you guys probably would agree with, but do apply that to what actually happens when you’re there because you can have everything scripted to the minutia detail, to the second and everything planned and it’s not going to go like that when it actually happens. There’s always something that happens. There’s crazy things that… some of my friends say I should write a book about all the crazy stuff I’ve seen. So that’s when you need to go with the flow is really when you are live.
I mean, definitely be prepared and be prepared for something to go wrong or be different and to be able to pivot. If it’s like your content isn’t landing or it’s over their heads and you need to back up and go deeper here and cut this out, that’s where you really need to be able to pivot and go with the flow.
Kira: Right. I love that. And I want to dig deeper into that. But first I feel like we should back up and just talk about… I think it’s easier for a copywriter listening to just be like, ‘Why do I even need to know about this or care? I’m not in the event business. I’m just trying to get my business going.’ So what would you say as far as what you’ve seen and how clients have scaled up their businesses and evolved their businesses using events? Why are events important to a lot of business owners, including copywriters?
Elaine: And we’ll talk about some good copy. There was an article in Entrepreneur, I think it was in 2018 now in Entrepreneur Magazine. And the title of the article was ‘why live events are rocket fuel for your business.’
Elaine: I don’t even need to say more than that really. Right? And what the article did was they interviewed a bunch of CMOs at big top companies, but it really relates to smaller businesses like we have. And those big companies are investing more in live events and putting more of their marketing budget to live events because they’re not getting the return on investment at the same level with digital and online. I mean, online is great, technology is great, but it’s not the same as being in the room face to face, belly to belly, heart to heart with your clients and potential clients. And I’m sure that’s one reason you guys do it because the community you have is so amazing.
So if it’s working for the smaller companies, it can work for us too. And that’s why people should think about it. I mean, there’s no… talk about building know, like, and trust. If you’re in the room together, you are really able to build the know, like, and trust.
Rob: So I can imagine that somebody is listening thinking there’s no way I’m doing an event and they may even have in mind these huge events or even a smaller event like ours, which isn’t huge, but it’s not tiny. For a first event, if a copywriter is thinking, okay, well, maybe I should explore an event and get a couple of clients in the room, what are the options? What kinds of things can you do so that you can pull off that connection building experience?
Elaine: I’m really glad you asked me that, Rob, because I think a lot of people do think it’s got to be this big production with tons of things happening, and it can be a two hour workshop at a coworking space. I mean, I’m not opposed… I don’t know if this works for your listeners or not, but I’m not opposed to people doing stuff in their living room if they have the space. I mean, that might be more like a life coaching kind of thing or a vision board workshop or something. But you can do something, you might be able to get a free room at the library or at the Chamber of Commerce or something like that.
So you can definitely start small and just think about what you’re going to be able to do for your people. I see this kind of like we do it with sales, when you think that you’re selling something to somebody, it can feel icky. But when you think about how you’re able to serve and help as opposed to selling, or serve and help live and in person, that helps with the mindset piece I think.
Rob: Okay. So the serve and help part is really important and my next question then is, okay, let’s say I do want to do some kind of an event. I’m probably thinking it’s going to be smaller, a workshop or that kind of a thing. What are the things that I need to consider or put in place so that I make sure that the content or the experience is going to serve and help the people that I’m going to invite?
Elaine: Well, here is a newsflash for everybody that will probably make you guys laugh. Everybody’s default is too much content, you don’t need it.
Rob: [crosstalk 00:15:30] think about that.
Kira: Are you just talking to us, Elaine? This is for us. You know our weakness.
Elaine: But with you guys, I know it comes from [crosstalk 00:15:41]
Kira: It’s intentional.
Elaine: Yes. It is.
Kira: It’s intentional.
Elaine: We’ll get more into that when we talk about TCC. But everybody’s default… and this goes for what we do online too a lot of times, is to just put in too much content and you don’t need to do that. In fact, the first time I held an event for myself, I was so glad I did this. It was like a full day workshop and the night before I went through all the sections and looked at what can I cut out if I am running behind time? And I don’t have to stand there at the front of the room like, ‘Oh my God, what do I cut out?’ I just knew, and I did cut a section out and I was able to do that quickly and smartly and intentionally without it messing up the flow of the event or changing the experience really for the people.
So one thing is you don’t need as much content as you think. I would also say, like I mentioned before, you really have to let go of perfectionism. Everything doesn’t have to be perfect. People are going to remember the connection that you create and the experience that you provide. At the same time as that comes out of my mouth, I’m also thinking about when I’ve been at an event and then the coffee’s not out or something that really annoys me. So do try to pay attention to details at the same time and make sure that it’s as comfortable as possible as it can be for your attendees.
Kira: Okay. And I just going to also add, we’re talking about why copywriters should care about events and at least explore it as an option. A big part of our success with The Copywriter Club has been because of the in-person component and helped our brand evolve and helped the community component. I think it’s mostly because when you plan an event, you’re doing what others won’t do. I know James Wedmore talks a lot about that. He’s like, ‘I always think about doing the things in my business that the majority of my competitors won’t ever do because it’s too hard or it’s too much of an investment or it’s too much of a risk or it’s just too difficult.’ And so I think that’s part of what Rob and I talk about often. It’s just like, is this worth doing?
And it always is, but the reason why it’s worth doing also is because a lot of other people won’t do it. And then also, just like for a lot of copywriters, so many copywriters in our community want to speak on stage and talk about it. And it’s almost like their hidden desire that they don’t want to share, but it’s in them. And so for a lot of copywriters who aren’t necessarily getting invites to speak on stage or to run workshops, you can plan your own. If you aren’t getting the invites, then set up your own. So if it is even on a smaller scale and you’re not even ready to work with someone like Elaine, you could start planning your own so that you can step into that spotlight and grab the mic even if you aren’t getting those invites yet.
So, I think there are lots of reasons to start thinking about it for copywriters. Beyond that, Elaine, I’d love to hear from you and dig more into TCC In Real Life because it is coming up and you’ve seen it evolve. I would love to just hear from you, your perspective on how it’s evolved over the last few years and what some of our challenges have been and then what some of our strengths are as far as the event goes. And we can be real. You don’t have to hold back. We can talk about the hard parts and some of our potential weaknesses, right? Because we do add a ton of content. It’s intentional, but in many ways people would look at that and say that doesn’t work well. For us, we make it work. But what else would you share about our event?
Elaine: Well, we definitely do have a jam packed schedule and we do make it work. And I think that one of the challenges you guys have really is that you are so generous and over-giving. So the event is full of content and is full of special activities and special surprises. And I’m the one going like, ‘How does that fit into the budget?’ I say, ‘Are you sure you need to do that?’ And that’s your generosity. I mean, first of all, my favorite thing about TCCIRL is really the community. I mean, you guys have such an amazing community. I just love it and met so many amazing copywriters that I look forward to seeing again at this year’s event.
I think that you guys have stayed true to your original vision if I go back to year one, which I came in later than you even said in your work here. It was like, I think like six or eight weeks before and you guys [crosstalk 00:20:52]. But you guys did have a clear vision from the start. And I think that that vision has stayed pretty consistent and it’s just expanded and grown. That’s how I see it. But you definitely add some fun activities and surprises. So even though we have two full days of speakers, it’s not an event where you’re just sitting in a conference room for two days and that’s it.
And even with the conference room, when I say that I picture that windowless generic yucky conference room.
Kira: Oh, awful.
Elaine: But we’ve also been able to find I think really cool venues even though they are hotel ballrooms that work with your brand and they’re fun and quirky in some way and that really is an extension of the brand and the experience I think too. And I don’t know if I answered everything, feel free to ask me whatever.
Kira: I wanted you to insult us more and tell us of bad things we’re doing. You are actually really nice.
Rob: Yeah, we’ll get to that. But you tease some of these extra things that we do and we probably should mention what some of them are. So one of the things that I… at least negative experiences that I’ve had at conferences that I’ve been to is when you go and you don’t actually know anybody there or you might know of somebody but you’re not really close personal friends. And so you end up spending a day or two alone and that can ruin the conference or if it doesn’t ruin the conference, the content is still good and you’re still learning, but it’s not a great experience.
And so we have done things like organizing dinners for anybody who wants to go out to dinner. They pay their own way. But we put everybody in a group with say six to eight other people and oftentimes one of the speakers and they organize that thing and they go and it’s a way to create community and to meet new people, share experiences, that has resulted in not just friendship at the event, but people who have gotten to know each other over time, they share leads. There may even be a partnership of some sort that comes from those kinds of things. And this year we’re not only doing it for one of the dinners, but we’re also going to organize those groups for one of the lunches.
And so those kinds of things happen at our event. And I think there may be other events that do something like that. But I think it’s unique for our space.
Kira: No. I don’t think so. I don’t think other events do it because it’s a pain to do. I mean really, we take everyone’s interest if they want to participate.
Siri: I’m not sure I understand.
Rob: Sorry. That’s Rob’s watch. Oh gosh.
Kira: Great. But yeah, I don’t think other do it because it’s… again, it’s like it’s not easy and it’s a pain to do it because we take everyone’s preferences as far as like who do they want to hang out at the event with, what type of copy do they write? And we take that information and then we curate it and put people in specific groups based off their preferences. So a lot of time goes into it and it’s a little bit nutty but it pays off. And I know for a fact other events don’t do that. And it goes back to, Rob, what you were saying about showing up at an event and not knowing anyone. I think another thing that happens at events I go to is that I go to an event and I know a couple of people and I end up hanging out with them most of the time.
And I like those people and yeah, I could walk up to strangers, if it’s on me, I could walk up to strangers and say hi, and sometimes I do that, but I feel like it’s the event host’s job to introduce people. That’s the point of the event so that you can meet new people and you’re not hanging out with the same five people over three days. So that’s what we do try to do knowing that part of it is up to the attendee to reach out to new people. But part of it is our job to facilitate that type of networking.
Elaine: I think that this is truly what makes this event unique for sure. And I was actually just talking to a friend yesterday who had been to an event, a coaching event that we know the coach. I’ve been to the event in the past. She knew some people there, but she ended up having lunch by herself for two days because even the people she knew were… they were really cliquey and she was like, yeah, finally the last day I was like, ‘I don’t have anybody to go to dinner with. Can I go with you guys?’ And that can easily, easily happen. And you guys just really truly, I think care so much about your community and the people that come and what people walk away with from this experience and you just go above and beyond.
And I’m not saying that because you guys are my clients, but I really do think that that is a huge thing that makes this event different and special.
Rob: One of the things that I’ve heard people say oftentimes when you go to events, that magic doesn’t really happen during the presentations or in the conference room itself, but it happens at the bar afterwards or in those discussions. And so we have tried to facilitate that a little bit. And we have a cocktail party at the end that has at least in the last two years, a group of people went from the cocktail party out to a couple of clubs, may have ended up at a deli in the middle of the night. Fun things happen. And again, that’s where relationships happen. And so we do try to facilitate that stuff.
So how about the flip side? What are the things we’re doing wrong, Elaine, and why should people say, ‘My gosh, there’s no way I would go to that conference because it’s so horrible to go’.
Kira: Yeah, let’s tell people why they shouldn’t go. Let’s convince people not to go now.
Elaine: What? No. I mean, I tell everybody this. You guys are my favorite clients. So if you want me to say bad things, it’s going to be [crosstalk 00:27:07].
Kira: That’s on the record now, Elaine. This is getting published.
Elaine: Now you’re going to hold it over me. I mean, the things that could be… I wouldn’t say wrong, and this is a common situation with event leaders. We can get excited about all those special add on things we can do or the extra stuff we could put in the gift bag. And it’s always important to go back and look at the budget and look at the purpose of the event and decide like, is this a shiny object? Do I need this? Is it really critical or serving? If I have the budget for it, fantastic, let’s do it. And if not, then let’s cut it. Because in the end, a lot of event leaders, it can be very common to put together maybe an amazing event, but not walk away with money in your pocket.
And it is a lot of work. So that’s why so many event leaders do have an offer at the end. It might not be a hard sell event, but there is a way for the attendees to continue working with the leader. And that’s an offer that you can make at an event to increase your profits from the event. And with that too, I go back to that serving is selling motto because some people get worried about making an offer, but you’d also don’t want to leave your people hanging. What if they want to go to the next step or go deeper or continue with you and you don’t make an offer, you don’t give them that opportunity. Right? So one thing with you guys, I think, yeah, is the budget and [crosstalk 00:29:00]-
Rob: We’re terrible at making money with events, that’s for sure.
Kira: That’s true. That’s safe to say. I don’t help in that department.
Elaine: Kira is like the, ‘We’re going to do this.’ And Rob’s the, wait, the budget person. And then me too, I’m sitting there. But you guys do, you have expanded your business though and filled up your programs through the event, right?
Rob: So it definitely… we talk a little bit about the Think Tank while we’re there and obviously people care about some of the things that we do while we’re there. And so while we have never made money with an event, it certainly has helped our business in other ways.
Elaine: Yeah. Because I’m flipping it now and I’m interviewing you for a second.
Kira: Let’s do it.
Elaine: Because there’s two models I see for events too and one is where the focus… what ROI do you want? And sometimes the ROI really is profit focused and sometimes it’s more like visibility or marketing focused where you are really up leveling your position in your market and how people see you. And I think that the event has done that for you guys. Has it not?
Rob: Yeah, I would agree. It has for sure. We don’t look at this as we’re going to walk away with our wallet stuffed full of money. It’s not a big moneymaker for us. In fact, we haven’t made money yet. We’ll be lucky to break even. But it definitely helps us in other ways. And not only that, but we have created the event that we want to attend. If we could only attend one event a year, it would be this one simply because the people we really enjoy hanging out with are there, the people that are on stage are people we want to learn from and people who can help us grow our businesses as well as the other people in our community. And so we have it for selfish reasons as much as any other.
Kira: We are quite selfish people. This is just the pretty… It’s just really for an excuse to throw a party with all of our friends and learn a little bit along the way. But I’d love to hear, Elaine, about the money side of it too because it is more taboo and I mean, we’re openly saying like, we haven’t made money on the event. But I’d love to know what you’ve seen industry-wide in different types of events… I guess more along the lines of our event size, around 150 people, 200 people. I mean, without naming names, but do you see events making a ton of money on average or most of them losing money and focus on the brand building or what do you see behind the scenes?
Elaine: I think mostly I see people doing events to fill their programs. And that can totally work and it might be events that are similar to yours, and maybe they’re three full days with far fewer speakers where the leader is doing most of the presentation with some other speakers involved, with some panels maybe and some other bells and whistles kind of activities, but really focused on the expertise of that coach. And then that leading into filling their mastermind or something like that. And that is a model that works when you do it right and you have the right audience and the right offer. That’s another thing with that kind of event.
If any copywriters are thinking about doing something like that, you have to make sure that the journey that you’re taking people on during the event, which is how I like to see it, it’s a journey that you’re taking them on, matches with the offer that you’re offering. I’ve been at events where there was a mismatch and the audience wasn’t matched to the level of the content, so the offer didn’t sell. The content and the offer were matched, but the audience wasn’t matched. So all three of those really have to be a good fit for that to work.
Rob: That makes sense. So can we talk maybe a little bit about the difference between an event that somebody walks away and says, ‘That was amazing. Maybe it helps me up level my business in some way or change my life in some way.’ Versus the event where you go and you leave and you think, eh, that didn’t help me that much. Is it content? Is it something else that makes an event actually amazing?
Elaine: I think there is tangibles and intangibles. Is that a word, intangibles? That go into that magic. I mean, if we look at a model that was popular in the past that is not as popular now, there used to be a lot of those conferences where it was 500 people or 1,000 people in the room and the leader is just spewing you intentionally to be overwhelmed with content so that you buy their stuff. But one of my friends says, ‘Buy my shit.’ So that you buy their shit. Because you just are so overwhelmed and confused. You don’t know what to do. And I think that that worked for a while and then everybody got on the authenticity bandwagon and people are hip to that game.
So I think there’s definitely a magical mix that I might not be able to express with a great event. But when people feel like they truly connected… I mean, really, let’s go to Brene Brown. Everybody wants to belong, right? And that’s one thing that’s so special about you guys because you really create that space where people get that sense of belonging. So when you have great content, inspiring content, content that leads people to take some action or think about their life differently or their business differently, mixed with that magical sense of belonging, I think that’s when people are really blown away.
Kira: I would love to hear about the branding component of this, which is woven into everything you’ve shared. And you mentioned it earlier, but how can we build our brand and weave it through our events, whether again, it’s a smaller retreat, maybe it’s our first event or a workshop or a larger event. What are the key components you’ve seen that are really important so that the event is an extension of your brand?
Elaine: I think this goes partly to budget. I mean, one thing is obvious pieces like we do with you guys with signage. And there are ways to create great signage very affordably. And so it can be the visual. And if you’re not there yet, then you can do without that. Because that can also be an area where people can spend when they don’t have the budget. You can do an event without signage. It’s okay. So there is the visual, which can include the venue. We mentioned a venue that’s on brand for you. It’s really great, especially when you’re getting more into retreats. If you can tie the local ambience, mythology, folklore of the area where you are in with what you’re teaching and have it support your teachings as opposed to going to some exotic, amazing destination and sitting in the conference room for two days and not do… it could be anywhere. Right?
A lot of people do that. It’s like why go there if you’re not going to experience and weave that into your material in a way that is supporting the teachings? Even your promotion, I got the email that you just sent out about puzzles and Barbies that related to the event and I loved it. And I think it really shows, again, it shows several things that we’ve talked about. It shows flowing in the moment because you’re talking about like, we plan all this stuff and we really don’t know what the heck’s going to happen until we get there. And the magic is when we’re all there together. But that is on brand for you guys, your whole messaging approach. That’s what’s coming to mind.
I don’t know if that was juicy enough, but…
Rob: I think that’s good. Let’s talk a little bit about getting the right people into the room. And I’m not necessarily talking about the speakers necessarily, but if I’m a copywriter and I’m thinking, okay, right, I’m listening to Rob and Kira, I think I will do some kind of an event. Maybe it’s a workshop or maybe it’s going to be some kind of a half day presentation on better copywriting or something for my clients. How do I get the right people in the room to listen to me who are going to be interested in what I have to say?
Elaine: Well, one thing I do advise people, just like with anything that you’re selling and maybe you’re doing a free event too, but let’s just use selling for the moment. With that, you have to have something to sell. In this case it would be your event and people to sell it to. Right? So you do need to have some level of community or base there to market it to begin with. And then after that you just have to ask. It’s so simple, but we all hate it. We would all love to be able to send out an email or two and sell at our event. And unless you’re somebody like Gabby Bernstein or something like that or Oprah, that ain’t going to happen probably.
And you have to put a promotional campaign in place and follow it and don’t give up. That’s a big mistake I see a lot of people make, and this relates to selling events and anything is that you don’t go to the finish line. And I encourage my clients to think about it like you are a professional athlete. The basketball team can be losing by 20 points with five seconds left and they don’t walk off the court. They play their hearts out till the end. And that’s the mindset that you need to embrace when you are promoting. You have to keep promoting, keep promoting. Remember people don’t see every post, they don’t read every email, they don’t see every Facebook live you do or whatever.
And personal reach outs are the best way to fill anything. Which again, we don’t want to hear that because we want to push the button and have it be magic. And if you even think about the huge coaches doing big events, a lot of them have people picking up the phone and calling their clients and potential customers saying, ‘Hey, did you get the invitation? Are you coming?’ So it’s not just the smaller guys that have to do that. The big superstars do that too. So it’s really just getting the word out every way that you can and inviting people to come.
Kira: I mean, that is the hardest part. It’s just filling the seat. And maybe it’s starting small if it’s your first event and doing something that is local and inviting local people. Because the hardest part is not just selling the ticket, you’re asking people to give time away from their families, time away from work, investments in flights. So that is a big ask. And it takes time to build that trust and sell those types of tickets. But you could start smaller again with a local event where you’re just pitching to local people and all they have to do is show up for an hour. It’s a lot easier to sell that.
Elaine: And I do want to touch on one other thing that Rob mentioned is getting the right people in the room because I think with that older model of like, let’s get a thousand people and overwhelm them so that they have to buy our thing. That was about the official phrase that we have in the event businesses, butts and seats. That was about getting as many butts in seats as possible. And as we have moved in business more towards authenticity, it’s about getting the right people in the room. Because like I mentioned earlier that you can have a room full but they’re not the right people. And if you’re trying to sell something, it’s not going to sell. Right? That mismatch.
So these days I’m less focused with my clients about filling every possible seat and more focused on getting the right people in the room. And sometimes that means you have to make sure that you’re not getting the wrong people in the room because the wrong people can also ruin the experience. And if you’re focused too much on filling the seat and so you’re inviting your downer friends to come to fill seats so it isn’t optic, those downer friends are going to bring the energy in the room down. So getting the right people is important.
Rob: I’m not bringing any downer friends.
Elaine: You better not, Rob.
Kira: I’ve done that before. I hosted an event and I invited my brother’s friend to bartend and he just ruined part of the event because he just got wasted and offended everybody at my event. So I learned the lesson the hard way. All right, so I’d love to hear more about the stress free part of what you do, which incorporates some of your coaching background. Can we talk about how to deal with events when things might be stressful or things go wrong or you’re in it from the perspective of a host unlike what Rob and I are about to step into, how to handle stress as a host, how to handle stress as a presenter, and how to handle stress as an attendee.
Because we have a lot of introverts in our audience and some of them don’t go to events very often and it can be anxiety ridden when you go to an event for the first time and not very often. So Elaine, could you speak to how to manage that kind of anxiety and stress from those three different perspectives?
Elaine: Okay. I’m going to back up and add one I think. And that is the planning phase. And really it’s all about being prepared and as we’ve mentioned, being flexible too, right? Planning can be overwhelming and I actually have a seven step planning cycle process that I take my clients through and I lead my group coaching clients through so that you know exactly what you need to focus on when. I mean, if you’ve never done this before, it’s just like, oh my God, there’s so much to do. Where do I start? So we go through this seven step process so that you know what you should focus on and anytime you get overwhelmed, you can just go look at this.
I have a PDF, if you want to give it to your folks, that’s cool, of the process. Because when you know what you need to do next, you can get out of overwhelm as opposed to just spending. And that is also where it does benefit you to get some sort of professional help if you can, because there are just so many things that you don’t know. You don’t know what you don’t know if you’ve never done an event before. And that’s what can end up costing you a lot of money later. And then as the host, I mean, as the host in the speaker, it’s probably pretty similar. First of all, you have to expect the unexpected.
Every time I told myself in my 20 year career that I’ve seen it all, something else happens and I’ve never seen it also, now I know I’ve never seen it all. I mean, last year a helicopter crashed onto a high-rise in Midtown Manhattan and I was supposed to be having an event that night in that building, which clearly we couldn’t get in. So you’ve just never seen everything. So that’s where when you’re live, letting go of that perfectionism really comes in and remembering your purpose and always connecting back into the purpose. And the purpose of your event isn’t that everything stays exactly on time and that every ounce of food that you give the attendees is perfect, and that this happens at this time or whatever.
It’s really about the experience that you’re creating. And if you get caught up in something that’s going wrong, that’s going to take you out of creating that great experience. Whereas if you can just flow with it, then… And you can even joke about it. It’s not like you have to hide it. If the AV goes out or the microphone goes out or whatever, just don’t panic and connect, connect in with your people and be ready to pivot. And I think that’s pretty similar for hosts and speakers. Now, it’s definitely going to be easier for the host to, if they do have some kind of support at the event. And it depends of course on the size of the event, but preferably you aren’t worried about the fact that the toilet paper ran out when you’re trying to [crosstalk 00:46:56] event.
Kira: Does that happen often?
Elaine: It can happen. I mean, I’m always checking on that and I’ll… for the trade shows, I would tell the porters to just bring a massive box of toilet paper and put it under the sink because you just don’t need to think about those little details when you are the leader if you’re able to have that support onsite. So I recommend everybody get support onsite if they can, even if it’s a little small thing. Again though, going back to who’s it for and whose it’s not for, make sure it’s not that drunk bartender guy friend, it’s somebody that is up for the job. Right?
So I think that applies for the host and speaker. And then as the attendee, it’s really great to set an intention before you go. Go with an open mind, be ready to meet people, step outside of your comfort zone and just be open to what can happen.
Rob: Can I ask, for the person who’s doing their first event, and obviously you want that support. Somebody who’s going to be able to maybe help, bring in lunch or make sure that the coffee’s there, whatever. At what point do you need to move from say, MVA or a friend who’s helping with that to an event planner? And what can somebody expect to pay for that basic support or that first event, what would it cost?
Elaine: Well, everybody wants an answer to that and it’s impossible to answer because there’re so many variables. Is it a two hour workshop? Is it a seven day retreat in Alaska? So the price really varies. I mean, one thing that you can do is you can go to my DIY program and you can… I teach everything that I can, possibly teach about how to do it yourself in my group program. And that’s just $1,000 or two. But you are DIY-ing it then, but with my help. It just really depends. So how do you know? I mean, people definitely I do think generally work up to being able to hire the event planner. I mean, you guys did, you started it all yourselves and then you were like, when you were in deep and you were like, ‘Oh my God, we need some help.’
And then every year we have expanded my role in the event to take more off your plate. Right? You can work your way up, starting yourself if you need to start there, and expanding your events as you go along. And when you get to the point where you love it in your heart and you know that the events are so important to you but you just hate aspects of it, that is a good way to know that it’s time to farm out some of it. If you have the budget, if you have the resources to hire out, it’s going to make your life way easier if you have a good event planner taking things off your plate. So I don’t think there’s one part answer to that, but hopefully that helps people.
Kira: And again, if I’m looking for someone to hire for my first event, what questions should I ask event planners when I’m interviewing them, especially if I’m not really ready to hire you, Elaine, who has a good reputation and who’s been recommended, I’m actually going after people that might be at a lower price point and I might not know them? What should you ask to vet them and make sure that they’re legit?
Elaine: I would definitely look at what types of events they’ve done in the past and talk… You can always ask for… it’s not referrals, recommendations. Talk to their former clients if you want to. You could ask them what type of experience they have doing the type of event that you’re doing. And I’ll give you one example here too that can be really important, I think for people in our types of businesses. I’ve heard horror stories of coaches, which I think is similar business to the copywriting people, who hired a wedding planner to do their event. And then when the coach was making a big offer in the room, that wedding planner was triggered by the dollars and freaked out on the event leader.
It doesn’t mean that every wedding planner shouldn’t do any other types of events, but I would think about that. Are they focused on one area? So maybe this is going to be a bit of a stretch. Also, there can be examples where you’re doing like woo-woo kind of stuff at your event and that can freak people out if they’re not familiar with that world. And that’s what makes me, I think unique in the event planner realm, because I am also a coach and I’ve been in the online marketing world, so I know how all of this works and I’ve been there and I’ve done that and I like the woo-woo stuff too.
So looking to see if you think that they’re a good match with what you’re doing and if you’re a good match personality wise. We met and we just clicked and we, I think adore each other. And so that’s why it works so smoothly for us. Sometimes there’s just a personality mismatch. So that would be where I’d start.
Kira: I would echo that. I think a personality match is really important because you’re going to spend a lot of time with your event planner and they are there to support you and help you. But if you don’t get along, that’s definitely a problem. And I remember even before we hired you, we were talking to someone else who… I was scared of her. She was [inaudible 00:53:08]. I couldn’t imagine working with her because I thought she was going to yell at me. So it does change the vibe.
Rob: But maybe we could use some more yelling. Maybe we need an event planner who yells at us a little bit more about the things we need to improve. Who knows?
Kira: Elaine has the right balance. You have the right balance of scolding us gently when we add another speaker, yet you do have this soothing stress-free vibe, especially when we’re at the event and freaking out. And that is so valuable that you don’t even think about how valuable it is until you’re in the event and Elaine is just calm and soothing and it gives you pep talks and all that. So it is really important to think about.
Elaine: Well, I’m happy to hear that. And Rob, you might’ve just given me permission to take it [crosstalk 00:53:56].
Rob: Let me have it. [crosstalk 00:53:56].
Elaine: Watch out what you ask for.
Kira: Just yell at Rob. Don’t yell at me. So my last question, I know we’re out of time, is we do have a VIP package this year and it’s something new that we’re trying. We’re excited about it. We have a great group of VIPs who have purchased it and part of what they get is this extra implementation day on the Saturday following the event and then they also get some other perks. But one of the biggest ones is this dinner event the night before the event kicks off. So it’s Wednesday evening. It’s a dinner with our speakers and our Think Tank Mastermind members. And we’re excited about it this year because again, we haven’t done it.
But Elaine, you actually flew to San Diego and were able to visit the restaurant and taste test the food. So could you just take a minute to just talk about the food at the restaurant and what you could experience if you do want to go VIP. Because Elaine came back and was just so impressed with the food. And I’m also hungry, so let’s just talk about the food at this restaurant.
Elaine: Well, and let’s put this on there too, which when I mentioned this on our meeting call yesterday, one of you were like, ‘Oh, and you’re in New York…’ Yeah, I’m in New York, you guys. So I’m used to having lots of food options and amazing food. And we found this restaurant to have this private dinner and we’re talking about menus. And then luckily I was in San Diego recently for another event that I did. And so I was able to go visit the restaurant. And it’s the best food I ever had in my life. I cannot wait to eat this food again next month with you guys. It’s Asian inspired, but it’s not… so it’s really flavorful and different, but it’s not super weird or anything. And I just can’t wait to eat it again.
Rob: You’re making me hungry now and [crosstalk 00:56:00] hours to lunch. I’m excited for that as well. And we should mention, if somebody is listening to this and they’re like, ‘Oh yeah, I definitely want that.’ We only have a few VIP tickets left. In fact, they may be gone by the time you listen to this. If they’re interested, they should jump into… And you earlier said you need to make the ask to get people to your event. And so we are officially inviting everybody who’s listening to this podcast right now to come to The Copywriter Club In Real Life, what we call TCCIRL, this March 12th through 14th in San Diego.
We have a negotiated deal with the hotel to save a little bit of money there and it’s just a fantastic event. And so we invite you to come and join us and really discover what that’s like. And this has been a great interview, a great time with you, Elaine. Tell us a little bit more where we can connect with you online if somebody wants to do an event or they want to explore their first event and maybe they want to get the PDF that you talked about. Where can they go?
Elaine: They can go to elainewellman.com. The PDF I talked about, they have to just hit me up because that’s not the freebie that I have on my website, but I’m happy to send the planning cycle if people let me know or I can… I don’t know if you link stuff up, I can give you the link.
Rob: We can definitely link to it in the show notes for sure.
Elaine: Okay. And I have a great Facebook group called The Event Retreat Leaders Lounge that is really hot and happening. And I do a lot of free trainings in there and I’m starting to have guest speakers in there. Maybe I’ll have you guys in there, that would be fun, after the event’s over of course. And so Facebook and my website are really the best ways to connect and people can message me on Facebook or send me an email and I’d love to connect and say hello when I see you on March 12th.
Kira: All right. Well, thank you Elaine for all of your help over the last few years and with this upcoming event. I know we’re in good hands. Even when I feel stressed out, I know we’re going to be in good shape with you by our side. And thank you for the conversation today.
Elaine: Thanks. It was really fun.
You’ve been listening to The Copywriter Club Podcast with Kira Hug and Rob Marsh. Music for the show is a clip from Gravity by Whitest Boy Alive available on iTunes. If you like what you’ve heard, you can help us spread the word by subscribing in iTunes and by leaving your review. For show notes, a full transcript and links to our free Facebook community, visit thecopywriterclub.com. We’ll see you next episode.
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