Launching public events is scary. You risk a lot – venue deposits, advertising costs, your reputation, and lost opportunity if some other project would have produced better results. Here’s how to plan profitable live training events that minimize risk and will guarantee you a successful event.
My first big public training event was in October 2006. It was a 5-day professional coaching training for ministry leaders. I still remember how nervous I was about clicking the “send” button on the email announcing it. The questions swirling around in my head were these:
- Would anyone be willing to pay to join my training?
- Is the price too high?
- What if only 3 people register? (That’s too few to hold the event.)
- My out-of-pocket costs to cancel the event were $3500, should I risk that?
When the first registration came in I was excited. Then the second. And the third. With a month to go, 10 people had already registered. Eighteen people joined that first training, flying in from as far as London, Melbourne and Japan.
Since then, I’ve held 55 week-long professional coaching training events around the world. I want to share with you 6 things I’ve learned along the way that will reduce your risk and your stress.
1. Start with a “Wow!” training product. Your training must produce and involuntary “Wow!” from your customer according to Michael Hyatt, the author of Platform. Address the burning issues your customers face. People will pay for training only if they believe it will meet their needs. “Someday” or “it would be nice” topics are much riskier than, “I’ve got to solve this problem now!” topics.
2. Eliminate financial risk by anchoring your event with a core group. Find an organization, company, or group that will commit (with dollars) to send 10 people to your training. I actually schedule the dates of events according to my anchor group’s schedule. These 10 participants should meet your break-even point. You are guaranteed not to lose money and there is now no risk of canceling the event. You can relax and focus on enrolling others into the training event.
3. Choose a location based on your customer’s travel flow. I think of locations as hubs. Where does your customer go to regularly or want to go to? For me, Seattle, Denver, Atlanta, Singapore, and Barcelona have been great training locations. My customers often have some other reason to go there that makes justifying travel expenses that much easier for them. Sometimes my “anchor groups” want to host the event at their facilities. This could be a good option if it’s a hub location.
4. Don’t pay large deposits for your training room. My customers are ministry leaders, so I use training rooms at churches, retreat centers, hotels, and even a monastery. Four things I do:
- Negotiate for little or no deposit and guaranteed participant numbers. Hotels and retreat centers particularly want a minimum guarantee of how many people will join. You have to pay for that minimum number even if only half that many show up. If I’m planning for 25 people to show up, I negotiate a minimum number of 15 or so.
- Separate housing from your event package. Housing exponentially adds to your administrative work, your risk with the hotel deposit, and jacks up the purchase price of your event. Include information about where participants can stay nearby.
- Choose a training room with outside windows. If I do multi-day events, this is a must for me. With each passing day the walls of the room seem to close in on us!
- Avoid paying for the food and the room. Hotels often charge a per-person rate for lunch and two snacks and give the training room for “free.” Other times, I find a cool place for the training and cater in food. Make sure you check that the location allows that. Be aware that catering means a lot more work for you. If you hunt around, you can find training locations that won’t cost you a lot. Remember people are paying for your content, not the location. Don’t overspend for a fancy place.
5. Don’t pay for advertising. Most paid advertising is a waste of money. Instead, use your own network. Email your customer list, write blog posts about your training topic and plug it in the post, and use social media. Then, look for where your customer goes for information and get the word out there. Write guest posts on other people’s blogs. List your event in online newsletters, etc. Your very best source of advertising is to your own customer email list. If you don’t already have one, develop it right away. Michael Hyatt explains how in Platform.
6. Use an automated registration system. When I started, people emailed me their registration and mailed checks as payments. Not anymore! Use a service like EventBrite.com to create an online registration and payment process. It’s easy and affordable. You don’t even have to be a registered business, any individual can use it. EventBrite becomes your administrative assistant for the event – even prepping name tag templates.
If you follow these six pointers you can hold public training events that minimize your risk and ensure that you will have a successful event. Your customers need the content that you have to offer. Now it’s time to offer it!
Question: What are your tips for planning awesome training events? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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