How do you connect with your audience with everything that is going on currently?
Maybe you have a brick and mortar store and aren't able to communicate with your customers as much, or you've been doing craft shows, but everything's getting canceled. In the midst of all of this, how do you show them love and serve them at a higher level?
It may seem difficult to connect with the world pivoting online but I want you to know hope is not lost. About a week ago, I had my first big virtual conference and it went so, so well! It was such an enlightening experience, and I realized that the tactics could be used in all kinds of business. The lessons learned and applied can work for whatever industry you're in, so I wanted to take a moment and share them with you.
My First Live Conference
In March of 2019, I did my first live, in-person conference with over three hundred people in attendance. It was amazing and such a life-changing experience for myself, my family, and all those in attendance.
I was so excited to gear up for the 2020 event and chose the last weekend in March. We ended up selling out of those first three hundred tickets within the weekend of releasing them and set out to find a bigger venue so we could add one hundred more. Those sold out too!
As we're going through February, we're starting to hear the buzz about the ‘Rona. We begin to see companies start to cancel their events and seeing responses from both ends of the spectrum. Some criticisms were for companies being weak and falling for the fluff on social media. Then other companies who decided to continue with events had criticism for them not taking care of their community.
At this point, I didn't know what to do. No one had been through this before. There was no system or standard of procedure in place. It was a difficult call. There was a little pushback from some, but most people were thankful not to have to make the decision themselves.
Let me say it was the learning experience I never knew I needed. A lot goes into hosting an event behind the scenes, and trying to get out of it was no easy feat. But that's a story for another time!
Taking The Next Steps Forward
Let's talk about doing hard things. Everything seems difficult if you've never done it before. I was totally nervous about moving forward.
Were we going to cancel and give everyone a refund? I've never done a virtual event of that magnitude, and it all seemed incredibly overwhelming. I decided to throw a free virtual mini-event to build confidence and see if I could really pull off a full-scale online conference.
Even after ten years in business, I still get scared. I get nervous, and I want you to know that feeling is completely normal. You'll feel that way anytime you do something new or anytime you grow. Because you've never done it before, it is uncomfortable. It's supposed to be that way. That's how it works. When you feel uncomfortable, recognize it, and then lean into it. Don't walk away from it.
The mini-event gave me the confidence boost I needed, but with the chaos surrounding the virus, I knew I needed to put that planning on the back burner. Instead, I focused on how I could show up for my people now as they were struggling with the day-to-day of maintaining of their businesses.
It wasn't until June that I revisited the idea of the virtual conference. I set a date for the beginning of August, which meant we had just two months to pull this all together.
An Epic Virtual Conference in the Making
My first thoughts were deciding what we could replicate from a live conference experience. I focused on the five senses. Sight and sound were easy-peasy. They would be watching and listening to the speakers, so I had that covered. But what about the others?
How do we hit all of those senses virtually just as we do in a live setting? I needed to figure out how to incorporate that type of engagement and get it into someone's home. I came up with putting together a ginormous box for them to sort through throughout the event. That would fulfill the touch aspect of things. And for taste? Well, I included some very tasty popcorn in the box, and that was a total hit.
The boxes turned out great. I had my teenagers, and the neighborhood teens assemble and learn how to ship out the boxes (We've never seen SO many boxes). We sent them out a month early so everyone would get them in time.
And… that's when the nightmares started. I started to have dreams of the event going all wrong. Whenever that happens, I know I'm on the cusp of something great. I just knew that this virtual conference would change lives, and I was so excited to be a part of that change.
Maybe you've dealt with this too? It could be in the form of imposter syndrome, or little things just seem to keep going wrong. Please know in these moments you are making BIG things happen. Remember, lean into the discomfort.
The Big Reveal: Weekend of the Virtual Conference
We did everything we could to make the virtual conference feel as close as possible to a live event. It was actually pretty amazing. We built a dashboard with tons of different places to go to. There was a tab for the main conference, a tab for the schedule of events, one called roundtables, and hallways, which were extra zoom rooms that people could go in and connect with each other on a smaller scale. There was a swag area and a replay section because we know life happens, and we didn't want anyone to miss out on great info because their dog wouldn't stop barking. I only left the replay option open for a week to create a sense of urgency.
As we saw people joining the conference, it almost felt like they were being guided to their online seat. It felt like as they came in, they were being greeted with a virtual high five, and they knew where to go, and they felt welcome, and that is exactly what we wanted to provide. My tech team knocked it out of the park to be able to provide that.
Listen to the podcast detailing the virtual conference to hear about all the super cool mini boxes we included. They were a lot of fun!
I made time to highlight individual guests between speakers. Kind of like the jumbotron you see at sporting events. It was silly and cute to see everyone having such a good time. All in all, the event was such a success, and I had the best time. It was such a step out of my comfort zone but so totally worth it.
If you're scared about taking that next leap of faith in your business, then ask someone to hold your fear for you because your future self is waiting for you to do this. And I'll tell you right now she's getting a little impatient. Get out there, build your business, now's a perfect time to build your business. You've got a computer, and you've got a product. Lean into your fear and go serve!
My Top Takeaways
- Pivoting feels like the word of 2020
- Building a Tribe/Clan/Online Family community has been the absolute highlight of my career.
- Being uncomfortable is where you grow, lean into it
- Virtual conferences can be life-changing, as well as live conferences.
- Invite speakers who may not be considered famous but have powerful voices that can change lives
- When you do something, when you're done with it, sit back, look it over. Did it make sense? What worked? What didn't work? How can you make it better?
- Next one pulling a team you absolutely love working with
- Make work, not work.