Wednesday, July 23, 2014

How to be a personal host for professional events?

I just got a whatsapp from a startup telling me they wanted to organize a growth hacking meetup for entrepreneurs in Mumbai. I said great, nice initiative. Then the next thing he said surprised me, how can we manage this event? Well, just organize 1st and you will learn everything - just kidding.

Since we have done more than 400 workshops and over 80 StartupYatra sessions across India, I thought this to be an easy thing, but here is a checklist for step by step activation:

1. Who are you doing it for?
Just decide what is your audience and purpose going to be. Is it for the sponsors, or the attendees or a product launch or just a networking session for like-minded people? Just make sure there is something for everyone rather than everything for someone! Make sure you write down the number of people expected, preferred time, venue and seating arrangements.

2. People come for people, but agenda is what brings in people
Content or the agenda of any event is critical. The 1st experiment of online webinar I did at Nurture Talent was just that - an experiment. I had the contacts of few 100 startups, who I had trained in our  entrepreneurship workshops, and I wanted to engage them further. 20-30 people turned up and it failed miserably :-( We did not know what to do, who will talk, who will listen, what to discuss and within 15-20 minutes we realized saying bye was better and logged out. Since then we have never organized a meetup or event without an agenda, even if we are "generally" meeting people. And do share the agenda with people when you invite them.

3. Star speaker or many stars
Any event is driven by speakers, which is next most important thing after the content. Off late I have witnessed a trend of multi-starrer events (unlike movies where a Salman Khan or Shahrukh Khan is enough and you do not need anyone else, by and large). It helps to attract sponsors, and in a way pulls in a decent audience. Just make sure you give enough talk time to all speakers and also that they stay back for personal interaction with audience. Nobody wants to just exchange visiting cards or listen to an egoist who is there for self-promotion. Most speakers are cordial to accept guest invites, but give enough time for scheduling (generally a month before event). Do not be shy in inviting even people who do not know you or you think they are the big shots - just try, don't be shy!

4. Add personal touch
Events whether professional or personal are driven by people. At any StartupYatra where I am present, I make sure to introduce myself, act as official photographer and generally try to make people comfortable with handshakes (with girls) or hugs (with guys). Ensure that you reach the event venue an hour or two before and treat it like your home, and participants/attendees/delegates as your guest - imagine how would you treat them if they came to your home, THAT!

5. Manage the costs, cut the frills
Once a year we do a big event like Great Indian Marketing Weekend (www.gimw.in), where we do not care about keeping it small. But the year round we do 100s of events which are no frills, and cut down on extras like giving notepad and pens to attendees, or giving flower bouquets to speakers! We do not even print agendas - in the age of smart phones, events should be GREEN!

6. Day of event
As a majority of community events are free, people give a confirmation but do not turn up. Saying no is something we all need to learn. Well, just make sure you send a reminder sms, or whatsapp to all people who said a yes just about 1-2 hours before the event begins. Last time we had an event in Jabong office, 82 people had confirmed and we actually got 30 which was the max capacity. So overbooking should neither make you happy, nor sad. For paid events, no need for courtesy reminders.

7. Post event follow ups
In the era of selfies and digital marketing, do not forget to say thank yous to the attendees for coming and to sponsors for making it possible. And do share pics of Facebook photo albums or meetup groups online. Send pics to few guests individually with a personal note, so they remember with you kindly.

At Nurture Talent, we use few online tools for event management, and here is a short list:
1. www.meetup.com/startup-yatra
2. www.meraevents.com/nurturetalent
3. gimw.moozup.com (great for agenda sharing)
4. Facebook events

And those who want to meet me, join us for a get-together in Noida on 24th evening at Nysha Bar and Restaurant. Do RSVP yes before coming - www.meetup.com/startup-yatra

Till then, be awesome!