Over the last few months, I have been bringing you interviews with top business keynote speakers to give you ideas for your next event. With everything that has been going on, there is heightened concern and stress involved with event planning. Do live events matter anymore? Today, I am bringing you a brand new expert who just ran an in-person event for his business community.
Pat Miller is the founder of The Idea Collective, an online community that aims to connect small business owners and make their entrepreneurial dream a reality. His community holds weekly online events and online message boards with members from four different countries. Pat wanted to bring everyone together and take the community into the future as an even tighter-knit group, collaborating for their success.
As a former marketing director, program director, and on-air host, Pat had organized and planned hundreds of events but had never done it with his brand and on his dime. With his first event, The Idea Collective, his main goal was to put on a show that was worth the member’s time and money and make sure they left with tangible information to make their elevate their businesses.
“I didn’t go cheap.” Pat aired on the side of the user experience and hired an event planner upfront to negotiate banquet fees and guarantees to the hotel. People would think that hiring an event planner would be an added expense but Pat shared that hiring a planner actually saved him money in the long run. He also brought in a graphics design professional and made sure that everything they put out looked like a big-time event that has been happening for years.
Regarding programming, Pat highly recommends going to your community or perspective attendees and ask them what kind of programming they would like to see. When Pat asked his community, two things came back crystal clear: marketing and mindset. He booked the keynote speakers who were experts about each one of those topics. “I delivered exactly what the community wanted because I stopped to ask them.”
The morning keynote for the event was Jesse Cole, owner of Fans First Entertainment, and founder and leader of Savannah Bananas in Savannah, Georgia. Pat thought that Jesse Cole’s entire point of view about the customer experience would translate very well to the small business community. “[Jesse Cole] is a customer success champion.” According to Pat Miller, the easiest way to drive revenue for small business owners is to make a client and then get them to book again. He also added that the best way to get someone to come back is to give them a great experience.
For the afternoon keynote, Pat went in a completely different direction and did nothing but mindset work. They had panels about how to get their minds right and how to think about running our small business. The community members specifically requested for Mel Robbins so they brought her in on a Zoom call for a Q&A session. Mel answered the community’s questions for over an hour. “It’s another strategy. When you look at really smart people that you can book for your keynotes, maybe don’t just take what their speech is. If you believe what they say and you love who they are, think about doing that Q&A.”
Bringing up this concept of a hybrid event was better than Pat Miller had hoped. “It was a great compromise between Jesse’s brilliance on-site and Mel coming in Zoom.” He invested heavily in proper Audio and Visual (AV) and brought in a good company that put up giant movie screens to bring up an interactive nature between the speaker and the community. According to Pat, bringing Mel Robbins on a video conference call was a way to add a highly credible name that people wanted to see without paying the top rate of flying her in.
One value that the event brought to the community is that it reinforced the community principles and made lifelong believers in their mission. Pat Miller also shared that if you are going to throw a big-time event, it must not be all about the money. Above the financial expectations, your main goal must be to bring your community together and to look forward to the future of the organization.
There are two things that Pat learned from his event. One was to give the attendees enough downtime to network with one another or simply rest for half an hour. When you plan an event, you want to make sure that you program every minute with value. In reality, even the most compelling speakers require a break afterward. The second thing he learned was to make sure that there are tangible takeaways from some of the keynotes. His attendees ask for more workshops and interactive seminars so Pat will be infusing that in their 2022 event.