Taking a moment

1st May 2012 and I send an email to David Goddin and Natasha Stallard asking for their input. I run passed them an idea that I want to hold an event focused on Positive Psychology with the intention to help others understand the topic better. It was off the back of a successful first unconference for L&D Connect, and I was abuzz with ideas.

Fast forward a month and on 1st June, I decide I’m going to go ahead and do it. We’ll figure out logistics along the way, but let’s make it happen. After all, what’s the worst that’s going to happen? I’ll lose some money. I won’t get people attending. I lose all faith in myself. The world crashes around me and I fall into a pit of despair.

Since that day a lot of other stuff has happened which has made life very bloody interesting. But I’ve been steadfast that this is what I’m going to achieve this summer. My personal project. Me pushing what boundaries I think I have and make things happen for me. I had some grandiose thoughts about the event. I wanted 100 people initially to attend, and then thought I may as well try and get 150. Bear in mind I had no money for marketing, PR, or promotion activity. I was going to rely solely on social media and relationships. To say part of this plan was naive is an understatement.

So it started with Twitter. Some time went by and I thought I better start blogging about it. After a few weeks no-one had made a booking and I was starting to wonder if I should just cancel the event altogether. That figure of 150 was looking very far. Then one day I had my first booking! I was thrilled! Someone actually decided to commit coming to the event and was willing to pay money. How awesome! From that booking, I didn’t care about not getting the 150, one person was willing to attend, and by Jove I was going to go ahead with it.

I decided to try using MailChimp as a service to send marketing emails to everyone I thought might be interested, and to a whole bunch of contacts I found at various consultancies and the likes. Although there was some initial interest from this service, it didn’t produce any conversions. I think this is more likely because the copy I used was not right for the audience, than the service itself. After all, a whole industry of CRM experts spend their lives making emails work hard and convert people to buying. That’s something I could have done better.

I reached out to my blogger network asking various people to help by writing a post about Positive Psychology, and offering their respective readers up to two free tickets to the event. The response was heartening and I’m so glad I did this. Donald Taylor, David Goddin, Doug Shaw, Vera Woodhead, and Rob Jones all took part. How bloody excellent.

With regards to sales ‘tactics’, I started by making earlybird tickets available. This certainly helped get initial sales. I then made available ‘student price’ tickets as I realised I was omitting a possible audience that might be interested in the topic. For one day only I made available a special promo code which I was hoping would entice more people to book. That promo code produced one booking. And in the main sales have come from regular priced tickets.

I blogged as much as I thought was reasonable to help provide continued awareness of the topic to people who weren’t going to attend. That’s part of the thing I enjoy about blogging is that content can and should be provided to others who aren’t able to attend an event so that they can access it at their leisure. This is why TED is so successful as a format. Eventbrite provide a variety of useful widgets you can use on your website, such as the one on the top right of the page.

One constant throughout the time I’ve been promoting the event is that my reach was limited. This is why I enlisted the help of my bloggers network. But more than that I needed a big reach. Through a useful chat with Mervyn Dinnen, I wrote a guest post for Jobsite. Through another useful chat with Roger Philby, he offered the help of Chemistry Group to get my event out to their network. The good people at Action for Happiness have been displaying the event on their calendar on their website. Over at Training Zone, they’ve been doing the same too. I’m not beyond understanding the support of a sponsor in these events is often key to success, but I was very careful about how I went about this. By far the help from Chemistry Group was certainly the most beneficial.

And finally, I’ve asked Martin Couzins – content strategist extraordinaire, to be part of the event capturing content as he sees fit to share out to the world. He also offered to write a Q&A with me on his blog. Mervyn Dinnen will also be attending as a blogger, and I’ll leave it to him about how he writes up the event after the date.

So where am I at? As of this morning, I’ve had 793 page views on the Eventbrite booking page. 25 people are booked to attend – that’s a mix of paid bookings and complimentary tickets. I’ve got a very reasonably priced venue with Park Crescent Conference Centre, and considering they are based just outside Great Portland St in Central London, I am seriously impressed with their pricing.

I’ve come way short of the 150 I was targeting. But by God have I learned a lot in doing this exercise. 25 is really excellent. A plenty good number to do a lot of useful activity and sharing learnings. I’ve got the agenda sorted, bought my supplies to keep me on track, and been keeping in touch with the people attending.

Everyone I’ve mentioned in this post deserves thanks and I’m very grateful to all of them.

Positive Psychology in Application. It’s tomorrow. Here’s the booking page.

I’m excited.