Blog: The one where I became an organiser


By Mark Sullivan, Business Development Director, Circdata

Over the past 14 years I have probably been involved in and attended more than 400 events. I have always enjoyed partnering with organisers to find new ways to increase their audience engagement. I can imagine the stress organisers experience in order to deliver an event on a fixed date.

In a very small way, I wanted to understand better the life of an organiser. The only way to truly appreciate this was to become one. It was time to stand on the other side of the bar!

I had two objectives for the first year’s event. The first and the most important was to make sure everyone had a great day. Without this you don’t have a year two! The second was to make a profit.

Be First or be Different

I read an interesting book called Content Inc.: How Entrepreneurs Use Content to Build Massive Audiences and Create Radically Successful Businesses. It has an interesting concept called your ‘content tilt’. This is what separates you from everyone else in your market. It is your unique perspective on your content niche. After a few hours of brainstorming I decided to create an event for people in Caversham where I live.

How to Grow your Audience

Allowing your audience to contribute content is key to creating an engaged audience. An example of this was a post I did to find the best Halloween pumpkin in Caversham. This resulted in lots of people posting pictures, likes and comments.

Monetise your Audience

I decided to run a croquet competition to raise money for a local park. First year events are always difficult as you are selling a dream and not a proven concept. You have no credibility and people have to trust you will deliver. If you develop an audience ahead of launching your event, you have already started to gain this trust.

How you Engage Sponsors

It is key to engage and promote sponsors before you need them! By adding value in advance, it makes it much easier to engage a sponsor at a later date. I spent time promoting local businesses a few months ahead of asking them for money.

How to Sell More Tickets

Think of unique ways to enable your audience to promote your event. I thought of what turned out to be a great idea. Thousands of people are members of local Facebook groups hiding, sharing, finding and posting painted rocks. I engaged a local artist to paint branded rocks which could be hidden at a later date. I bought the rocks and paid the artist with a bottle of red wine which helped develop a great partnership!

I used video with great success and could directly link this to ticket sales. I found that using humour worked well for my audience. I created a series of pre-event training videos that were a hit! I also created an outtakes video which resonated well with the audience.

In the spirit of being where your audience is, I also did some face to face sales outside Waitrose. I had my 6 month old daughter in a baby carrier (so I looked safe to talk to!). I probably spoke to around 50 people over an hour. It is hard to track conversion. However, it is always worth trying another channel.

I started looking at everything I bought from suppliers in terms of ticket sales; Croquet club booked = 25 tickets to sell, and jazz band booked = 20 tickets to sell.

Festival of Croquet

I decided to join the ‘Festivalisation’ bandwagon and started to think what could enhance the event. This in the end included a live jazz band, BYO picnic, a rock hunt, mini croquet for children and tours of the historical gardens.

Make Sure you Don’t Have a Job on the Day!

Being an event organiser for a launch event was a hard job. The only way I can describe it is being like your wedding day where you need to speak to everyone. However, you are also the wedding planner, caterer, the band and barman. I was also surprised by the amount of paper work required for a small event including public liability insurance, risk assessment, first aider and sound monitoring.

45% of revenue came from onsite ticket sales/raffle. An outdoor B2C event can be very risky due to relying on good weather. About a month out, due to the lack of ticket sales I had that do or die moment. I almost thought of cancelling the event! If you have put the work in you sometimes just need to have faith it will be a success.

Think about what your audience will post about your first event. Give them an opportunity to share their experience to help grow your audience ahead of the second. Make sure you take lots of video on the day which can be used in a FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) campaign for year two.

What I did find rewarding is all the great feedback from the attendees. Everyone had a great time and asked when the next event would be!

It is now time to write my AEO Excellence Awards 2020 Best Consumer Show Launch entry.