April 14, 2020
We’ve been hosting workshops for 2 years now and in that time we have learned a lot. We’ve done a lot of things right and a LOT of things wrong. Like way wrong. Like mess up wow can’t believe we did that wrong. In today’s episode we shoot it to you straight and get real. We’re not perfect and we’ve learned a ton in the past few years of hosting live events. There’s SO much that goes into planning an in person event that most people don’t think about.
If you’re curious to hear us blab about our mistakes (trust me some of these mistakes we open up about are really juicy), or want to learn how to execute an incredible live event in the future, this episode was tailor made for you.
We are giving you the top 6 things we did wrong and right when hosting live events. We have learned so much and want you to learn from our mistakes!
Stepping into the education field can be really challenging and difficult, especially starting completely fresh like we did. We didn’t know a ton about the industry and weren’t sure how to do things. There are so many moving pieces and a lot that can go wrong!
We wanted to sit down and chat with you about our experience over the past few years and dive into what we wish we could go back and change and the things that we really feel like we’ve nailed from the beginning.
Our first workshop was in April 2018. We knew it would just be the two of us and 12 girls. We had no idea how much work it would be to plan it, especially on top of being full time photographers.
In general, we did not have any help organizing. If you want to grow and scale a live event, even an intimate workshop, it requires so much time and planning. You need to think through meal prep, the Airbnb, transportation, the website, how you get people to sign up, payments, emails, and packing. EVERYTHING.
On top of that, for a photography workshop, you need to plan the styled shoot.
From the get go, we wish we had an assistant to help us plan. Now, we hardly do any of the planning for our workshops, we just approve stuff. Rachel, our assistant, does most of the planning, grunt work, and logistics.
At our first workshop, the DAY we welcomed our guests, we had to go out and location scout to figure out where we were going to have our styled shoot. We thought we were going to shoot at El Matador in Malibu, but we realized we needed a permit too late.
We were both so stressed and panicked about finding a location and had to pray to calm down. We didn’t have a permit and we didn’t know where we were shooting the DAY OF. That should not have happened, and never happened again after our first workshop. We ended up with a great location, but it should not have happened.
At our first workshop, we neglected to think about using visuals and Powerpoints for our workshops attendees. While we may not be visual learners, several of our attendees were. We sat on our stools with computers in hand without a single visual.
We booked the Airbnb before even thinking if there was an audio visual setup or even a TV to use. Now, we know we need to make sure before booking a place that the airbnb has an HDMI cord, projector, or TV in order to set up a Powerpoint.
For our fourth workshop in Utah, we knew there was a TV at the Airbnb but didn’t have an HDMI cord to connect our computers to the TV. We had to ask the girls who were coming to stop at Walmart to get a cord for us to use. Our workshop was in the middle of nowhere.
We discussed buying an Apple TV so that no matter what we are set up for success!
For any live event you need to have liability waivers and insurance. We didn’t think of it right away because we were in a “just starting” mindset.
We knew we both had insurance for our individual businesses, we just didn’t think to get it for The Heart.
Learn from our mistakes. If you are hosting live events, get insurance and get liability waivers to make sure you are covered. This applies if you are doing a separate business entity that is hosting the event.
For our fourth workshop, we thought we knew the room layout and counted the number of single and shared beds. We looked at the room options and bed options. We saw that one room had two king beds and figured we would take that room. We got to the Airbnb and looked in the room and realized that there was a door inside the room that led to a bunk bed room. You couldn’t access this room without going through the king bedroom. We had to rearrange where everyone was going to sleep. We ended up having to blow up an air mattress and shuffle everyone around.
If you can see the layout ahead of time, do it! If not, ask for a floorplan.
We learned we didn’t build in enough down time for people to connect. All of our workshops have looked roughly the same in terms of the layout, organization, length, and schedule other than our first one. Our first workshop was two full days. After that we doubled the length of time, the amount of classes, and the number of styled shoots.
We got a personal review from our first workshop that was so helpful. She explained that she was a bit more introverted. She learned a ton from the workshop but expressed one thing to consider in the future is to have a bit more downtime or make the workshop a little longer. If you were extroverted and got along with everyone right away it was great, but for those that it takes more time to open up and get used to strangers it felt that by the time they were comfortable and coming out of their shell, the workshop was over.
We doubled everything for the second workshop, but made the mistake of making our schedule too tight. While yes we made it longer, we didn’t create a space for connection and downtime. There was always an activity, class, shoot, etc going on. We have learned over the years to build in a ton more downtime whether that is fireside chats, hot tub, free time, hang outs, etc.
That has completely shifted the tone of the workshop from education and go, go, go to education and lifelong best friends, deep connections, and life changing heart moments that are so powerful. Building in time for connection is so important.
People come to workshops to be educated, but a huge aspect of a live event is the connection and relatability that you can not get in an online course. Remember as the host or creator to create that downtime and space to breath and connect.
This would have been so helpful for us to market future workshops. We created the first couple of announcement videos that worked fine, but having more content to share what it is like at a workshop would have been really helpful. We have prioritized this and now have both professional photos and video at workshops.
We figured since we were both photographers that we would be able to do it. But if you are the host, it is so beneficial to outsource this. While yes you technically could take great photos, outsource it to give you more time to do your main job. Make it someone’s main job there to document the event.
Not only is it great marketing material, it is a great way for you and your attendees to remember the experience.
We really feel like we did this right from the beginning. For our first workshop we had 12 people sign up day one and we had a few more sign up for off campus. Then we started capping it at 25 attendees and our last one we had about 30 because of spacing.
In general, we have never gone over 30. We do this strategically. Even though our waitlist was insane, we really wanted to prioritize having that intimate connection and allow people to talk to others and us one on one.
When you have too many people at a photography workshop, the styled shoots get insane and chaotic. Connection becomes way more difficult and challenging when there are too many people. If you are wanting to go bigger, then we would encourage hosting more of a conference. Prioritize bringing in other people to help engage with the audience to provide them with value and service.
Overall, keep it at a number that you know you can confidently engage with every single attendee one on one and ensure that each attendee is not going to feel overwhelmed engaging with all of the others.
From the very beginning we made this a priority. We would memorize each attendees’ name by making flash cards and make sure we knew each person before they arrived. We wanted to know them before they even walked through the door.
A lot of our attendees have followed us for a long time and know a lot about us. It can feel lopsided if they come in and we have to ask their name. It was a huge priority, and still is. We try to go and find who you are, what do you do, and what your life is about. We try to do our research and learn not only your name, but who you are.
We also always give welcome gifts. We gift something personal and something on brand for us.
Additionally, at the beginning of every workshop we start off with a casual, floor-sit welcome chat to loosen everyone up. Before anything else happens, we make sure to do this welcome chat where everyone introduces themselves, tells their stories, and explains what they hope to learn from the week. We want to open the door for connection and community from night one. It creates a welcoming, safe space. It sets the tone for the week so well. 25 strangers walk in the room, but you leave as a family. All of the walls that are up get completely knocked down during that first chat.
What you give is what you are going to get. We start off and make sure everyone feels loved, connected, and welcomed. It’s all about how you set the tone.
We also always make sure to intersperse ourselves with our attendees. We make sure to let them know that we are not better than them. We are excited to learn just as much as they are.
We prioritized debriefing and growing after every single workshop. We usually set aside a dinner or lunch to sit down, write notes, and ask each other what we did right and wrong, how we can improve, and how we struggled. We talk through the entire week to make sure we better the experience for next time. We are always honest with how we felt. Approaching this immediately after the event ended allowed us to then set ourselves up for success for the next event.
Prioritize growth after every event. There is always a way to improve.
We marketed our workshops dang well. It’s our niche and people want to come to the workshop because of that. We are dang good marketers. Every single workshop that we have sold out in record time. One of our workshops sold out in 15 minutes.
We set the expectations really well from the beginning. We lay out what we are going to focus on, what they are going to get, and how the event is going to impact them from the beginning. We set the tone early on. People knew what they were signing up for in the beginning.
Understand the pain point of your ideal audience and solve that. Make it something fun that people will be so sad to miss out on. By not having an application process, it made people feel welcomed.
We were very intentional to craft food menus ahead of time to know what was being served throughout the week so that we could plan delicious and relatively inexpensive food options. We also took polls of food allergies so we could cater to everyone.
We brought in a chef from the very beginning. This takes off so much weight from us. Rachel plans, shops, and cooks for everything. We have also had the same menu at every workshop and go to Costco to plan.
Throughout the day we recommend offering snacks as well.
Our policy with alcohol is that we are not going to provide it ourselves, but if someone wants to bring it, they are welcome to.
We got help! We brought in our assistant to plan everything. She plans the styled shoots, cooks, communicates with vendors, gets the permits, and books the airbnb. We also hired photo and video people to help with the behind the scenes things that we did not need to focus our energy on.
Bringing in help was a huge game changer!
A few more!
Make sure that you are making a profit! Make sure you are pricing it so you are always coming out positive. Make it worth your while.
We pray over every single girl before they walk in the door. We pray over the house as well. This makes such a huge difference in our hearts.
Finally, for styled shoots we split our girls up into two groups. Within the group we split those further up. Ultimately you are shooting a couple with 6 people as opposed to a huge group. After everyone has had time to shoot them in their groups, we would pair people up and they can get the models alone for two minutes. This allows you to do specific things.
You will ALWAYS have room to grow and things to learn. There will always be more to do and more to improve on. You don’t have to get it right the first time. You should never expect your first try to be flawless. Don’t ever stop yourself from doing something you are passionate about. Stop waiting for the perfect moment, just do it! As long as your heart is in the right place, people are going to be impacted by you.
Give yourself grace to learn and tackle those challenges next time.
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WASSUP FRIENDS. We’re Evie + Lindsey, co-founders of this wild partayyy called The Heart University. Our goal is to empower entrepreneurs to kick freaking BUTT in their businesses, dive down into the heart of their why and how, and serve you with all possible tools you’ll need to up-level your business game and CRUSH those goals of yours.
Whether you’re coming to an in-person workshop, joining our online course, or soaking up all the strategies via this blog or our podcast, we’re STOKED you’re here + can’t wait to see you out there kicking butt.
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