To tell the truth, I didn’t put too much thought into promoting the workshop at first.
In January, I conducted my own workshop in Portland. It was a small workshop with 10 attendees. With such an intimate group, I made all possible efforts to answer everyone’s questions and tailored my workshop content (over 180 slides with several worksheets) to their needs and real-life challenges. I concluded the workshop by pointing out specific steps each one of them should consider implementing when they get back to work. Overall, it was a well-received workshop.
Conducting a stand-alone workshop is different than doing it at a conference. At a conference, you pretty much just show up with your content. On your own, you have to take care of every detail in addition to your content. Here are some lessons (aka mistakes) I learned by doing my own workshop, if you are interested in doing something similar:
Workshop length and timing
I was debating between a 2-hour or 3-hour workshop and decided on a 3-hour workshops as that has worked out best in my past experience. Talking to several attendees after the event, I validated that 3 hours is ideal. The workshop was scheduled 10:00 – 2:00 pm with 45-minute lunch. It gave people time to get to the workshop without rush in the morning and avoiding traffic in the afternoon.
Possible change: Overall, no negative feedback on the schedule. I would like to try 9:00 – 12:30 pm or 12:30 – 4:00 to see if that schedule works better for attendees. The main benefit is that attendees don’t need to take the whole day off from the work (unless they want to).
Venue and logistics
Doing a workshop at a hotel is expensive, when you consider room/AV rental and food purchase. I was lucky to rent a venue from a local staffing company, 52 Limited. I used their basement with their existing AV system and TV monitor. It worked well for 10-20 attendees. They also have space to host more than 20 people, I just need to rent tables and chairs, which is not too expensive. The total cost is still cheaper than renting from a hotel. If cost is concern, I’d recommend you look for venues within local start-up communities, private offices, churches or local agencies. You will be surprised what you can find. The con is that you will need to take care of all the logistics yourself, from room and audio/video set-up to table/chair rental and room arrangements. It’s pretty much like running a small event.
Possible change: None. Controlling the cost is important to me and I don’t mind taking care of all the logistics. Once you do it a few times, coordinating logistics will be easy.
To tell the truth, I didn’t put too much thought into promoting the workshop at first. I finally got my act together in early December and sent Josh at 52 Limited the workshop description so that he could set up Eventbrite and publicize the event to their e-mail list. With that email blast to 10,000 people, we got one sign up! A conversion rate of only 0.01%. Ugh!
I only started my own promotion efforts on January 4th, which was very late in the game. I worked with John Parkman, who is a coder, growth hacker, SEO expert and demand gen marketer. He and I quickly created a game plan by mainly focusing on paid Facebook and LinkedIn advertising.
I created a blog post, 2 short videos, e-mail content and potential taglines, while John worked on landing pages, SEO, ad creative and ad optimization.
We started with three creative ads first with different copy and targeted specific marketing titles and age demographics near Portland. We let ads run for a couple of days. We wanted to see which creative worked. It turned the orange create with “Up your marketing game” performed the best. Also, we soon realized that the area we targeted was too small by analyzing the conversion. We immediately modified the demographic, ad spends and creative. There were several days that we didn’t get any conversions, we were concerned about creative fatigue. So we ran the 4th creative with my photo and ran that several days. Ok, that was worse! We discovered that my face really didn’t sell ☺. We reverted back to the orange creative. In the middle of it, we studied Google analytics only to discover ghost clicks that Facebook registers but that never make it to our landing page. Ugh!! Of course, you can’t talk to anyone at Facebook and must rely on e-mail. Their customer service is super slow!!
We also did an ad-buy on LinkedIn, but the conversion rate was not as good as Facebook. We decided to focus on Facebook advertising, since we didn’t have much time.
I also sent out a big e-mail blast to all my contacts about the workshop. Several people asked me if they can attend remotely (sadly, no). Some of them forwarded to their colleagues. Some expressed interest to attend, but the time didn’t work.
Of course, I tweeted and posted frequently on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook which also helped to generate awareness.
Possible change: I’d do promotion very differently next time around. I’d start 3-4 month in advance with a detailed and scheduled game plan of ad-word buy, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and email campaigns. I’d generate more content to promote and explain the benefits of the workshop. In addition, I need to more effectively follow-up with people who didn’t open the e-mail. I didn’t have time to do that this time around. All content I created and paid efforts we implemented were very much last-minute affairs, since I was so busy with client projects and speaking engagements between October and December.
I charged $199 for 3-hour workshop and under-estimated the paid-advertising expenses.
Evenbrite Processing fees: $ 182
Venue rental: $ 200
Breakfast: $ 95
Total Cost: $1977
Net profit: $ 13
I pretty much just broke even for my first workshop, not considering the 7 hours of preparation and workshop time.
Possible change: Now that I have a better understanding of projected cost per acquisition, I know the range of pricing that I need to charge for the next round. The cost per acquisition ranges between $90 – $185, depending on how long I will run my promotion and my attendee goals. Another thing I need to explore is discount offering such as bring 3 friends to get your pass free and a tiered early-bird deal. Don’t under-estimate your promotion expenses and effort! Create an excel sheet to estimate your logistics, registration and promotion expenses.
I sent one welcome e-mail to attendees the day before the workshop to remind them of the logistics for the workshop. Then, I followed up with a personal thank-you note after the event.
Possible change: Email was a big miss at my end for marketing promotion. I should have created 3-4 standardized e-mails.
The 1st e-mail is to thank them for signing up for the course and to encourage them to forward the workshop to their colleagues.
The 2nd e-mail is to tell them a little more about the course and possibly tie with my book.
The 3rd email is a friendly reminder which includes the logistics.
The 4th e-mail is to thank them for them to attending the workshop and to inform them of upcoming workshops.
Will I do it again?
Certainly! With so much learning, I will try a couple more times throughout the year. Plus, I really enjoyed doing workshop! The course is niche and targeted for B2B enterprise professionals who are working with their local teams. I know how hard it is to work with teams in different time zones and I have a lot of ideas to make the process work. In addition to the workshops,
I am also in the process of launching an on-line course website, Marketing Expert Center. More details to come! 2016 is the year of content marketing for me.