KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
Perhaps the most important part of hosting an event is knowing who you are hosting it for. To draw the crowds, interest sponsors and vendors, and even find people willing to participate (in this case, builders and dwellers), you have to focus on creating an experience that speaks to the audience. Who are you trying to attract and why are would they be attracted to your event? Once you have defined the event you can begin to draw in the audience with details and tidbits. Keep in mind that part of knowing your audience is also knowing where to find them.
I have found that while tens of thousands of tiny house advocates live in the Facebook and Instagram space, tens of thousands do not. They are typically older adults and fringe adults who just don’t care about subscribing to the tiny house conversation. They watch the TV shows and read the articles and browse the blogs. You’ve got to know this. Where do they get their information? Wherever it is, that is where you want to be. There are audiences that a Facebook boosted post won’t reach but an event listing in the local newspaper will.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
It is hard to throw an event if you have nowhere to throw it. There is so much more involved than just finding a spot in the grass and hanging a sign. What is the theme of your event? What kind of atmosphere do you want? Some events want to be in the heart of a city while others play better in a more remote location. The big question though is what sort of location will best support your event? Do you need wide-open spaces or will the floor of a high school gym suffice? In addition, you’ll also want to:
- Think about infrastructure. Do you need electrical outlets? A wide-open field or state park may not provide that. Maybe a convention center is best.
- Be ready to negotiate. Proper event spaces typically quote higher than they will actually accept. Don’t be timid about presenting a counter-offer. Try and get things packaged in like A/V equipment, marketing exposure, security, etc.
- Find a flex location. If your event is in a field you can tighten up if the event turnout isn’t huge. If it does swell though you can spread the wagons out, so to speak.
PARTICIPANTS GAIN ADVANTAGE TOO
I have learned that a tiny house event simply is not an event without tiny houses. So how do you attract them? One simple thing to remember is that tiny house builders and/or dwellers are more inclined to participate if there is value in the event for them. Will builders get exposure for their business or will they perhaps sell a house? And what about your speakers and/or presenters? While you don’t have to pay for room and board, you will get more mileage and better participation if you are able to provide travel accommodations and a reasonable fee/stipend for their services. There is no secret in that you are going to market on the backs of your participants so remember, sometimes you have to spend money to make money!
SELL THOSE TICKETS
In order to plan the event, you need to have a realistic idea of how many may attend. One way to do this is to have advance sales. Make your attendees accountable for their attendance. Get them to put a little skin in the game. Sell advance tickets for the same rate as a gate sales ticket. And by all means, stand by your price. Believe in your value. If you offer a lot of gimmick sales the intended audience may feel like the event actually isn’t as good as you are promoting it to be and that you are lowering the price because no one is going to be there. Create urgency, yes. But stay committed.
Believe me. Your first time out will not be flawless. Things simply don’t go as planned all the time. But don’t sweat the details. Take a few moments to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Attendees tend to show a lot of grace to new events and new event hosts. The whole notion of an event is to provide something where people will have a good time, connect with like-minded people, learn a little something, and have fun! When the gates first open you MUST change from event planner and taskmaster to gracious host. If attendees see you having a good time they are more likely to have a good time themselves.
In closing, this is not an exhaustive list and it is not meant to be a published anthology of foolproof ways to host an event. But these are great tenants to build upon and ones that have worked for me and for a number of others. They can be employed when hosting something as intimate as a birthday party to something as large as a national tiny house event!