Running events is a sexy gig, right?
I mean, what could be better than coming up with the concept for an amazing event, putting it all together, locking in a sell out crowd, having it all run seamlessly and then basking in the afterglow with Sav Blanc in hand at the end of the evening?
Except.. it’s kind of never, ever (ever, ever, ever) like that.
I know, because I’ve been there.
Many years ago, I decided to quit a career in law to do something more.. FUN. I thought that meant a career in event management.
A huge career shift and leap of faith later, I managed to bag an internship with concert promoter Chugg Entertainment working on the national Pearl Jam stadium tour. A dream come true, right? And, in my eyes, the perfect first step into what I thought would be a long and illustrious Event Management career.
The reality, of course, was completely different. 18 hour days, madly trying to sell out underperforming concert dates, dealing with stressed out and rude people, working in ‘VIP’ areas with drunk and even ruder people, heavy lifting, late nights.
There was nothing sexy about it, and that two week tour was the beginning and the end of my career in events.
Events are bloody hard work.
It takes a special kind of person – one with tenacity, confidence and a big ‘why’ – to take on the huge responsibility of running their own.
Kylie Wharton, from It Starts with Us events, is one of those people.
Whilst on maternity leave, school teacher, Kylie originally created ISWU as a program for school aged girls in response to the incredible pressure that women experience in their day-to-day lives. It’s since expanded, and now encompasses a wide range of events targeted at a much broader demographic.
The common theme? They all feature amazing women who are doing amazing things in their industries.
Her next event, Movers and Shakers, features Carlene Duffy (The Block, cedar+suede), Carly Brown (founder, UNE Piece) and Tracey Hall (Head of Brands & Communication, Ebay), discussing personal and business development, staying at the forefront of your industry and how to disrupt the norm.
ALL ABOUT SOCIAL MEDIA AND EVENTS
I came across Kylie and It Starts With Us via… yep, you guessed it, her Instagram page. Which got me thinking – what a great way social media is to promote an event and connect with your target audience.
The goal? Ticket sales, of course!
Of course, it’s not always easy.
Luckily for us, Kylie agreed to share with us her personal experiences in using social media in the promotion and coverage of her events.The successes, the frustrations and the things that she could have done better had she have known earlier.
And, with three years of running It Starts With Us events under her belt, it’s safe to say that Kylie has learnt a thing or two!
Here are 9 top tips, frustrations and pieces of advice that Kylie would give to others looking to harness the power of social in the promotion and roll out of their own events.
1. STARTING OUT
Everyone – including me – started with zero followers.
Not ideal when your sole marketing strategy is going to be online though, right? So I got busy. I searched for Instagram pages that were invested in female well being and started interacting with their followers. Cheeky? Perhaps. But it’s really important that people know you exist.
Initially, I spent a solid 30 – 40 minutes a night connecting with women who followed like-minded Instagram pages. Now, I find my followers naturally increases by 1 or 2 each day. It grows significantly more around the event time due to the speaker posts and brands I work with to create interest.
I’m definitely not an expert when it comes to Instagram branding, but event branding – that’s something I’m really passionate about!
When I develop my event concept (I’ve run ‘Great Expectations’, ‘Feel Good. Be Inspired’, ‘Dare to Dream’ and this year, ‘Movers & Shakers’) I think about the outcome I’m trying to achieve and map back.
This means I consider the ISWU mindset (I don’t target a ‘demographic’) and what I want to provide them. I then think about speakers who would best generate the desired outcome. Next, I look for fonts, shapes and imagery that reflects the theme and the speakers.
I’m super fortunate to work with a very talented graphic designer, Ingrid, from Be.Visual (our kids made friends at the beach and we’ve been friends and worked together ever since!). I chat through my ideas with her and then she creates magic.
It’s really important to the ISWU brand that the colours are consistent because I change the annual theme of the event. I then use the style of the event logo to shape my Instagram feed.
The logo is also featured prominently throughout the event on the day. Ingrid develops branded PPT templates that are used during the event. It’s the little things that I believe show the level of commitment I have to creating the WHOLE event.
3. SHORT CUTS
Whilst I adore connecting with my following on social platforms, I don’t particularly love playing ‘the game’ (algorithms, shadowbans, insights – argh!). Consequently, wherever possible, I make life easier for myself. I screen shot imagery that I know will suit the event logo; I create content in the Notes app to copy across; I use keyboard shortcuts. All. The. Time.
Keyboard shortcuts?! Yep. Do yourself a favour and follow this ‘how to’ (for an iphone):
Settings > General > Keyboard > Text Replacement > Phrase (enter 25 hashtags here – I leave the other five to reflect the post) > Shortcut (this is what you want to type in to trigger the phrase – I use ISWU but, obviously, use whatever is appropriate!)
I have been so fortunate to work with some really wonderful women that I have met through social media. It’s super important to look for brands (and speakers!) that will complement each other (and your own brand!) plus add substance to what you’re trying to do.
When I work with a brand I make sure I act with integrity. I comply with the agreements that have been made and try to offer more value whenever I can. It speaks volumes to your following about the type of business you run if they continue to see the same brands pop up for each event.
I’ve been working with some women for the full 3 years I’ve been running ISWU.
In the same way collaborations can be valuable, it’s really important to nurture connections. I’ve lost count of the times someone I’m speaking to mentions someone I know or they know or we know… you know? Increasingly, the social media circle I’m moving in is getting more connected.
Not intentionally, but when people can see who you are and what you’re about (and vice versa) it’s inevitable that the connections you make will be connected.
In the world of social media event marketing, it is so important to have people in your corner.
6. GET COMFORTABLE WITH BEING UNCOMFORTABLE
When I started ISWU, I never intended to post any pictures of myself on @itstartswithusevents as I was wary of making it about ‘me’. Yet, as time has gone on, I’ve simply had to get over it (so much so, that I now emcee my events!).
People want to know about the person behind the business. They want to know your ‘why’. They want to know what makes you tick. They want to know you’ve got their back. They can’t make these judgements based solely on the cohesiveness of your Instagram page. But, they can if you show a little bit of ‘you’ to the world.
Some of my highest ranking posts have been about myself (an ice cream with my sister, a family happy snap, an appreciation post for the hubs, a pic of a long time friend and I twinning, the list goes one). I guess it’s about voice.
Increasingly, the events industry, particularly for women, is getting crowded. It’s not about having the loudest voice (or, in fact, the most followers) it’s being able to share your voice with authenticity.
If I could start over, I would definitely (try to) be at ease with this sooner.
7. KNOW YOUR LIMITS
I have tried really hard to plan out my posts (I have even downloaded Plann – which is great if you’re that way inclined!) but I share with my audience what I need at a particular time.
Anytime I stray from doing this (usually an attempt to curate a particular look), I notice that my engagement drops. Why? Because it’s not me. It’s not what my followers have bought into. They follow me for ME. Your followers follow you for YOU.
8. NO REALLY, KNOW YOUR LIMITS
If you need a break. Take one. If you need to be held accountable to said break, post about it.
9. SELLING SUCKS.
It does. It really does. Unfortunately, if I don’t sell tickets I don’t have an audience. That would be awkward. Fortunately, the word ‘events’ in my Instagram handle gives people the heads up so it’s not a shock when I start selling upcoming events.
When I do start selling tickets, I try really hard to make things easy for the customer.
I am clear about cost, inclusions and details.
I’m still working on ‘packaging’ the outcomes. I think I find it difficult because, to me, it’s a bit of a no-brainer… 100 or so, like minded women listening to incredible stories, insider info (Carly set up a luxe lifestyle brand in a year, Carlene used her 2014 spot on The Block as a platform to launch her own interior design biz and Tracy created a 3D dressing room for eBay), nourishing food, coffee, pop up shops and a gorgeous location is really the perfect mix to create a group of inspired women that will head into the future feeling more powerful than ever.
It really does start with us.
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