Kellie KuechaHaving been in the event business the greater part of two decades, I can truly say that I have seen it all.  I love the event industry so much and I believe that if more people respected what it was like on the inside, they would have a much greater appreciation for all that goes into planning for them.  Please don’t let this scare you from going into the business.  The key is starting with smaller workshops and building up to big events.  Once you know the rules you can plan the game from both sides just a little better.  Enjoy!

  1. There is a tremendous amount of financial risk in putting on large events – Event planners have to secure hotel venue space, hotel room blocks, party planners, audio/visual teams, speakers, photographers, video promo reels, printers, graphic designers, performers, and food guarantees all BEFORE a dime is ever brought in to offset those costs.  Oftentimes deposits are in the tens of thousands of dollars to secure dates and headcount guarantees.  All of this is done without ever truly knowing how many people will show up.  Most planners and promoters do it for the love of people and love of the business but it’s a very nerve racking process.  One in which you can’t forecast if you will turn a profit on until the close of the event.
  2. 20% of people who PAY in advance do not show up – Yep that is correct.  That is the industry average.  So even with the best of intentions, 20% will be no shows.
  3. 80% of people who get a “FREE” ticket won’t show up – Out of 100 tickets given out for free, 70 will say they are coming, but out of those 70, only 20 will actually show.  Out of those who actually show, half will come late or leave early.  Why? No skin in the game. No pain, no gain.
  4. Audio/Visual is typically your largest expense – Equipment and labor are quite costly when you are looking at bringing in a team of professionals who have spent years honing their craft and investing in the latest equipment and technology.  The audio and visual piece of a production can make your break your event.  They are the central hub of your ALL things seen and heard such as music, lighting, entertainment cues, speaker cues, precise timing of agenda, video recording, live stream connections, live stream chat, power point presentations and so very much more.  Hours upon hours are spent assembling each piece of equipment and connecting hundreds of wires in setup and breakdown.  Many more hours are spent creating playlists, sound bites, movie clips, and compiling speaker presentations, not to mention the time put in with the event planner in advance to create the vision.  This is no small task and one that gets the most respect in my book when it comes to pulling it all together for an event.  All it takes is for one cord to come loose or a loss in wifi and the whole operation gets shut down.  It’s a very stressful job that requires extreme attention to timelines and detail.
  5. 40% of people who buy tickets to an event, won’t pay until two weeks before, 30% will pay the week before and 20% will buy the day before – Pretty hard to believe isn’t it?  This statistic adds to the insurmountable pressure that’s put on the event planner because sponsors, vendors, hotels, caterers, speakers and many others need head counts.  It’s a real crapshoot trying to figure out these numbers.  If people are permitted to pay at the door, they will almost always choose that option throwing off your numbers even more so whatever you do, DON’T ALLOW WALK-INS and don’t stress if you are a month out and only have a hand full of tickets sold!
  6. There is little to no money made in ticket sales for larger conferences unless you are charging over $1000 a ticket – At least half (conservatively) of the tickets for an event are given to sponsors, media, vendors, speakers, clients, VIPs and charities.  The other half helps to offset expenses.  Oftentimes (and I used to do this too) people come into a room, count the number of heads, multiply that by the ticket price and calculate what they think the event planner is profiting.  Of course they never take into consideration the expenses and risk involved.  In 20 years of doing events, I don’t even calculate ticket sales as a profit center because it seldom is.  It’s icing on the cake if any money is ever made in this category.
  7. 30% will show up early and be in their seats on time.  –  And what do most event planners do, wait until more people show up to start.  Big mistake!  You train your audience to show up late every time if they know you never start on time anyway.  Never be that person who shows up late if you don’t want people to do it to you.  It doesn’t reflect well on your brand and we get what we give.  Get there early, sit as close to the front as you can, mingle with the other sharp shooters and own your world!  Oh and another 30% will leave before the event is over.  Keep your great incentives until the end of your program!
  8. Even though your hotel contract shows one total price, you will likely pay a lot more on the final bill.  Beware of the many add ons and hidden fees – Very few who get into this business, know to take into account what ++ means.  When you are given a price per meal, price to use projectors, screens or ANYTHING inside of a hotel, you will pay your local sales tax and a service charge ranging from 21-27% on top of that fee. Every little thing that you ask for gets added to the final bill including extension cords, microphones, easels, duct tape at $20++, wifi at $150 – $350 PER ROOM, PER DAY!  So understand this, wifi connection is only covered in the main hall but if you use another part of the hotel for another function, expect to pay the fee again at most hotels. I remember one venue I used, all I had to do was push the on/off switch to pull down two screens and it was $150 a screen ++!  Some venues count wrapped silverware as opposed to heads, so if one of your guests grabbed two sets of silverware, guess what, you just paid $50++ for another lunch from the buffet station!  Multiply that by 10 people who did the same and you are over $700 in additional meal fees!
  9. No matter how hard you worked, how great your event was, how much blood, sweat and tears you put into your creation, you are NEVER going to be able to please everyone – It’s just the nature of the beast.  You have to have thick skin to handle all the feedback you get when it’s all said and done.  You could have 99 people tell you that you that you did a great job and it’s always the one that says your event sucked that feels like a stab in the heart.  Don’t take it personally.  You will never be everyone’s cup of tea!
  10. The week of the event you are going to get all kinds of stories as to why people can’t come and additionally request a refund! – By now you have put in your final headcounts, ordered materials and goodies for each and every attendee and you are running around like a crazy person trying to pull the 75 different components together and your phone and email start blowing up with those calls.  “My bird choked on a seed”, “my cat has a hang nail”, “my kid has the flu” I can’t come now, can I get a refund.? NO!!!!! I love you but NO!  Our website specifically says NO REFUNDS!  Do you know the amount of time, effort, stress and pure agony that went into preparing for you??????  That’s what you really want to say but you bite your tongue and lovingly recite your refund policy!

So after 20 years of taking ALL of this and SO much more into consideration, this year, 2014, my team and I decided to do what we have seen all of my colleagues doing, we decided to try something new.  We decided to start offering tickets to my largest conference EMERGE for FREE altogether.  But wait, we all know that free has NO VALUE, right?  We all know that very few people who say they are coming with a free ticket ever show up, right?  We now know the copious amounts of money and risk that go into this game, so how can we make free tickets work?  Well many of the big guns have.  If you have ever been to a Harv Eker (Millionaire Mind Intensive) event or many of the other big coaches’ events, you would have had to put down a REFUNDABLE DEPOSIT to secure your seat.  It’s brilliant when you think about it because it alleviates all of the main issues mentioned in this article.  You put down a deposit, which technically would have been the same price as the actual ticket to ENSURE YOUR ATTENDANCE, and that deposit is returned to you upon arrival.  That’s right, the minute you show up you are handed a check back in the amount of your deposit.  But wait, then people will still wait until the very last minute to pay? YOU BETCHA, they sure will!  So you have to further incentivize them to secure their seat early.  Many who are unfamiliar with this model or the fact that you used the term FREE and then are asking for their credit card will buck it.  They will complain, throw tantrums, stomp their feet and tell you that you are no good.  It’s ok; they were likely not your ideal client anyway.  Trust that in time, your tribe will begin to understand how much you love them, how much money, time, risk, love and resources went into making the event special for them.  If you have ever planned a wedding, you know firsthand all the preparation and heartache that goes into making sure EVERY single detail goes off without a hitch.  Well big conferences are like planning a wedding multiplied by 10!  It’s no easy feat.  It takes dozens of volunteers, dozens of contracts, paid staff and hundreds of balls being juggled in the air all at the same time.

I hope this article gave you some real insight into this business so that the next time you attend a large event, or the next time you decide to complain that your gravy was cold on your mashed potatoes or that there wasn’t a vegan meal for you, or that the event went over 10 minutes or that you were (God forbid) asked to put down a deposit to secure your seat, you think twice about complaining.  Attending events are an essential part of growing a business.  Appreciate your event planners.  Register early.  Be on time and stay until the end.  Know that YOUR best interest is always what’s top of mind for the person hosting you.  And last but not least, give love, be love, show love!

I will see you at on time, as a VIP and ready to own your world!