Making money hosting live events like conferences, seminars and workshops involves risk but plenty of rewards
One of the most popular posts on the blog is how to make money with conferences. Besides the potential to make a lot of money, live events like seminars and workshops can put your blog on the map with a larger audience.
But hosting a conference or other live event is a huge commitment and can easily cost tens of thousands of dollars. That’s a non-starter for most bloggers but can actually be an advantage for those willing to take the risk.
To talk about the opportunity in conferences and live events, I invited Philip Taylor to share his experience creating America’s largest conference of financial bloggers.
I’m excited about the face-to-face interaction we’re getting with the Let’s Talk Money community on YouTube. Besides some great guest interviews, we’ve got some amazing videos planned for beating debt, making more money and making your money work for you.
Check us out on YouTube and join the community. It’s Free and you’ll never miss an episode.
PT started the FinCon conference in 2011 with its first event in Chicago, hoping he might get 25 people to show up and it ended up being just over 200. The annual conference has grown to more than 2,000 bloggers and financial advisors.
This year the conference is in Orlando, Florida September 26th through the 29th and if you are at all serious about making money online, even if you’re not a blogger in the finance niche, I would highly recommend you go. I’ve gone every year since 2015 and it’s a great time.
Why are Live Events Still a Good Option for Making Money?
Joseph: Hey PT, thanks for being here with us today to talk about making money with conferences, seminars and workshops.
I’ve seen a lot of people launching virtual conferences and making money with these other types of online workshops. What is the benefit to going the traditional route with a live event?
PT: Live events used to be ‘every’ event but now it’s the ‘premium’ event. You’re going to have fewer competitors and I think there’s an opportunity in that. There are more risks to hosting a conference and costs but those also make for barriers that keep competitors out.
There’s also something special about being face-to-face, that’s where you build those business relationships and that’s where the deals get done. There’s something magical about coming together and meeting face-to-face. You’ll always bring back something unexpected and that makes those live events worth it.
How Much Does it Cost to Start a Conference?
Joseph: Can you take us into the numbers a little? How much should someone expect to pay to host a small event, say between 50 to 200 people? And are there expenses that people often grossly underestimate?
PT: There’s a lot of risks involved with events and it takes commitment. You have to commit to a lot of the big costs early on, especially the venue.
The venue will want you to commit to a minimum number of rooms if it’s a multi-day event. It will want you to commit to a minimum spend on food & beverage. So they might offer meeting space for free or a discount but you have to watch the other costs, the add-ons.
It can be really helpful to use a contractor, a negotiator to handle that part of the planning for their knowledge about getting the deals from the hotels and other vendors.
Food and the audio-visual equipment are going to be your biggest expenses so that’s really where you need to negotiate hard if you want to save money.
If you’re getting the right people together, if they’re really excited about getting together, they are going to have very low expectations. Focus on your community first and you won’t need to spend lavishly on the conference.
The final bill for that first FinCon conference was $35,000 for food & drink alone with another $12,000 for AV equipment. Total expenses ended up being $78,000 with sponsorships covering $64,000 and $25,000 from ticket sales.
Can You Make Money with Conferences, Seminars and Workshops?
Joseph: So now we have an idea of event costs, how do hosts pay for all this and still make a profit? Is there a benchmark for the percentage of costs covered by ticket sales, sponsors and vendors?
PT: The venue controls those food and AV costs so that’s where they’re going to get you. You’re usually talking between $60 and $80 per person for meals.
There are ways to work around that like letting your attendees go off-site to buy food or buying a la carte but typically the venue is going to require you hit a minimum spend. I think that first year we had to hit a minimum of $25,000 in hotel food spend.
Most buyers in this situation are corporate buyers. They have a big budget and aren’t so concerned about spending so it’s a little different for smaller conferences and harder to watch that budget.
What are Three Questions to Ask Before Planning a Live Event?
Joseph: What are three things someone should ask before they commit to hosting an event?
PT: Make sure you have a community. That’s the #1 thing to remember because it will make the conference special for the people in the community and you won’t need to break your budget. It will become about people getting together and that doesn’t cost a thing.
I would also say you need to ask if you’re willing to let other people help create it. We all have our egos and want to be the center of attention but if you involve as many people as possible, they’ll take a lot of the work off your hands and people will have a better time.
Engage your community with polls and ways they can create the event in their way. This helps make it ‘theirs’ and they’ll become cheerleaders for the conference every year.
Last, I would say think about whether you want to do another conference or if this is a one-shot event. If you plan on having another conference will affect how you plan for the first.
If you plan on hosting other conferences, maybe you spend a little more to make a big bang on the first one. If it’s just a one-shot then maybe you watch the expenses and try making as much profit as possible.
Some great ideas, some great information. I want to thank our guest Philip Taylor for his insight into making money with conferences, seminars and workshops.
Make sure you check out the blog PTMoney.com and if you are a blogger, in the financial niche or otherwise, get to FinCon in September. It will open an entirely new world of blogging to you and you will learn so much. I’ll leave a link to his blog in the description below.
Conferences or even smaller events like seminars and workshops can be a lot of work and it’s a lot to think about but do it right and you’ll be building an asset that pays off every single year. Start small and consider partnering with another blogger for your first event to make it as successful as possible.