After a 30 minute journey I arrived in Gloucester and quickly foraged for a coffee. I was due on BBC Radio Gloucester to have an interview with presenter Faye Hatcher about the #AddMe Social Media Conference taking place that evening. The conference was being set up as part of my role as CIPR Student Representative for the University of Gloucestershire.
As a CIPR Student Representative in Cheltenham I saw that I was already at a disadvantage. Cheltenham is known for its Gold Cup week in March. This is a time when the roads become gridlocked, the majority of locals move away and this means many venues are booked up. Yet March was going to have to be the date for the conference due to study obligations.
Trying to find a venue was a monumental task that caused many sleepless nights with a head full of doubt. Even the university’s halls were in use but a last minute opportunity eventually showed itself. The largest hall at Park Campus was free on Wednesday 10th March. At the time this left just a month to arrange the event.
Four weeks to sort out online promotions, press promotions, to get catering, find expert social media speakers, arrange affiliations and get tickets sold. It is also worth saying that as the University of Gloucestershire is a smaller university there is only one CIPR Student Rep. Just me. Not entirely sure how this is meant to work as the size of a class does not deter the size of the event. Despite all this frazzling head heat I had an idea. I knew what this conference was going to look like and that it would be special.
Before I arranged anything I spoke with lots of people gauging their interest in a social media conference. I soon found out that not only is Cheltenham a growing base for social media but this would be the first professional social media conference in the town. I spoke with the Dean of my Campus, this news soon reached other lecturers in the business school and there was interest. It became clear to me that no more time should be wasted.
The mixture of organising the conference and arranging publicity had been a task that I could never have prepared myself for in the classroom. Being thrown into the deep end is difficult at first but soon you learn to swim.
The contacts I have built up during the last month will be valuable and this has allowed me to become proactive in Cheltenham.
Publicising the event
Publicity included sending press releases to the local media but with this event I had a point to prove. A social media conference’s main source of publicity should be through the internet. Therefore it was critical for the conference to have a website. Any promotions using social media must refer back to the main source, a website of some kind.
As I am already active on the internet this task was simple. It took a couple of minutes to set up a sub domain but just over a week to have all the content sorted out on the website. Due to ease of use and flexibility I chose a WordPress package as the CMS. At the same time a Twitter profile was set up (@AddMeConf) which would be used to communicate up-to-date information quickly.
At the university there is such a large skill and talent base that I would one would have to be mad to ignore. One of my friends, Chris Brightwell, designed the graphics for the conference. This branded the event and helped with media exposure. My drinking buddy, Jonny Orme, organised filming at the event and will soon be editing the videos for YouTube.
People are inherently forgetful. It was necessary to repeat time, date and price information every few days and still many students asked me about the details. A Facebook event was set up to repeatedly message guests. The benefit of having sorted a PayPal system was that the money instantly hit my bank account. This made the financial side of the conference much less stressful as I could spend money that was already in my pocket.
The #AddMe Conference got 18 different pieces of coverage. This included BBC Gloucestershire, Business Week, Gloucestershire Echo and Gloucestershire Media Group. In two months the website received a total of 800 unique hits and 1,784 visits. The Twitter profile got 176 followers with over 100 mentions of the #AddMe and #AddMeConf hashtag.
Keeping the success of this conference in mind here are my tips about events management and promotions.
Ten Things to remember about events management:
- Work quickly to get a venue. Once you have the venue and date you can start selling.
- Use your contacts or speak with people in order to get some.
- If you don’t ask then you definitely won’t receive.
- Always keep your audience in mind.
- Remember to remind ticket buyers of the details.
- You will get frazzled. Beat the pain barrier.
- Don’t send a group email to buyers without hiding the email addresses.
- Delegate your tasks. You won’t be able to do everything.
- Health and safety forms are always a pain but always complete these in plenty of time.
- Try to get as much for free as possible. The venue for #AddMe Conference was free of charge.
Ten Things to remember about publicity:
- Always phone before sending the press release.
- Write the press release specifically for the targeted publication.
- Send personal invites.
- Strike deals with affiliated companies to promote.
- Journalists are busy but very helpful. Don’t be afraid to ask for contacts.
- The best way to promote is by ‘word of mouth’. Get involved in the community (eg. I went to DigiTalks in Cheltenham to speak on stage).
- Strike interest online. This will lead to blog posts and many tweets (The first ticket sale for the #AddMe Conference was through Twitter).
- Set up Google Alerts to track any online coverage. You will be surprised about how useful this can be.
- Never turn a promotion opportunity down. Even if you feel tired you must go out and raise interest.
- You can never promote too much.