The “Charlotte DO” went really well. A few people have already shared their thoughts and impressions as attendees and I wanted to do the same. Here’s what I think worked, and I what I think didn’t so we can make the next one even better. I am also going to share the behind the scenes thoughts, tricks and ideas that I think made it great. As I have mentioned in the past, I have never had the pleasure of attending any of the miles/points related events that exist, so I wasn’t able to look at what is currently done and be influenced by it. I was blown away by the number of people who told me this was the best event ever.
The event couldn’t have been the success it was without the people who came, from the guests, to the presenters so first of all thank YOU for making it amazing. I had the chance to speak with many people but wish I could have had longer and done more.
I want to single out Phil (MilesAbound) for suggesting we even hold a ‘DO’ without him this wouldn’t have been a idea. Inna (The Miles Professor) picked the hotel- a great choice! And Greg, Frequent Miler helped support the entire process with his experience, wisdom and wallet. All three were instrumental to this event and continued to support and help with great ideas throughout the planning process beyond what I could have hoped for.
I was a little nervous when setting this up that we would build it and nobody would show up, so Greg, Phil and Inna not only helped me with figuring out how to make it work, they also agreed to split any losses with me so I wouldn’t be on the hook for a 5 figure hotel bill. They made this happen. I’d also like to thank Trevor for helping out as resident Tech Guru, and KennyB for the mouse!
Starting with the bad
A quick apology for the things that I didn’t do right, and will improve on.
- Sound – we started out with using the Podium for sound, but it was a single speak projecting forward. That required a lot of ‘projecting’ to reach the people in the back. I found out the hard way that we should have been using a wireless mic and the overhead speaker system, and I think that made it hard on The Miles Professor and the people in the cheap seats to hear. Apologies to all.
- Acknowledgements – I should have spoken more about the other players of #milemadness. Elena (Giddy), Michelle (Maitais), Chris (BigHabitat) were in the room and I should have given them a shout out, they all did really well in the tournament – so thanks for coming and thanks for playing!
If you attended Charlotte please contact me via comments below or via email with anything that you didn’t like so we can make it better, I’m very grateful that you took the time to attend and want to keep on improving things. I have also circulated a Survey via email, if you can find time to complete it we will use that to make things better.
Exploring the positives
I want to share what people loved about this. If you are planning your own event please steal this knowledge, if your event becomes better by it then you win, your guests win, and I get to feel good that I helped out.
The most common reaction was ‘it felt good’
The event went well for many reasons, but the whole thing worked because we had good people presenting. I allowed everyone flexibility with their talks and set no parameters. When you have people this talented it is best to let them rip with whatever they like. The feeling was that we would be sharing ideas and concepts that were important to us, not agendas to build brands or advertise. The latter came naturally when people saw how phenomenal the people presenting really were. By the time we got to lunch I knew we had a slam dunk.
I wanted this to feel like a warm and friendly environment where people could share ideas. We used Eventbrite to manage tickets and lists but it is really, really important to remember that such tracking is just a tool to help. I was lucky enough to meet with a number of people on Friday evening at the social events and tried my best to remember names. When I saw them the next day I didn’t need to worry about IDs etc and was able to speed up check-in, and hopefully make it more friendly.
Of course, that mainly worked due to the size of the event. By keeping it small I got to meet (almost) everyone. If your goal is to create a networking event size matters, and once it gets too big cliques form. I credit Frequent Miler for pushing this concept, he was spot on. The next event will be the same or smaller.
Lack of commercialism, I said I wanted to create a warm and friendly environment, sponsorship was a fleeting thought, and something we might entertain in the future should it be a win/win. A good sponsor would be Stone brewing company sponsoring the booze. A bad sponsor would be a credit card company shilling cards.
This is key. Many people thought that it was great value for money. The reason behind this was that we ‘hacked it’ for you. This truly was an event that was intended to bring together like minded people who actually do what we say we do. There is a real difference between that and an event that is intended to make more money for the organizers under the guise of… well anything at all.
Hotel is relying on, and Group agrees to provide, a minimum of 80 guest room nights. Should the Group fall below
this amount, the Group will be responsible for the difference between the minimum guest room nights and actualized
guest room nights multiplied by the single convention guest room rate multiplied by 80% (guest room minimum
minus guest rooms actualized multiplied by single convention room rate multiplied by 80%), plus any applicable
Either the Hotel or Group may cancel this contract without cause upon written notice to the other party at any time
prior to the event and upon payment of an amount based on the following scale, plus applicable taxes:
44 days or less from the start of the official event dates $13,770 (90% of Rooms, Food & Beverage,
and Rental Minimums)
89 days to 45 days from the start of the official event $11,475(75% of Rooms, Food & Beverage,
dates and Rental Minimums)
We also refunded a few tickets as we agreed to do so up to 7 days from the end, and I resold 4 for people via Paypal which meant we had a little more to play with than above.
Balancing the Books
As you can see, we had a $15,000 liability, and also a need to ‘sell’ 80 room nights. These wouldn’t earn us any commission, it was just a requirement of the hotel. This is why I was a little concerned that if it didn’t sell out I would be stung with a huge bill and glad that Phil, Greg and Inna helped!!
Despite the high price we wanted to sell only a small number of tickets, and make it affordable. So we priced the tickets not by dividing $15,000 by 100 ($150 each) we instead thought it fair to charge $65/$75 per ticket, less than half what we needed, so we took that target price and hacked the cost downwards so that it was more affordable. The next event might cost a little more.
I worked with the hotel to reduce the room night requirement and negotiated this out. Next I reset the min spend amount to $3,000 (Phil had already started the ball rolling and got the $15,000 down to around $6,000 if memory serves) so we were going into things needing to spend only $3,000 at the hotel. Between the 4 of us our liability was now only $750 each if nobody at all came. I suggested if that happens we all fly down and sit at the bar drinking expensive Champagne until we hit ‘goal’!
After we reduced liability, we just set the price at the arbitrary number of $75 and made the food and beverage ‘work’. We found that if we wanted to offer good food for lunch (there were also cheaper options) we would run out of cash for the cocktail hour, so we stretched the budget by taking the Eventbrite inflows of about $6000 and boosting the amount by buying discounted Hyatt Gift Checks.
Frequent Miler generously agreed to do this, and in fairness he gave up the opportunity to use these himself to make it work. It is a luxury that we might not have next time, so we should be glad he did this, and not surprised if things cost us a ‘little more’ on the next event. I busted a gut trying to get the best value out of our accelerated budget, hence deciding to not have the drinks package in the room (which still turned out great and came with water!) in order to spend every last dollar on the event. By agreeing to do this we effectively kicked in another $1000 to our spending pool.
I can’t see how you can hold a conference like ours without spending the money like this, it has to be congruent with our philosophy.
I think we had a great event. It worked because we made it all about the art of the Gig and that shone through not only from the presenters, but right the way through to how we booked and paid for it all, taking the money spent and using the skills we advocate to make sure that we optimized. We talked the talk and we walked the walk. I looked at the money that came in as my own money (not that I would pocket it and run! But that I wanted to spend it as wisely as I would my own) negotiation on price and using our skills to stretch a dollar came naturally to us.
We are now planning the next one. Frequent Miler, The Miles Professor and MilesAbound are already talking about where next, and I know that this one will be even better (though not bigger) than than the last as we have Tahsir, the Bengali Miles Guru, as part of the executive committee this time around. He is a very talented young man and we are certain to be able to produce something better as we take what we have and refine it further.
I cannot guarantee the next one will be as good value for money as this one, but you can rest assured we will have the same attitude, we will work our asses off to make sure that the event is amazing and we will price it in a way that ensures your money is maximized. Thanks to everyone for attending, and helping to make this a really enjoyable weekend.