How to build an audience online… it starts with:
Growing a sizeable list.
Becoming a trusted expert in my industry.
Launching a signature online program.
Creating an engaged community that champions me—and my offerings.
If you’re anything like me, you probably have—and likely still are—pursuing one or more of these goals. Whether you are a web designer or a wellness coach, a technological wizard, or a digital newbie, your inbox is likely flooded each day with experts showing you how to utilize online marketing and technology to achieve your business goals.
I’m not one of those people.
How To Build An Audience Online… Starting Offline
While my speaking and coaching business has had an online presence since it’s inception 8 years ago, the truth is that I’m most in my zone of genius when leading live, in-person events that are high touch and low tech. Where I incorporate heaps of audience interactivity and few, if any, slide decks.
And it’s from leading these quality, transformational live events—e.g., workshops, retreats, corporate trainings, and TEDx’s—that my email list has grown. That I’ve been able to emerge more meaningfully online through my spotlight products and coaching programs. That I’ve surpassed the six-figure mark and most importantly, found a way to marry my passion and expertise with what my audience craves.
Although it might sound counter intuitive to go offline to grow online, the truth is that intimate, high-touch, in person events can be one of the most effective ways to supercharge your online fan base.
Live events facilitate and deepen connections between you and your tribe—and between fellow tribe members—both during promotion for the live event and of course during the live event itself.
When led properly, live events put you at top of mind as a trusted expert—in the head and heart of those who attended as well as those who encountered your event promotion.
And the next time you launch online, you better believe that your live event participants will become crazy, beautiful proselytizers within your online community and, just as importantly, within their own communities.
Leading successful live events requires different, albeit complementary skills, to those that make an entrepreneur successful online.
Here are my top recommendations to ensure your first (or next) live event rocks—for you and your peeps.
1. Choose a structure that serves your tribe and your revenue goals.
One of the biggest mistakes I see leaders make is trying to replicate the model of other live events they have attended. As a result, many well-intentioned people are essentially taking their online programs and bringing them offline. Speaking at their audience rather than with their audience.
They are prioritizing teaching their tribe at the expense of transforming them.
In order to over deliver on your tribe’s expectations, choose a live format that enables you to design a truly interactive and mind-blowing experience.
Perhaps you want to lead a live workshop for 30 people. This number will allow you to have people up on their feet, practicing the strategies and techniques you are teaching—and enable you to deliver real-time mindset and skill-based coaching.
Maybe you want to work with an even smaller group via a destination retreat. One of my favorite things to do is to take a group of 10–15 visionary speakers to a fun location (next on my list is Kauai!) in order to mastermind and skill build.
This enables me to give my attendees oodles of customized strategy, opportunities for quality relationship building, and ample time to rest, restore and soak up a beautiful environment that supports the transformative speaking work we’re doing.
It’s also possible that you want to lead a more traditional live event for 100+ people. If going this route, it’s even more important to think about how you give your audience opportunities to apply what they are learning and to connect with fellow participants—versus just having them sit and digest information from you and guest speakers during a one-day intensive or weekend conference.
But the truth is that larger events have larger expenses and it’s often easier to net multiple five or even six figures of profit from an intimate, well-facilitated live event. You do so not only from registration fees, but also from offering participants in your experiences the opportunity to continue their work with you in ongoing private and group coaching, consulting and masterminding programs.
It’s not uncommon for me and other live event leaders to quadruple the income we earn after a workshop or retreat because the experience we create makes it almost effortless to enroll participants into our other programs.
2. Fill your in-person event through online marketing and community building.
Even though you are bringing your tribe together offline, it’s essential that you leverage online business building strategies to promote your live event.
Whenever my clients and I are designing our live offerings, we use a classic online launch formula to promote them. Just as you would hopefully not throw up a sales page and send people straight there for an online program or product launch… When creating a live event, you don’t want to ask people to register without first giving them a chance to “date you and your content.”
There are 3 top priorities for event leaders during the enrollment phase.
Priority 1: Get your audience eager to see you live
If you have participated in Nathalie’s Launch It and Profit training, this is the classic pre-launch stage where you are giving away quality, free content. When doing an online product launch, you might have a landing page where interested people can opt-in for a free video training series. Or you may be offering a free report, a series of interviews, or webinars.
When your goal is to fill a live event, I recommend that you wet your audience’s appetite by doing a series of mini-virtual events.
Remember, prospects are considering whether they want to be in your audience for 1 or more days and they are looking for evidence that you are charismatic, credible and engaging… worth seeing live. One of the easiest and most cost effective ways to do this is to have a single landing page promoting 3 or 4 webinars where you will give snippets of different content that you will be sharing at your live event.
Webinars are one of the fastest ways to grow your list.
Even when participants don’t enroll in your current live event, they often register for other events, programs and products down the line because webinars make our audience members feel close and connected to us as event hosts.
Priority 2: Incentivize early enrollment
As you share your webinar series with your newsletter list and expand your reach through strategic online advertising (e.g, Facebook ads that you run to your webinar landing page), make sure that you are making it easy for people to say, “heck yeah, I’m in” to your event early by making it cost effective to do so.
You don’t need to have an open and close enrollment period because you typically need to promote your live event 3–6 months before it happens, if it’s out of town, so people have time to make plans. And, let’s face it, you don’t want to have a hard stop on when tickets are available in case you don’t sell out. I often sell a handful of tickets just a few weeks before an event to members of my local community.
However, you can have tiered pricing that goes up 24 hours after each webinar. That way, when you make your offer at the end of a webinar for people to register for your live event, they feel a sense of urgency to do so before the price increases.
Another way to incentivize early enrollment is to do an initial 2-for–1 ticket giveaway the first week or two after launching your sales page. This is a terrific way to allow your early, most eager customers to fill your audience with their pals who likely will add more positive vibes to your event.
Priority 3: Prep attendees for the live event
Your live event experience begins the moment a prospective attendee enrolls. Make sure that you have set-up an autoresponder system that communicates pertinent details about the live event, e.g., location specifics, transportation, and daily schedule, so that they can make accurate travel plans.
Make sure also to invite participants into an online community, such as a private Facebook group for the event, to connect with other attendees. The more that your participants get to know each other, the more fully they will show up to the live event because they will be comfortable with one another. You can also use the new online platform, Periscope, to do quick video Q+A sessions with event attendees. I’ll be doing a lot of this during my next live event launch!
Plus, when your live event participants feel connected to one another, they are more likely to want to continue working with you because they want to continue to develop their new business friendships. The first person I ran into at Nathalie’s Off The Charts event was my pal from Launch It & Profit, Sara Bradford.
We spent much of the weekend together. When Nathalie shared details of the 9-month Daring Business Cultivator she was offering that year we knew we both wanted in, but we had to decide if this was the right business investment for us at that time. A key deciding factor for both of us was whether the other was going to do it. (In case you are curious, we applied, were accepted, had an extraordinary year together, and Sara—an amazing real food expert—is serving as the private chef for my Kauai event.)
You can also set your attendees up for success by giving them some pre-event work to complete in advance. Make sure that whatever activities you assign are fun, illuminating and will accelerate learning at the live event.
3. Find your “secret sauce” to move from expert to transformational thought leader
Finally, in order to make your live event game changing for you and your audience, you need to develop your speaking and facilitation skills. If you deliver any kind of online training, you likely have gotten comfortable speaking from your computer, behind a slide deck. Even if using slides (sparingly I hope!) at your live event, you still will be stepping into the role of thought leader. You will be center stage.
People don’t choose to make the time and financial commitment to leave their homes and families and attend a live event, no matter how established the event’s leader is, simply to learn. That’s what online is for.
They want to hear stories you’ve never told before—and understand EXACTLY how you have gotten to where you are today (so they can see the pathway toward where they are striving to be). They want to be asked to think more boldly and take bigger risks than you or anyone else has ever asked them to take.
They want to build genuine, long-term relationships with the other people in attendance. And most of all, they want to leave your event inspired and prepared to implement their insight and create real, ongoing results.
Successful and profitable live event leaders, like Nathalie, have mastered creating and executing a live event that they couldn’t have captured in an online format. They ask questions, lead activities, provide guest speakers, and do laser coaching that deepens the experience of their curriculum and facilitates real, lasting transformation for their audience.
They are so much more than experts who are delivering great content. They are true thought leaders who artfully energize and engage their participants through the live experiences they create.
As I hope you can tell, I’m insanely passionate about leading live events—and supporting other entrepreneurs, change makers and visionaries to do the same.
Whether you have never led a live event before, but know that you want to do deep, delicious work with your tribe—or you have previously led live events, but they just haven’t been as profitable as you now know they can be, my hope is that you take my recommendations and gussy up what you are doing effectively online to create an epic, money-making experience offline.
About Alexia Vernon
Branded a “Moxie Maven” by the White House, Alexia supports visionary leaders to use public speaking and live events to spread their ideas, grow their tribes, and add meaningful revenue to their businesses. Alexia is a contributor to media such as CNN, NBC, Forbes, Inc. and Women’s Health.