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Hosting a live, online event for your business can be a production. It’s not just choosing the topic and planning the curriculum or presentation, either. There’s a lot of strategy and planning involved, and there are so many moving parts that business owners often forget about.
If you’re planning to host an upcoming webinar, summit, masterclass, challenge, workshop, or any other online event, I want to walk you through how to properly plan it — so you and your audience get exactly what you want out of it.
That’s why I’m taking you on a behind-the-scenes look at how I worked with one of my clients, Becca Cortice, aka The Happy Ever Crafter, to put together her Workshop Week. This is a week-long online “summit” where participants can join for free and learn all kinds of crafty things like hand lettering, bullet journaling, illustration, and more.
If you’re curious to see the kind of work that goes into a workshop or any kind of live event, keep following along.
Creating Happy Ever Crafter’s Workshop Week
Let’s rewind. Back in 2020, when we were all staying indoors as much as possible, online workshops really started to gain traction — both in the online business space and for everyday consumers. People were trying to find ways to stay entertained without leaving their houses, and (as you may remember) many of us decided to pick up hobbies.
Over the past seven years, Becca had taught over 250,000 students about the basics of modern calligraphy through her online courses, but she wanted to branch out and offer her community something new and exciting after months of being home. In December 2020, we put together a holiday party, where several artists got together over Zoom for a trivia night and auction for charity.
Becca literally embodies the phrase “community over competition”, and she had so much fun bringing everyone together for the holiday party that she couldn’t stop dreaming about making something even bigger.
In January 2021, she came to one of our team meetings saying she had a crazy idea…she wanted to host a live event in the summer featuring a variety of art workshops, where people could learn all sorts of new hobbies.
The holiday party helped set the stage for Workshop Week because it built on the community connections that had already been made, and we asked many of the artists who participated in the holiday party to come back. Luckily, they were more than excited to join in!
In our first year, we had 35 artists presenting during Workshop Week! In our second year, we added workshops for kids so they could work on a project while their parents did—that bumped us up to 45 artists. We’re heading into our third year and while we’re still getting a head count, it’s a big lineup.
Of course, it’s not just organizing the artists and scheduling a time for everyone. There’s a lot that goes into planning a workshop and summit like this. Here are just a few things our team had to consider — and that you should consider for any of your future live events, too.
Step #1: Creating the offer details
Before we could consider affiliates and promotional strategy, we had to come up with a viable offer, one that had deliverables this audience would want. Since we had so much success with the holiday party, this step wasn’t difficult, as we took most of the offer structure and transformed it into a different format for Workshop Week.
Here’s what we landed on:
- Attendees can RSVP for free access to the live event, but each workshop is only available for replay for 24 hours.
- There was a maximum of 5-7 workshops per day, which is why we added the replay option.
- There were options to purchase access to all the workshops for $49, which allowed them to watch before the event went live, and rewatch as many times as they’d like in the future.
- Though it wasn’t included in the first Workshop Week, in 2022 we added a feature to buy access to the previous year’s vault for those who missed our 2021 event.
In this way, the event served as a lead generator for The Happy Ever Crafter, but also became a revenue generator. But in the case you don’t have a paid summit, you’ll also want to consider your conversion strategy.
If you have a free event, what will you pitch people into after it’s over? For example, if you have a free art challenge, will you sell participants into your art courses? Will you share your services or products?
This is a key piece that you can’t overlook, as it’s going to be what drives revenue and ROI for all your efforts — which is exactly why we added the paid options for attendees for Workshop Week.
Step #2: Creating an affiliate program
As you can imagine, an annual event with so many artists and attendees is a large undertaking. There is a lot to think about, from the way the live recordings will be cast, to where everything will be hosted, and of course all the promotion that comes along with it.
We also had to think about our pitch to potential speakers. This is the most time-consuming task for many of the clients I have supported over the years, especially if they are “cold calling” potential speakers. Fortunately, we were on a tight deadline for organizing and launching Workshop Week (just four months), and Becca is very well-connected in her industry, so this happened fairly quickly. She already had existing relationships with other artists due to her long-standing Artist Interview series on YouTube.
But even with this advantage, several logistics needed to be sorted out, like getting our presenter contracts together*, setting up affiliate software, and sorting out how everyone would be compensated (read: PAID) for their time.
We ended up using SamCart* because it allowed for individual landing pages for each speaker. Each landing page included the same information, but was “branded” to each speaker so it would resonate more with their audiences. From there, people could sign up for the workshop and opt-in for reminders through the embedded email form.
When you think about the volume of guest artists we got together, having one central location to keep all of this in check was a lifeline. We used AirTable* to keep track of all of the deliverables we needed from our artists: from their signed contracts to their headshots, workshop videos, and more.
Step #3: Creating an email strategy
At the time we launched Workshop Week, Becca had an existing, large audience. Her email list had well over 80,000 people — today, it’s more than double that. Getting eyes on the “offer” wasn’t the problem; it was funneling that information to the right people. With such a big audience, we really needed to strategize how to segment communications across her email list.
If you’re used to the business-to-business marketing world, you’re probably familiar with long-form sales pages and the accompanying storytelling that happens to convert an offer. With this being a business-to-consumer business model, though, our emails were primarily short and sweet, but with a very specific segmentation approach.
We needed to create emails for a variety of subsets of the audience, including:
- People who had not registered for Workshop Week yet.
- People who had registered for Workshop Week, but hadn’t purchased access to the Vault yet.
- People who had registered for Workshop Week and did purchase access to the Vault.
- Our artist speakers.
And we obviously utilized social media as well, including Facebook ads and a separate Instagram — Workshop Week actually has its own pop-up account! It ended up being a great community facilitator because people could get live updates and share what they were working on during the event. As of now, the profile has 24K+ followers.
Step #4: Building and checking the tech
With any online event, there are a lot of little pieces that can (unfortunately) go wrong. Links break, Zoom decides you need to upgrade your webinar subscription before you can host all your guests, emails don’t trigger in time, and systems freeze.
For Workshop Week, we had everyone pre-record their workshops, but we live-streamed them on Crowdcast.io and encouraged the audience to attend live to interact with the workshop artist in the chatroom. A few days before the event, we tested everything — Becca streaming videos from her desktop, live DJing in between workshop sessions, using the chat tools, etc. We had over 125,000 live event viewers over the course of the week, and even with our extensive testing of every feature, we still ran into some challenges.
For example, our streaming platform sometimes throttled users so we wouldn’t overload their servers. If that happened, though, it would leave attendees unable to view the first few sessions while the engineers calibrated everything. We’re big fans of the simplest and most effective solution, so our backup plan was to grant users access via a live stream on YouTube.
Fortunately, we didn’t need to resort to this, but we had it ready to deploy if needed!
As a three-person team (one of whom is the live-streaming host and unable to troubleshoot alongside us), we do our best to communicate quickly and clearly with our attendees. One of our favorite tricks is to create an Out of Office message that will bounce back to emails giving details about the technical issue and what we’re doing to work on it.
We had to do this when our website crashed during the Holiday Party, and it’s an effective way to get the word out when thousands of people are messaging at the same time.
We also needed to test the purchasing capabilities of our software for attendees who wanted to purchase the add-ons. We tested every single step from landing on the actual landing page, to purchasing, the thank you page, and email delivery with instructions (login details and access).
We also created a dummy affiliate account to test each step in the affiliate process to ensure speakers were properly credited. We didn’t run into any issues this time, but I have seen it happen before, which is why I always say it’s crucial to have a “tech checklist” to fix these problems before they become problems for your audience.
Want to see Workshop Week’s results?
I’ve helped clients with summits that are primarily to get new leads into their other product funnels, or this one with Becca, where the goal was for this to be its own product that generates revenue. But in either case, knowing end goals, mapping out the offer, testing the technology and delivery, and promoting the event by email or social…it all helps you chart out everything you need before, during, and after, and ensure no gaps are left open.
And because we did this, Workshop Week has been a huge hit for the Happy Ever Crafter brand and Becca over the last two years.
In 2021, we reached $306K in sales. In 2022, we didn’t quite hit that number but we came close. Please remember, revenue does not equal profit. We had many expenses between all of the affiliate commissions (which was nearly $50,000 alone!), technology services, and staff hours making this event come to life.
We also added thousands of new subscribers to our email list. While many of our attendees were existing audience members, we had over 50,000 people registered each year, so we broadened our audience quite a bit!
In total, the conversion rate worked out to about 12.5%, when you considered varying levels of offer prices (early bird vs. full price) and affiliate sales. With most offers converting between 5 and 10%, this is well above average and it builds a community that continues to come back and engage with Becca’s offers.
We’re excited to see how it pans out in 2023!
Want results like this for your own brand? This is the kind of thing strategic partners can help with. I can take a big-picture idea and break it down into smaller, actionable steps so everything doesn’t feel as overwhelming. Plus, you’ll have someone to help bring your big visions to more people, through practical logistics and clear management.