The Logistics of Running an Online Conference
How we went from a 30-person event to a highly anticipated virtual conference
Each year since 2018, our team has run an event called Immersion Live. What started as a small in-person gathering has grown to an internationally attended virtual event where we empower you to take your creative entrepreneurship seriously and unveil the incredible possibilities that lie ahead when you do.
As we gear up for our next annual Immersion Live conference, the excitement is palpable. Each year, we build upon everything we’ve learned, and this year, we're excited to delve into the art of business! But as we move forward, I wanted to share a glimpse of how Immersion Live has evolved over the years.
The Evolution of Immersion Live: From Physical to Virtual
The Immersion Live conference started in 2018 as an intimate gathering of alumni, held in a charming farmhouse complex in Round Top, Texas right after the International Quilt Market. The event was a delightful blend of connection, creativity, and learning. It kicked off with a drawing night where we stayed up late creating artwork together, followed by two days of intensive sessions. Despite the logistical challenges and expenses associated with hosting the event, the intimate, sweet experience made it all worthwhile.
In 2019, we took the conference to Asheville, keeping the structure similar but accommodating a larger group. This move from running my business from inside my house to meeting and greeting people in real life was a step outside my comfort zone, and as nerve-wracking as it was, I loved every moment of it. Following this event, we booked a venue for 2020 in Greenville, South Carolina, ready to host 300 attendees.
However, the events of 2020 led us to quickly pivot. With live events getting canceled due to the pandemic, we decided to take Immersion Live virtual. We faced our fair share of technical challenges, but the overall event went well, and the attendee feedback was overwhelmingly positive.
In 2021 and 2022, we embraced the virtual format and upleveled our approach, renting a studio in Greenville that handled all the tech for us, offering HD recordings, and inviting more speakers. The experience felt professional, fun, and smooth. Despite being virtual, it felt like a genuine event, and the connection with our attendees was stronger than ever.
And in 2023, we’re evolving once again as we embrace a virtual format paired with an exclusive in-person VIP experience. For the first time, we're offering the exclusive opportunity for a select few (less than 50 to be precise!) to join us IN PERSON at our beautiful studio in Charleston, SC.
Two Types of Tickets
- Virtual Tickets - A three-day immersive experience featuring keynotes, workshops, and loads of inspiration.
- VIP In-Person Tickets (limited availability!) - An ultra-exclusive opportunity for an in-depth, four-day experience. Tickets open this Thursday, August 3rd at 11 am ET.
The studio where we're hosting the event specializes in what’s called a ‘digital first’ experience: all sessions are live-streamed for our online audience, with VIP in-person guests viewing the same content from a large screen within our studio. This method offers a unique, intimate experience for VIP attendees, as they can mingle with my team and me, plus enjoy a behind-the-scenes look at our incredible space. It's a win-win: amazing for our virtual attendees and extra special for our VIPs!
Planning Immersion Live: A Detailed Timeline
Planning Immersion Live is a complex, multi-faceted process that starts six months ahead of the event. Here's a detailed look at our timeline:
Six months out: The planning kicks off with a thorough review of the feedback survey from the previous year. We open up early-bird tickets and hold a vision storming session to decide on the event theme, brainstorm speakers, discuss swag, and set dates. We make contact with the venue, review contracts, and start tracking the budget.
Six weeks out: This is when things start to get really busy. We finalize our speakers, send out speaker forms to collect all the information we need, and focus on swag – designing, sourcing, and budgeting for the boxes we send out to the first 600 enrollees. We also set a date for packing and shipping the boxes.
Five weeks out: We design and order the swag, ensuring we leave plenty of buffer time for shipping and potential delays.
Four weeks out: We finalize the schedule, share it internally, and with the speakers. We invite our speakers to promote the event as partners and provide them with promotional materials. We also book a hair and makeup artist and a florist to ensure everyone looks their best and our set looks professional.
Three weeks out: We make it easy for others to share about the event by creating a variety of promotional graphics and shareable content. We finalize our sales page, while also ramping up promotion with our existing audience. At this time, we also book hotel rooms for our team and speakers.
Two weeks out: The presentations are finalized, and our focus shifts to the swag. We pack and ship the boxes and envelopes, ensuring they'll arrive at the attendees' doors before the event. We also finalize the event schedule and begin sharing it with attendees. Simultaneously, we design the final schedule, taking into consideration the possibility of last-minute changes.
One week out: With the event drawing near, we assemble welcome bags for our speakers as a token of appreciation. Our promotional efforts intensify with pre-event announcements, GIFs for Instagram stories, and more. The final touches are added to the set designs, and our event coordinator gets busy with organizing the studio.
Week of the event: The event coordinator manages the Zoom room and ensures all tech issues are handled. We also have someone with eyes on our inbox to address any emergencies and answer last-minute questions from attendees. We create a 'hub', a private website where attendees can find all relevant event links and information. Our event coordinator also prepares the studio, making sure it's comfortable and equipped with everything we might need, from favorite snacks to a full-length mirror. The set designs are set up and broken down at the end of this week.
During the event: The event coordinator continues managing the Zoom room and the studio, passing on any necessary information to the speaker through a whiteboard. We also have someone answering administrative questions on the hub, and another person monitoring our inbox for any emergent issues.
After the event: We break down the set, clean everything up, and work on replays. All the event content is uploaded to a program called Searchie, transcribed, and imported into a product called Kajabi. It then appears like a course for attendees, complete with all days, sessions, replays, downloads, and slideshow presentations. We store everything related to the event — emails, social media copy, schedule, outreach to speakers, and more — for reference next year.
We follow up with our speakers, sending thank you gifts and payments, as well as paying out any affiliate commissions. We also recap the event on social media, sharing audio clips, video clips, takeaways, testimonials, stories, etc. Attendees are sent a post-event survey to provide feedback for improving the next year's event. Lastly, we debrief to discuss improvements and keepers for the next year.
Running a live event—whether in person or virtual still comes with a number of expenses:
- Studio Rental: This is one of our biggest expenses. The cost covers tech support, recording, replays, and HD recording services.
- Event Coordinator: Hiring an event coordinator has been an invaluable investment, as she takes care of all the event details.
- Swag Box and Items: A significant portion of the budget goes into curating and creating the swag boxes for attendees.
- Shipping Costs: Postage fees are high due to the need to ship swag boxes to attendees.
- Speaker Fees: We believe in compensating all our speakers and guests for their valuable time and insights.
- Miscellaneous Expenses: Including costs for hotel rooms for out-of-town speakers, a hair and makeup artist, a florist for set design, and thank you gifts for all speakers post-event.
Even with these expenses, Immersion Live has been financially successful, and more importantly, it offers significant value to our attendees. We're excited to continue improving and growing in our future events.
The Magic of Immersion Live
What truly sets Immersion Live apart is the magic that unfolds when we come together. It's in the way we inspire and uplift each other, pushing our boundaries, challenging our assumptions, and growing together. This sense of community and connection is what makes Immersion Live an event like no other.
Immersion Live 2023 Is Coming!
As we look to the future, we're eager to explore new ideas and to continue creating an event that inspires, educates, and connects. This year, as we delve into the art of business, we invite you to join us in uncovering the myriad ways in which creativity and strategy intersect.
Art and business may seem like two separate worlds, but when they intersect, they can create a vibrant synergy. This year's Immersion Live aims to explore these subtleties and complexities, uncovering the artistry in business strategies, and the strategic value in artistic processes. We're preparing an enriching line-up of sessions, discussions, and workshops that will leave you with new insights, ideas, and inspiration.
I’d love for you to join us for Immersion Live. Together, we’ll discover the art of business, inspire and uplift each other, and create a memorable conference.
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