Sunday, January 31, 2010

Event Hosting 101

January has come to an end. This is the last day and the Comic Book Appreciation Month has reached its end, although not in the glorious parade I have hoped for, but it doesn’t surprise me one bit. For you see, things with me follow a strict succession that dictates that I must fail at an endeavor to learn what needs to be done in order to succeed.

In case anybody mistakes me for a chosen one, I will definitely require a test run before actually saving anything. With that being said, I am glad that this month did not crash in burn in the middle [champagne for the delayed failure anyone?], but trickled down to a halt due to nature: having a cold that saps my energy and being burned up from January in general.

Through these thirty one days I have learned a few valuable lessons, which I hope make sense and will aid you, when you decide to start your own event month. Welcome to Event Hosting Class 101. I am your tutor Harry Markov with the prestigious PhD in CMM [otherwise known as Chronic Mistake Making] and these are my lessons, compiled in one easy to follow list.


1. Clear Concept

I am afraid that the vague ‘I want to host a month about comic books’ is not going to cut it in the long run, even if in Daydreamland this sounds plausible. While having a clear subject is a part of this, the event must also have a clear sense of identity and individuality. The more you know what you want to have in your event month, the better as it helps you set a realistic time table and work everything to smooth perfection. Perhaps, you want a more content oriented event with interviews and guest posts. Example in this category is Smugglivius, hosted by the excellent Book Smugglers. Or maybe you would feel better to showcase different titles with a small blurb like review. Example here is the whole year theme over at Suvudu: 365 Days of Manga. Knowing what you want will help you with stage two.

2. Early Planning

You have your concept [at least you think you do]. You are in the honeymoon period with the idea and your confidence threatens to coax you into buying a color spandex suit with the code name EPIC WIN on. I did that, so I advise against. Spandex does not look good immediately after the holiday season and all the food commas. What you should do is start planning and do this for about two, perhaps three months before actually starting with the event. Again, this is strictly individual. If you will need interviews and content, make a list with all the names that seem reputable in the topic or will have something interesting to say. Month and half would be a great start with working your way down from early entries to last entries. When you plan on having more reviews, then I say calculate how many you want per week, which titles will fit best and start minimum three months prior in order to evenly spread the work, unlike me. I did exactly the opposite, I left the huge bulk to the last moment possible and it is why I finish prematurely and in a bad shape.

3. Backup Plan

There is not much here, but one trick that will give you flexibility, when you feel like that you are in that claustrophobic tight spot between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Do not tell your audience how the event will unravel. Mention the basics, but no details, because details are promises that this event will continue in such and such way with such and such content. The public humiliation after not meeting these self-set rules stings. So be mysterious in order to both attract readers with anticipation and never let it slip, when you made a blooper.

4. Contributors

Dealing with people is a scary variable, the wild card that can make or break the event. When considering an event, it is crucial to have a strong cast. You should pick contributors that you actually know and have had contact with. This is actually an EPIC WIN with me, because all the people, who contributed were punctual, eloquent and fun to have around. It is essential to have peers or fellows that share the same passion and do the same as you do, especially the bloggers, because we as a community do not excel with competition as driving force. But it is also good to have celebrities on board, but working with them is tricky.

The key factor here is time, because celebrities are not celebrities because they sit on their asses all day [unless we talk about reality TV stars, then that would be affirmative]. They should be recruited earliest and given most time to answer interview questions, have follow-up sessions or write a guest post. This means a month the very least, because you never know, when a spike of activity will hit or a cold will leave the celeb contributor unable to send in the material on time.

5. Market Strategy

In order for an event to be a success [admit it, you want it to be successful, you want to have those web hits, even if your rational mind lies to you that you are better than that] one must be on the same wavelength with the audience. I did the stupid assumption that book bloggers will be thrilled with my awesome month dedicated to comics and I also did not take into account that my regular audience would not be into it either. I did not pay attention that each theme has the perfect audience and in order to lure that audience in, one must know, where it hangs out and infiltrate. Contact with prime sites that promote the theme for your event and ask to be represented there with a small banner or get them to be participants in the event themselves in order to warm them up to the idea to give you publicity.

When marketing, it is also shoot in the dark and hope that readers will pop from unexpected places such as Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon, but also specialized forums, sites like 42Blips and Top Blogs. If you have a large Twitter following, then you will do a great job, if you persuade people to re-tweet the links you give about the event. You need to know where exactly to hit and then hit it hard and hit it fast and continuously.


And with this point I conclude with the basics of Event Hosting 101. If there are experienced hosts out there that do not agree, explain to me where I err and if there are more questions and suggestions, I will be more than happy to do a follow up.

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