I’ve become a bit of a regular blogger here but most people in the SEO industry know me through the growing BrightonSEO events I’ve been involved in arranging over the last year or so.
We started out with occasional social drinks and we’ve been able to grow to the stage of arranging a couple of half day conferences where we we’ve overwhelmed with the number of attendees.
And the great thing about these events have been that they’re free, opening up search marketing conferences to people who have never attended some of the great, but pricey events that occur all over the UK.
It’s not just Brighton that have been headed off down this path, Pete Young, a fellow State of Search Blogger, and a Posse of Manchester Search types have been doing similar in the north-west. Of course London also has it regular beer-y LondonSEO events as well. Plus there dozens of similar approaches across the States and Europe as well.
If you don’t have an event like this nearby what can you do to start you own?
Start Small – With BrightonSEO, a good friend of mine, Jaamit had arranged a social drinks meet up, at the event he knew a some people would come along who he knew personally and if there were more even better. When I arranged the first half day conference I had a similar attitude; I knew even if just a dozen people people showed up, everyone in the room there would learn something, meet some new people and the event would be a success.
So when planning your first event don’t splash lots of cash on a flashy venue or hand outs and the like. Get a cheap as chips venue and make sure no matter how many, or how few people come, everyone has a good time.
Call in Favours – Despite being a relatively small event we’ve been able to attract some great speakers; some of whom regularly deliver the best sessions at conferences costing hundreds and sometimes thousands to attend. They’ve done this out of commitment to the community and as a favour to me.
Over the years there’s bound to have been people who you’ve helped out, maybe you’ve tweeted their blog posts, bought them a beer at a conference or asked a good question when they were on a panel. People in the industry are easy to approach and will happily help you out, so don’t be afraid to ask.
Don’t Over-Complicate Matters – The reason the big conferences and events are so expensive is because they are complicated beast with huge cost’s associated. The city SEO events are so popular as they forego bells and whistles and concentrate on the content. That does mean at times we might be a little rough around the edges, but that’s all part of the charm.
So don’t worry about producing high-quality printed agendas, at BrightonSEO we’ve never even bothered with name tags. Simplicity is the name of the game. It makes it easier to organise and will allow you to keep the event as cheap as possible (or even free with a few friendly sponsors)
Better to be Over-subscribed than Under – We’ve never had a registration system for BrightonSEO, to be honest this has been a blessing and a curse.
It does mean we’ve never had to worry about a booking system or checking signing people in on the day but it has mean’t at both half day conferences we’ve had more people arrive than we physically had room for.
Next time we’ll probably have to get people to pre-register, but part of me thinks having the lack of space has probably been good for us.
We’ve all been to half full events where subconsciously it’s affected our perception of the day. If you’re at a search event where it’s standing room only and people have been turned away you’ll already know that you’re going to have a great experience. With a bit of luck and some talented speakers you’ll even exceed those expectations.
So get to it, set up an event for your city, and if you want some advice or even a speaker tweet @kelvinnewman and let me know.