Small Business Live Events: 16 Tips To Create Yours

What Andy Crestodina Taught Me About  Small Business Content That Can Help You

Andy Crestodina at Content Jam 2014Live events are where business takes place, especially for B2B companies.

Don’t think, like many small businesses do, that live events are a champagne priced marketing approach that your beer budget marketing can’t afford.

Instead, take a page from the Andy Crestodina playbook. As the Principal of Orbit Media, a Chicago based web design firm, Crestodina hosts a monthly Wine and Web in their offices to get speakers and audiences together.

To stretch the power of live events, Crestodina partnered with other Chicago based colleagues to created Content Jam. Unlike many live business events, Content Jam is a group effort targeted at content marketers located in Chicago.

Small business live event lessons

Here are 5 small business live event lessons learned from Content Jam 2014.Andy Crestodina at Content Jam 2014

1. Host a live event.

With many people working remotely, it’s critical to get out from behind your computer to see people in real time.

Don’t underestimate the value of meeting people and exchanging ideas. It gets you into another environment and presents other points of view. These two activities are good for giving you new ideas.

Bear in mind—people trust people they know. Therefore, no matter how introverted you are, go to events with the goal of making connections.

Actionable Content Marketing Tips:

  • Set goals for your live event. As with any other marketing initiative, craft achievable, measurable objectives and track your results
  • Choose a theme. This gives presenters and content creators a hook around which to tailor their content.
  • Structure your event. Like any other form of content, events need organization. For live events, this translates to a set of tracks that provide continuity. Content Jam had 5 separate categories of content: Strategy, Creation, Promotion, Conversion and Measurement.

2. Invite your friends.

Relationships matter in business as well as in real life.

When developing a live event, leverage the power of your own network. The beauty of creating a live group event is that you can leverage the networks of everyone involved.

Beyond inviting local rockstars like Spin Sucks’ Gini Dietrich and Moz’s Dr. Pete, Crestodina got his friends to participate. Friends like Barry Feldman, Nick Kellet and I traveled to Chicago to participate.

Actionable Content Marketing Tips:

  • Invite all of the rockstars in your area. Craft a list of everyone who lives within a hour of your event. Many experts who would command a higher speaking fee may support a local event since it’s happening in their backyard. I’ve moderated panels and spoken to local groups.
  • Tap into other people’s networks. Part of the power of putting on a group event is to leverage the power of everyone’s network. At a minimum, consider everyone’s local connections.  Also consider people in your network’s connections who are local to your event.
  • Use your live event as an excuse to network. Putting together an event is a great reason to reach out to people to either participate or attend. Remember that one of your goals is to use the live event to meet people.

3. Brand your event.

Leverage the power of branding to cast a bigger shadow. (BTW–Here are 5 tips to craft a small business brand.)

Many small businesses think that branding is something that only big companies do because it requires a big budget. But the reality is that branding is more about consistency.

Since Crestodina and his colleagues run local marketing services companies, this was a no-brainer.

Actionable Content Marketing Tips:

  • Create a separate, but related brand for your event. To maximize the impact, associate it with your event. Include the name, focus, logo, hashtag and colors.
  • Use a consistent presentation template. While this sounds like a small detail, it gets everyone on the same page, even if it’s only a title page and footer. Don’t forget to be consistent with your typeface.
  • Start using your hashtag before the event. Leverage the power of social media to build awareness for your event beyond your physical location. It takes time and consistency to build traction for a hashtag.

4. Price your event to maximize revenues and attendees.

Content Jam was priced to allow anyone to attend since Crestodina believes in educating his audience and peers.

The problem was that Content Jam sold all but 10 tickets during the lowest priced early bird period. This means that the event was priced much lower than attendees were willing to spend and that core audience was larger than they anticipated.

Actionable Content Marketing Tips:

  • Cover your costs. At a minimum, your event should raise enough money to cover the actual costs as well as the time invested. Remember that your time is a scarce resource.
  • Add a cushion to your pricing. Even if you’re aiming to break even, include room for unexpected costs and overruns. Don’t be surprised–plan ahead.
  • Get sponsors. Ask local companies to help you with products and services you need. This includes your location and food services.

5. Create event-related content.

By their nature live events are a form of content marketing. Extend the reach of your small business live event by planning related content creation associated with the event.

Actionable Content Marketing Tips:

  • Develop epic content with your speakers. Curate useful information that your target audience and their followers can use. Lee Odden is the master of the pre-conference ebook.
  • Post the presentations on SlideShare. Extend your event longevity by hosting the presentations on this long-tail social media platform.
  • Collect and share related photographs. Get your participants to post their photographs on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
  • Get attendees into your content creation. Ask them to contribute to a video or blog post by asking a specific question related to the theme.


Creating a small business live event takes a community. It’s a major effort that involves your employees and your colleagues.

To maximize the impact of your small business live event, plan the related content you’re going to create both before and after. It also helps extend the reach of your event to people who aren’t local.

What other tactics and tips have you found useful for your small business live events?

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen

Heidi CohenHeidi Cohen is the President of Riverside Marketing Strategies.
You can find Heidi on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn.


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