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How To Start Creating Occasions, Not What Everyone Else Has Done For Years

Creating occasions is better than mass dictating.

When you bring people together to take new ideas on board, to network and to hopefully take something away (that is more than a pen/USB stick), when you make it feel like an occasion, you step away from tried and tested formulas.

When I say ‘mass dictating,’ I mean someone who stands at the front of a room and tells you what to do. Nevermind the interactions that happen, when the focus is on the format and not the communion, it becomes lost in a sea of sameness.

This article is about making something memorable for others where there is real intimacy.

From a conference, to a workshop, to an ongoing local event, it doesn’t have to fit the same formula of sitting in a room full of strangers, someone looking self-important and a real distance between those organising and those participating.

Why not bring everyone in together? The delegates are just as important as the people that stand in front of them.

How It All Works

What I am writing has a slant to what happened last week and what is happening next week.

Last week – people came from across the UK to be a part of the Schaef At The Seaside event (50 people). This was effectively the You Are The Media Conference Warm-Up where marketing behemoth Mark Schaefer had an event basically dedicated to him.

Next week – it is the You Are The Media Conference (May 23rd). We’ll have 150 people at Shelley Theatre, in Bournemouth, with a host of speakers and progressing what we created from the 2018 event.

Both events recognise the importance of bringing people together and creating an occasion. Ok, they have a learning slant to it where the focus is on a strategic level and not the tactical level ie. how to use social, how to use video, but the main focus is people feeling a part of something. This is something that you can’t get with a webinar or taking things to a much bigger scale, where you are dropped in with crowds and over to you to figure out how it works.

Defining Occasion

When I say occasion, I mean the ability for people to feel a part of something.

This changes everything. I don’t mean handing out business cards like confetti, but for the encouragement for interaction and just getting people to become familiar with each other.

My biggest fear with the You Are The Media project is that it loses its sense of intimacy. As it grows, will it lose its sense of connection? Time will tell. I really hope not. The reason it works is the sense of familiarity with the people who are part of it, the links that form and the interactions that happen (that are led by this idea of creation and ownership).

Julia Bramble from Bramble Buzz was part of last weeks Mark Schaefer event. Julia says, “I have been to many events that have felt totally impersonal. I even spoke at one event where I didn’t meet anyone who was involved with booking me and felt part of a factory type operation.” A factory experience makes me shiver, people crowded into a place, someone takes their money and no sense of gratitude.

You can still be successful with smaller events, I am beginning to realise that success is not measured by how many people are in a venue. Lucy Whittngton, from Statzy says, “I have always loved hosting small events, and being part of them too. it’s easier to meet more people when there are fewer people.”

What You Can Do To Create An Occasion

Whilst I am not an event organiser by any means, I am recognising that bringing people together, you can create an occasion, that doesn’t feel too straight-laced or formulaic. Perhaps it feels more relaxed, it doesn’t feel pressured or people feeling uneasy the moment they step into a room.

These are the things I am recognising about creating occasions on an intimate level:

Know everyone who is going to be in the room.

Maybe there is a way to connect one person to another or someone for you to carry a dialogue further. The people who are coming are just as important as the people who will be speaking. Probably the most important thing is to thank each person for giving up their time. It’s the little things that go a long way.

Let people know what they are going to get, keep them informed.

Whether this is an email or just keeping people up to speed, if you have a schedule and a timeline, then share it. Once I knew the schedule for the day of the You Are The Media Conference, I published it right away.

Work hard to build a rapport with those who are influential within your industry.

You never know when an opportunity might arise. This is about going beyond your immediate area and standing side by side with your peers. To have someone of the magnitude of Mark Schaefer heading over to the seaside was a privilege. Our relationship started with this article in 2014, in 2019 Mark published Marketing Rebellion. Mark is in such a revered and respected place, that I now regard him as a friend.

Find ways to keep people involved once they have committed.

By this, I don’t mean meet-ups the night before or upselling for another event, just little nudges to know that they are part of something.

This is something that Sarah Mulcare has done, by launching the You Are The Media Conference Messenger app. It’s a way to keep everyone updated and up to speed with the conference.

Let people know they are a part of something bigger, rather than ‘see ya later.’

You have to let people know that they are valued and that life doesn’t stop when something has finished. You Are The Media has many touchpoints for people to participate. From being a part of the podcast to a voice in the weekly articles to coming to You Are The Media Lunch Clubs (back at the end of the summer) life shouldn’t stop when you have taken someone’s money.

A sense of togetherness can form ongoing bonds.

I have seen this for myself that when there is intimacy it encourages familiarity.

People do work with each other who are part of the You Are The Media Community. You have to acknowledge when it takes on a different manifestation ie. people doing things you are not aware of, this is what a true community is all about (as a reference, read this article on the difference between audience and community).

Valuing others is better than a flash sale.

People do not want to be manipulated or coerced, things are tough as they are in the world today, without being taken along a sales funnel. It is important to be grounded, be ok with the ask, but recognise that ultimately the value that people will take, will be something that won’t be able to get, elsewhere.

Let’s Round Up

You can genuinely create an occasion to bring others together and direct conversations to develop.

An occasion is about finding ways for people to connect. It is important for people to feel a part of something that they enjoy. It is not about cramming as many people into a space and neglecting them.

If you make an occasion, this is what helps build a dialogue, share an interest and encourage participation with everyone who is taking part. It can also become scalable to what you do. Get it right, you come back to a format that is successful for you.

Creating moments in time where everyone feels connected can last beyond the initial event.

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