To say that I “plan” The Signature CEO Conference is truly an understatement that modestly characterizes what I do. “Plan”, that 4-letter word, is not big enough to encapsulate the heart and soul of this endeavor. Every morning I rise with my mind intrinsically intertwined with ways to meet the needs of business leaders across echelons. I take the best ideas and methodically and artistically pare off chips from around the edges, sand the surface, blow away the dust, then polish, shine and refine – until this platform takes the shape of a pathway for those that passionately pursue success.
The concept for The Signature CEO Conference rose from the dispirited ashes that fell away from me each time I walked away from educational forums with empty pages in my notebook and an unnourished creative soul. Each time, the despair was accompanied by a tiny nagging that gradually began to consume my mind with a sense of urgency and a strong inclination. Inspiration’s magnetic pull sprang me into action and in that moment, I dreamt of The Signature CEO Conference, as more than an educational forum; it would be a thriving, educational ecosystem.
That was five years ago (2015), and since then, welcoming creatives into this brave new world has become my specialty; one that inspires them to be their best selves in every aspect of their lives.
Planning The Signature CEO Conference (with or without a pandemic) is a passion pursuit that requires all-consuming drive and dedication, as well as a sprinkle of magic and a bit of wand-waving wizardry. And guess what, Dorothy? I am pulling back the luxe, custom designed drapery to give you a behind-the-scenes peek into what it takes to “plan” The Signature CEO Conference.
If you have ever wanted the opportunity to pick my brain and dip into my bag of conference planning tips, tools, and techniques, this is for you!
Now let’s get into it!
Organization & Systems
Benjamin Franklin said, for every minute you spend organizing you gain an hour. I second that sentiment – and can attest to its validity. Organization is the key to ensuring that I maximize my time, and my event runs effectively and smoothly.
The most important tools I use in this process are Microsoft Planner and HubSpot:
- Microsoft Planner allows me to organize and prioritize tasks in categories.
- HubSpot allows me to track email conversations and streamlines the pipeline of speakers and sponsors as they funnel through various stages similar to a sales funnel process.
Both platforms are ideal systems for checks and balances and prevents things from slipping through the cracks.
Profits and Losses
The Signature CEO Conference is an undertaking of purpose – not profit. With this labor of love, there are really no profits, as 100% of the funds are poured into crafting an unforgettable, high-yielding experience for attendees.
In the spirit of full transparency, here is a Cost Breakdown. The annual conference cost ranges from $25K-30K (with all expenses accounted for):
- 50%: allocated for speaker expenses (speaker fees, travel, hotel accommodations)
- 35%: allocated for fare and refreshments
- 15%: allocated for miscellaneous expenses
- In 2020, due to COVID-19 precautions, The Signature CEO Conference pivoted to a virtual experience, therefore we incurred an unexpected expense of $2000 in shipping costs. The shipping costs was associated with shipping our complimentary SWAG packages to each attendee’s home across the United States.
Would you believe it if I told you that 90% of the tangible products such as décor – and services such as photography and live entertainment are in-kind donations? This is important to note because without strong relationships with various vendors that I cultivated throughout the years, this would not be possible.
Because of its stellar reputation and ability to ignite brands, The Signature CEO Conference averages approximately $60K in-kind sponsorships from our professional vendors, $5K in monetary sponsorships. This, on its own, is a tremendous feat!
High-quality, cornerstone content is what makes The Signature CEO Conference a leading contender for creative professionals. How do I choose topics? By always keeping my fingers on the pulse of the creative community. I listen to understand what type of content will meet the most pressing needs of the industry and I stay in tune with “the buzz”. This is the wellspring of ideas from which I draw inspiration – then I fashion that inspiration into the topics that will provide the most value.
The Signature CEO Conference is often praised for both its diversity of speakers and high-caliber content; neither of which can commonly be found on other conference platforms. To ensure a diverse representation of talent, that extends beyond the wedding and events industry, I take pleasure in personally selecting all speakers. My hands-on approach not only guarantees that speakers are not repetitive, but it also guarantees fresh, timely content year after year.
Fresh content and leading talent are fundamental keys to the success of any conference. Who wants to spend time and money on a conference with regurgitated content delivered by speakers who frequently appear on the conference circuit?
Social Media Strategy
Social media is a powerful marketing tool that has become an essential part of my promotional playbook. FB, Twitter, IG and LinkedIn empowers me to engage with, and energize, attendees in creative ways that boosts attendance and builds community.
Here is a short list of ways I effectively use social media to capture and captivate the attention of conference-goers.
- I showcase speakers & topics
- I thank and show love to sponsors
- I create shareable content that helps spread the word
- I highlight speaker/attendee testimonials
- I intrigue attendees with video promos and teasers
- I share relevant info regarding sales and promotions
- I address frequently asked questions
- I host giveaways/contests and present scholarship opportunities
- I share fun flashbacks and mic dropping moments from past conferences
- I go all in with the conference hashtag and annual theme
- I share behind-the-scenes moments in Stories
I also have a conference day social media plan in place to consistently populate social media with live insights.
Past attendees are invited to join the Private FB Alumni Group. This is where we continue our conversations throughout the year with exclusive content. We also use the group to continue to network and encourage one another to put the insights we have learned into action.
Many conference-goers seek out events in their industry to develop relationships and create opportunities to advance their career. The Signature CEO Conference is an ideal destination for connecting with a wide variety of professionals across industries and verticals.
I offer a unique value-added proposition by creating an environment where attendees have the opportunity to closely engage and network with speakers during breaks, planned activities, breakout sessions, a welcome party, and a black-tie gala. This opportunity extends over the course of 3-three days. This is unlike typical conferences where a speaker’s interaction with attendees is limited to on stage Q&A’s. I place speakers on the stage as well as in the seat right next to you!
Crisis Management & Contingency Plans
This is all about proactively preparing for the “what ifs” as opposed to being caught off guard if unforeseen circumstances arise.
2020 was the first year to have COVID contingency plans. I am accustomed to having bad weather contingency plans in place, but a pandemic plan? That was a first! And it turned out to be a valuable, teachable moment! Now, having successfully overcome planning a virtual conference during a pandemic, what once seemed like a novel plan has become a proven tool for me to employ moving forward, if needed.
Staffing is one of the most important functions of any successful event, as a talented, top notch team ensures efficient facilitation of every essential conference component. But more importantly, having a team that is as enthusiastic, capable, and dedicated as I am, takes it to a whole new level!
- For The Signature CEO Conference 2020 – Virtual Experience, 5-five people (including myself) were behind the scenes producing the event and monitoring activity, throughout each 12-hour day. I also enlisted the services of a social media manager and 2-two emcees to keep up the energy.
- For in-person experiences, 6-six people (including myself) are behind the scenes producing the event and monitoring activity, throughout the 12-hour day. I also enlist the services of a social media manager, audio visual tech, and 2-two emcees to keep up the energy.
- The extended production team ranges from 20 to 30 individuals who include photography, videography, floral designers, entertainment, rental companies, etc.
I am fortunate that so many talented professionals are willing to volunteer their time to work with me, simply because they believe in me and support the mission. Otherwise, on average, the price of staffing for an event of this magnitude, would range from $1500 to $3000.
Having the Proper Platform (if hosting Virtually)
From filming to moderating and so on, planning a virtual event required me to use more extensive skills in dealing with technology – in brand new ways.
These are the solutions that worked for me, hopefully for they will work for you too!
- Zoom had all the features I needed to host the event, including networking activities. The cost of service for 3-days was approximately $150. If you are looking for more innovative options, prices range from $6K to $100K.
- AllSeated is one of the vendor partners that I utilize not only for the conference but in my business on a daily basis. It is an easy-to-use digital platform that allows event professionals to plan events and work with clients remotely. It has an interactive virtual platform called Exvo; prices start at $6500.
Keep in mind, the cost of hosting virtually depends on your scale and what it will take to effectively meet your needs.
Audio Visual (in-person events)
The Signature CEO Conference requires on-site tech, a projection screen, projectors, splitters (a device that takes one signal from a video source and replicates it over multiple monitors), sound, stage lighting etc.
- Audio visual is one of those things that I receive a sponsorship for, but it does not cover 100% of the associated cost.
- If I did not have a sponsorship, AV costs would start at $10K; we average around $2K for audio visual.
As you can see it takes an extremely comprehensive plan coupled with an enormous, collaborative effort to host The Signature CEO Conference – even without having to contend with a pandemic.
But it takes more than this.
It calls for an unmatched level of care.
I care because I have experienced firsthand what it feels like to seek resources within my industry and not be able to find what I needed to succeed.
My “plan” does not exist simply to sell seats. My plan is the gravity that creates a transformative tide known as The Signature CEO Conference. And, when that tide rises, we are all lifted!