July 29, 2008

Eventbrite: How To Organize Events Like Harvard University and IBM

And American Airlines, Best Buy, Dell, Facebook, IRS, NASA and Progressive Insurance, US Homeland Security and others.

Don't you love planning seminars?

I'm planning my biggest tour yet --- 8 cities in Ontario in September. Unfortunately, I'm organizing too. That's a new experience. I'm most concerned about sending out invitations, getting replies and following up. The process looks time-consuming, labour-intensive and error-prone. And hard to scale up for my world tour :)

Three Big Challenges
There are three challenges
  1. getting an updated email list
  2. send invitations to the right people
  3. automating registration
This looks like a job for re-engineering.

An Updated Email List
Sending individual emails can work if you have up-to-date email addresses. What if you want to invite people who aren't currently doing much business with you? That's tricky. Even if delivered, your email may get deleted without getting read. There's a way to solve both problems: get a trusted party to send the emails.

I support advisors who work for organizations. Here's the plan. Emails go to the organizations which then forward the invitations to their advisors. This means
  • fewer points of contact
  • up-to-date email lists
  • an endorsement of sorts
Sending Invitations To The Right People
How do you easily identify people to invite to the event in London, Ontario? You need a good database. What if someone who works in Mississauga would prefer to go to the London event because they'll be there that day anyway? You have no way of knowing. The solution is self-service: everyone gets the same invitation with all dates. They choose.

Automating Registration
The actual process of registering can be onerous for the organizers whether by fax, email or phone. Ideally, you want a form completed online. This eliminates incomplete fields, retyping and typos.

I searched online for a low cost solution. Within minutes, I found eventbrite.com which charges 2.5% of the ticket price (minimum $0.99 per ticket). Luckily, there is no charge for free events.

Within an hour, I created a basic invitation that includes nifty features like a map to the venue. The process is straightforward and well-designed. You can upload your logo and edit your invitation with an online editor that's more powerful than the one Google provides for this blog. The results look professional, which adds to your credibility.

Fingers Crossed
What if the online registration doesn't work? I won't be very popular. Since Eventbrite is used by many major companies, I'm betting they are reliable.

At this stage, I've drafted the invitation and tested the registration process. A few volunteers have too. Registrants get a confirmation email (you do too) and information is automatically recorded in the event database. The whole process is smooth and requires no manual effort. That lets you focus on other aspects of your event. And almost makes you feel like hosting more.


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