Today, on the Early-Stage Founder Show, I’m talking with Julie Carroll, the Conference Director at Leadpages where she is in charge of pulling together their incredibly popular Converted Conference every year.
Back in episode 26, I talked with Jordan Muela about why hosting a conference appealed to him as a founder and today Julie builds on that by offering the perspective of somebody more behind the scenes.
If you’re curious what exactly goes into running a conference, how to make your event stand out, or just want some advice on how to get started with live events, then this is the episode for you.
- (00:21) – Julie’s background which led to her role leading events at Leadpages.
- (00:24) – What she was doing before Leadpages.
- Working with an action cam company out of Seattle.
- (00:44) – Her experience with live events.
- As Manager of International Events, offering demos at sports trade shows all around the world.
- (00:24) – What she was doing before Leadpages.
- (03:08) – Converted Conference.
- (03:09) – How the first Converted conference came about.
- (03:17) – Julie’s first meeting with Leadpages CEO Clay Collins.
- (03:50) – How Clay saw the conference tying in with Leadpages’ overall strategy.
- (04:02) – Focus on conversion marketing.
- (04:37) – What Julie thought would be the biggest challenge in planning and organizing the live event.
- (05:02) – Convincing people to come to a travel to a first-time event with no proven track record.
- (05:40) – Getting people to come to Minnesota.
- (06:55) – The results and experience of the first Converted Conference.
- (07:48) – How the team at Leadpages knew it was worth continuing to invest in Converted.
- (09:16) – The breadth of positive feedback.
- (09:40) – The kind of feedback sought out with attendee surveys.
- (10:40) – What stood out from the first Converted that the team realized they needed to change.
- (11:28) – Accommodating attendee desire to network and share ideas.
- (11:53) – Reconciling Leadpages overall data driven growth strategy with the qualitative understanding of Converted’s ROI.
- (14:05) – How the approach to Converted has evolved since the first live event.
- (14:15) – Utilizing Leadpages marketing team to assist in the planning and organizing of the conference.
- (15:44) – Creating specific marketing funnels to target various segments of the target audience.
- (14:15) – Utilizing Leadpages marketing team to assist in the planning and organizing of the conference.
- (16:30) – How Converted fits into Leadpages’ overall strategy.
- (17:49) – The focus of the content at Converted and the type of qualities the team strives to promote.
- (03:09) – How the first Converted conference came about.
- (19:20) – Overcoming the challenge of competition in the digital marketing space.
- (21:31) – How conferences help a company stand out and build their brand.
- (22:23) – Advice for anyone starting to think about hosting a live event.
- (23:22) – Ensuring your speaker selection is a good match for your conference.
- (23:49) – How the team at Leadpages undergoes their speaker selection.
- (25:05) – Using attendee survey responses.
- (23:49) – How the team at Leadpages undergoes their speaker selection.
- (26:58) – How Converted ensures nobody is missing out on any important information while attending their conference.
- (28:57) – Using organizational strategies to deal with overwhelm and ensure your conference is a success.
- (23:22) – Ensuring your speaker selection is a good match for your conference.
- (30:01) – What do you spend too much time doing?
- (30:15) – What do you not spend enough time doing?
- (30:33) – What are you hoping to accomplish in the next quarter?
- (31:02) – What are the potential obstacles to those goals?
- SurveyMonkey (09:48) – Survey software Julie uses to gather attendee feedback from the Converted Conference.
- Attendify (25:22) – Mobile app Julie uses to send push notifications to conference attendees and to gather session reviews.
- Basecamp (29:16)– Project management software Julie uses to organize logistics and combat overwhelm.
- Trello (29:16) – Project management software Julie uses to organize logistics and combat overwhelm.
Where to learn more:
If you want to learn more about the Converted Conference or get in touch with Julie, tune into the show to get her email address or follow her on Instagram @JulieInDisguise.
Andy: 0:00:00.0 Julie, thanks so much for joining me on the show today.
Julie: Yeah thanks for having me Andy, I’m excited to be here.
Andy: So today you’re working at Leadpages and you are leading the events team, specifically Converted, the conference that has been going on, I believe this is the third year right?
Julie: That’s right.
Andy: 0:00:21.5 So what is your background. What were you doing before you joined Leadpages?
Julie: 0:00:24.2 Yeah so I moved to Seattle shortly after college and I began working for a small action camera startup. This was before GoPro had really become a household name. But I was earning really next to nothing working as an office manager, and I managed to work my way up in this young, rapidly expanding company, and eventually became their Manager of International Events.
0:00:44.1 And through that, we were able to grow the events program all across the world. We developed a mobile team of brand ambassadors that would travel the US and Canada by RV, offering demos at sporting events, festivals, outdoor-centric tradeshows, and then we also designed two versions of a trade show booth, one domestic and one based in Europe, to promote our products at dozens of shows that we sponsor every year.
0:01:04.3 Places like CES Ispo Munich, Innerbike, SA Snowshow, the list goes on and on. We did a lot of events in both the tech and the sports space.
Andy: 0:01:13.7 And how long were you in that position for?
Julie: 0:01:16.2 I was there for just over four years.
Andy: 0:01:19.4 When did you make the switch to Leadpages and how did that come about?
Julie: 0:01:23.0 Yeah, so I decided to move back home to Minnesota and I was a little nervous about it, just because coming from Seattle, there are so many opportunities for startup work. And Minnesota’s great too, but there’s a lot more Fortune 500s here and I really enjoyed the excitement of being in the startup world.
0:01:41.5 And I remember looking for jobs when I first moved back and Leadpages just popped up and I just, it was like the skies parted. It was exactly what I’d been looking to do and they didn’t have anybody working in events for the company at that time, so it was just this clean slate to start completely fresh and really build the events program here from the ground up.
Andy: 0:01:59.7 And so when you were hired, it was specifically to lead the events program.
Julie: 0:02:03.7 Yup.
Andy: 0:02:03.7 [Edit Out] And what – I know before-hand you had sent me over some notes and you had talked to the CEO and he laid out his big vision for what he wanted to do with the Conference, what was that like in the interview? What did he do to set the stage for what to expect? Or what he expected, at least.
Julie: 0:02:21.6 Yeah, that was pretty funny. I met with our CEO Clay Collins and he’s a big idea guy and he was just talking about the overarching idea for this event that followed a customer’s conversion journey from when they first click on an ad or on your website to have their first visit. Sorry, I screwed that up.
Andy: Don’t worry about.
Julie: Give me just a sec here sorry. Ok, can I try that again?
Julie: Not sure where I left that off.
Andy: We can just go, I guess I’ll just go back and we can start all over. 0:03:07.8 [Edit Out]
How did the first Converted Conference come about after you joined up at Leadpages? Was it something that they had to plan right from the get go or what was it like when you came into things?
Julie: 0:03:17.6 So I remember my first day on the job at Leadpages and met with our CEO Clay Collins, and he gave me this big overarching spiel on the type of event that he wanted to create.
But I’m not going to lie, my mind was racing the entire time thinking how the hell am I going to pull this off in less than six months. He wants to have this global marketing conference nine months from now with nothing planned.
Clay’s a big idea guy, but it was up to me to create and execute every single piece of Converted. I had my work cut out for me from day one.
Andy: Yeah, for sure. 0:03:50.8 What was it about the event, like what was he looking for specifically. You said he wanted this big, global event, but how did he see it tying into Leadpages overall?
Julie: 0:04:02.5 Yeah, so he really wanted to focus on conversion marketing. There’s a billion marketing conferences out there right now. A lot of them are very general.
And you go to all these sessions and just kind of get a lot of information that isn’t really actionable in every case. You get a lot of inspiration, but we really wanted to create an event where every single session was chock full of content and having all these actionable insights, so when people leave, they’re able to instantly put those steps into their business. They can actually walk away from the event and have a plan in place. And know what the next steps are to keep things going.
Andy: 0:04:37.1 And you obviously had had a lot of experience in putting on events, so you knew a bit about what to expect, but you still had a short timeline and this is still a bit different than what you’d done before, so going into that first conference, what did you think was going to be the biggest challenge?
Julie: 0:04:52.7 [Edit Out] Yeah, I thought the biggest challenge would be convincing people to pay thousands of – stop – excuse me, let me try that again. 0:05:01.6 [Edit Out] I thought the biggest challenge would be convincing people to pay thousands of dollars to travel to a first-time conference with no real track record or history.
A huge part of our audience consists of independent small business owners and I know that there time and money is really valuable and I was worried that they would want to spend it on a conference elsewhere that was a proven success that had been around for years.
0:05:24.5 And not this first-time event, you know, just kind of feeling like the Bad News Bears, like we’re the new kids on the block. Kind of rough and tumble crew trying to pull something together. So yeah that was the definite concern of mine going into this.
Andy: 0:05:40.2 And then I like the words you had used before the call – what did you do to get people to travel to exotic Minnesota?
Julie: 0:05:48.9 Exotic Minnesota. You know it’s funny, so many people from the coast talk about flying over the country and they don’t realize Minneapolis is a really, really cool city. But it’s really hard when there’s so much competition for events, and coastal cities, places that are way more tourist-centric like New York, San Diego, London.
You know, every month there’s conferences happening in places like that, but we really knew we had something special going here and we really, really wanted to make a point to host it in our home, in Minnesota, and show people what we’re about, what we do. And that type of thing.
0:06:20.7 We just – it was definitely a concern, like I mentioned, getting people to come to Minnesota, but we did our best to pull together information about the city. We hosted at this amazing venue that is an old train station that they turned into an event center and hotel. It is absolutely gorgeous, right on the river front in Minneapolis on the Mississippi.
0:06:40.9 So yeah, the location was key for us. Finding a really beautiful, inspiring space in a really incredible city. But really, the thing that has been bringing people to our event has just been the content we’re providing, and the people we bring on stage.
Andy: 0:06:55.6 Interesting. I want to get into that in a little bit, but first I just want to ask, how did that first event go?
Julie: 0:07:02.8 Yeah, you know it went really well. It was definitely – it had its challenges planning it, you know, I had nine months to pull it together and really nothing to pull from. I came from an action cam background before I started with Leadpages and really hadn’t been in the digital marketing world a whole lot and so was learning a lot as we went along.
But we definitely had challenges as we went along – but we definitely had challenges, you know, ticket sales initially were an issue trying to get people to Minnesota like I mentioned before. But we found that getting these great names coming to our event, people like Pat Flynn, Ezra Firestone, Maury Smith, really speak for themselves, and once we started making more of the speaker announcements, we started seeing the ticket sales just spike. It was really just the content and the great people we brought to stage that really pulled it through for us.
Andy: 0:07:48.6 And then afterwards, once you had pulled off the event, it all went, not necessarily according to plan, but it went off well and things – you had a good result from it. How did you know that it was worth continuing this investment
0:08:01.3. Because this was something that it’s not easy to pull it off, it’s not cheap to pull it off, like this is your job, how did Clay and the rest of the Leadpages team and you know that, Älright, I think we’re on to something here, let’s do this again.”
Julie: 0:08:15.5 You know, it was amazing. The first day of our first Converted. Just that energy in the room. I mean, we have an incredible AV team that we work with. It was just the space itself was just so absolutely stunning the way it was designed, but I think after we had our first speaker get up there, and all the queues were working on time, the music was playing, everything was just boom, boom, boom, just firing off and working, there was that feeling of joy and accomplishment. It was just palpable.
We knew we’d created something really special. 0:08:50.5 And in the end, after our first year, we didn’t even come close to breaking even on our costs. It was a major investment and we knew that going into it with a first time event, that we would have to pay a little extra to make things extra special.
You know, bringing in really great local craft beer, doing a sponsored cocktail party for all of our attendees, just going that extra mile to make it really special and to be hospitable and to really show our attendees that we care for the fact that they showed up for our first show. 0:09:16.0 It really – the breadth of positive feedback really let us know that it was worth continuing this investment.
And for the record, for anyone that runs an event, always do post-show attendee surveys. They are an absolute must and it gives you so much great feedback to work off of for the next year. 0:09:35.2 But yeah, just the feedback we got really fueled us to want to create something bigger and better for the next year.
Andy: 0:09:40.7 In those surveys, what kind of feedback are you looking for?
Julie: 0:09:45.7 So we do a little bit of everything. I use SurveyMonkey 0:09:48.7 [Resource Mentioned] that integrates right with EventBrite, 0:09:50.4 [Resource Mentioned] which makes it so, so easy to use. But we ask a little bit of everything, you know we have them write the content, the speakers, what did they find to be incredibly useful, what did they feel like, if anything, was a waste of time or not beneficial for them.
Even little things, just like food, drinks, music volume, swag, networking opportunities, what they enjoyed, what they would like to see more of. We have a lot of questions that are set up as yes/no or a scale of 1-10, but I also think it is really important to also leave an open-ended question near the end of the survey that just lets people leave any kind of feedback that they want. Just kind of freestyle.
0:10:30.1 That’s where we get some really interesting requests and feedback. But it’s a great opportunity to give our attendees the chance to help us make the event better year over year.
Andy: 0:10:40.3 And so obviously it was a few years ago, but the positive feedback was reassuring, was helpful, but was there anything that stood out that you realized you needed to change next time around, based on the feedback?
Julie: 0:10:53.6 Yeah there were a few things. Content wise, we did a pretty great job the first year and didn’t see too much of a change in that. That was really what we got the most positive feedback on, but you know you get little comments here.
Like some guy was really upset that we didn’t have Coke Zero. We literally had like 40 different kinds of soft drinks, but no Coke Zero, so that was one of them. 0:11:28.2 Another thing, is our first year of the event, we hired this awesome local band to play at our cocktail party, which we were really excited about. They’re absolutely fantastic, we love them here, but we found that our attendees really just wanted to network, and the room where we had the band playing, everyone moved out into the room adjacent to it so they could talk and share ideas.
0:11:35.2 So we realized that as much as we love seeing this band perform, it just wasn’t the right space for it. The next year we did away with that and made it more into a mingling event. We still had Dj’d music there but slightly lower volume just to accommodate what people wanted, which was more conversation.
Andy: 0:11:53.2 That’s interesting. And I want to get back a little bit to what you were talking about with knowing you had created something special. Because as an outsider, Leadpages seems to me, especially in their marketing side of things to be very data driven.
I know Clay’s background is in that, and the way the company has grown has clearly been on the back of predictable and actionable metrics. And so, how did they kind of reconcile what is this sort of qualitative approach to viewing the conference where it is not clear to prove the ROI – how did they reconcile that with the way they had grown the company? Or am I off-base in thinking that?
Julie: 0:12:34.1 No, not at all. That is absolutely true. Our first conference, it was an absolute crap shoot. We didn’t know what kind of return on investment we were going to get on it. We put a ton of money into it, and it was a gamble.
0:12:44.8 And like I said, we didn’t break even, but we knew that this is the kind of event that we want to host at Leadpages going forward. I think that nowadays, we’re just so immersed in digital culture. All day. In our jobs, in our home lives, and having the opportunity to really bring people together in a live space where they can share ideas, get inspired, network and just be together is so very important.
0:13:11.2 It has been complicated to really put together strong metrics surrounding the event and for planning every year over year, just because there are so many factors in play that you really can’t control with live events. 0:13:21.9 We just knew that it is something that is worth the investment and something we want to keep going.
Andy: 0:13:27.5 Ok. And I get that, and especially you hit on it when you said, Ïn the increasingly digital world” it is really easy to feel disconnected from companies, but when you can bring some of that online life into the real world, it builds that strong connection and it’s something where a marketer myself, I do have a hard time going deeper and saying, ‘Here’s how we can measure the impact of this, here’s why this matters’’, but I’m with you on the qualitative side of why it is important to try to build that community and really just deepen the relationship with them.
And so, 0:14:05.0 after throwing that first conference, and you’ve done another one last year, and you have a third one coming up in October, how has your approach to these events evolved?
Julie: 0:14:15.4 Yeah, you know a lot of my practices have remained in place, but I’ve realized that asking for more help from the team was absolutely necessary in order to continue scaling the event. I’m basically a one-woman team on events here at Leadpages, and we have an incredible marketing department. Designers, developers, that help out with every step of the website build, promotions, and that kind of thing.
But I realized after our first year that I needed specifically more help gaining support for the ticket sales and promotion side of events. It is such a massive undertaking, just that part of it alone, sales and promotions on top of all the other logistical details you’re dealing with. And by doing so, by asking for more help with that, it’s really given me the freedom to focus more of my energy on the content and design side of things, which is more of my forte anyway.
0:15:05.2 So, I’m happier working that way, and the team that’s great at selling and promotions is running that. There’s been a lot of recalibration over the past two and a half, three years, but I think that’s really important with events. Nothing is ever set in stone, you’re always changing, you’re always evolving and moving, and you’ve just got to find the best people to help fill in the blanks when you need help.
Andy: 0:15:28.3 And so when you had people come in and help more on the sales and promotion side of things, what were they doing? What was it a matter of simply promoting the conference to your audience already, or what kind of things did they help with more specifically?
Julie: 0:15:44.9 Yeah, so we have this amazing funnel architect that started up with Leadpages this year named Chris Goudreau, and he has been creating actual funnels where he can illustrate basically the type of customers we want to focus on in any given group, and then figuring out the promotion strategy of how to connect with them, whether we’re doing Facebook or LinkedIn ads, email campaigns, that type of thing.
0:16:06.8 We do a big focus too on the local scene here in the twin cities. You know, there are so many Fortune 500s in this city, so many design firms and digital agencies around here too, so we also do a really big push locally doing targeted ads here in the twin cities. We’re kind of in these digital spaces to try and bring them here.
Andy: 0:16:30.4 Is the conference, I guess to get a little bit meta, is the conference itself part of a bigger overall funnel? Like is there some thing that the funnel, the conference is helping move people towards or does it really just stand on its own?
Julie: 0:16:43.9 You know, I think it stands on its own to some extent, but we’re really – Converted is all about giving people the tools that they need to be successful in their business. And that really plays into what Leadpages and Drip are about obviously. They’re providing people the actual tools and actions they need to move forward.
So Converted absolutely plays into both what Leadpages and Drip are going for. 0:17:10.1 But that being said, we have plenty of attendees who started off not being Leadpages or Drip customers and who have come on after the fact. When we first started planning Converted, were planning on it just being a Leadpages user conference, but then decided we wanted to open it up to a broader audience.
Even if people don’t use Leadpages, we still want to give them the information and the tools that they need to be successful.
Andy: 0:17:33.7 And so the focus really is ultimately like you’ve been saying: On the content rather than just using it as a way to get people in and ultimately sell them on the product.
Julie: 0:17:42.2 Exactly. I mean, we’d love to sell people on the product, but that isn’t our prerogative at Converted.
Andy: 0:17:49.5 And you had mentioned before about the – I believe you talked about wanting to promote, I think it was warmth, fun and positivity. Can you talk to that a little bit?
Julie: 0:17:59.8 [Edit Out] Yeah absolutely. Give me just one second here.
Andy: We kind of covered some of the, ‘how does this fit in to the strategy going forward, so I’m just thinking about the line where you say, ‘beyond the quality of content’
Julie: Oh sure, yes. 0:18:15.2 [Edit Out] So basically, beyond the quality of content that we produce for the show, we really strive to promote warmth, fun and positivity. It’s one of the core values here at Leadpages, and it’s really a gift to get to spread those warm fuzzies to our conference attendees.
You know, we really , really try to bring a lot of fun and whimsy into the show and not make it this very stoic, generic marketing conference. We want to bring a lot of energy and attitude and fun to the table for everybody.
Andy: 0:18:39.4 And so before you had mentioned having that local band and it seems like that was at least trying to contribute towards that, but in the upcoming Converted, how – what specifics are you doing to try and promote that aspect of warmth, fun and positivity.
Julie: 0:18:55.7 Yeah so I really like to think of hosting an event, you want to treat your attendees with the same hospitality you would show to a dear friend or a family member who is visiting from out of town.
You know, offer them really delicious food, treat them to some great local libations, share meaningful conversations and just provide them with some safe space where they are free to express their ideas and seek new inspiration.
Andy: 0:19:20.1 And we talked about this a little bit in that you had mentioned there’s so many, kind of just general marketing conferences out there. A lot of them are in the more popular tourist destinations. You’ll see them in Vegas, you’ll see them in London. Kind of all over the place.
And you mentioned this is one of the biggest challenges going forward, is really just how to stand out. And obviously, having that real personality that’s showing through in the event is going to help, but what else are you doing to help stand out? How are you trying to overcome that challenge?
Julie: 0:19:56.0 Yeah, so like you said Andy, the digital marketing space is becoming increasingly oversaturated with events. Both in terms of live and now so many virtual conferences are popping up, where people don’t even have to travel. We did one, Automated 2017, earlier this year, which we offered for free and had over 11,000 attendees tune in, which was great.
But you know, it’s a lot easier to attend a virtual conference that’s free than pay to fly. 0:20:19.1 But like I said, every year, we’re seeing more and more competition crop up in the live and the virtual conference event space, and they’re vying for the same pool of attendees.
And at the end of the day, we can’t control which events people ultimately decide to attend, but we work really, really hard to create the most valuable content with these actionable insights for our guests, so they can take them home and immediately start implementing these ideas into their businesses. It’s content 110% with us.
Andy: 0:20:45.2 [Edit Out] And I want to talk a little bit in a minute about how you go about evaluating the speakers and how you figure out how to prioritize that content, but one thing I just thought about is that it seems that there is a lot of parallels between the conference world and just the overall startup and software world, because there are a lot of competitors to Leadpages out to begin with, and so it’s just like the conference where you have to compete with conferences all over the place. So with the software and trying to stand out in that marketplace, do you find that having a conference and building your brand in that way is kind of part of that overall strategy as well?
Julie: 0:21:24.0 Yeah, I think – wait.
Andy: 0:21:29.4 [Edit Out] I’m basically saying there’s so much competition in the startup world and the software world as well, so does having a conference help you stand out as well? Is that one of the differentiating factors? Is that part of why building a brand is so important?
Julie: 0:21:45.1 Yeah, I think that having a conference is really important to building a brand and getting your name out there, however, if you’re not able to just dive in head first, you know, it’s not worth doing.
Conferences are such a huge time and financial investment, and if you don’t have the resources to really just go balls to the wall with it, I would say don’t waste your time. 0:22:11.3 But, if you have the resources to really put the time and energy into it, I think it’s such an important part of the landscape nowadays. Is to have a live show where you can bring your customers together.
Andy: 0:22:23.8 Do you think it is realistic for someone to put together a conference. Obviously not on the scale of converted, but to put together an event on the side of their other responsibilities of their job, or do you really think it needs to be something where, almost regards to the scale, this is the primary focus of the person leading the charge?
Julie: 0:22:42.8 I think it really depends on the person to be honest with you. Planning events is a highly stressful, nuanced role. It requires a lot of flexibility. Things are always changing, you have to be available 24/7.
And you’re dealing with a lot of personalities, from your speakers, to your vendors, to the union workers who are helping to break up the stage and everything, to your attendees and your co-workers who are volunteering their time and that type of thing. 0:23:12.4 I’m always a fan of bringing on a professional who knows what they’re doing just because it’s really easy to get in over your head. It’s
an all-encompassing role. Absolutely.
Andy: 0:23:22.3 And on top of that, a lot of what you’ve been talking about is content above everything else and so I do want to get back to that. But how do you actually make sure that the speakers you’re recruiting, that the speakers you have at the event are going to have that really great content? How involved are you with overseeing that process of not just picking the speakers, but talking with them about what they’re going to cover in their sessions?
Julie: 0:23:49.8 Yeah so, our speaker selection is a joint effort between myself and our CEO Clay Collins, where we just look to industry experts:23:59.0 [Inaudible] who we think would be a perfect fit for the stage, and then go from there. We sometimes have these speakers who we’re interested in, but need to do some more vetting, just in terms of finding past speaking engagements they’d done.
It really helps to just do basic Google search and see which events people have spoken at, get a feeling for their energy. You know, we want to have really great content, but we also don’t want to have a Ben Stein, ‘Bueller’ situation on the stage. So we look for speakers who are incredibly knowledgeable but also have an incredible stage presence and energy.
In the past, I don’t know if you’ve seen Pat Flynn speak, but he is just an absolute pro. And he’s the kind of guy too, before the event the first year, I was up at 6:00am getting the registration booth set up, and he shows up early to check out the space, and takes his backpack off and asks if he can help me move boxes. 0:24:53.5 At 6:00am, so we want to bring in people who are not only great at what they do, but who are just good human beings and I think we’ve done a really great job of bringing in some really great people.
Andy: 0:25:05.7 And I’m guessing in that survey you’re sending out you’re also asking for general comments about the speakers and that sort of thing?
Julie: 0:25:10.6 Yeah, in addition to the SurveyMonkey survey we send out after every event, we also use a mobile app for our attendees. We use Attendify 0:25:22.7 [Resource Mentioned] but that’s a great way too, that you can send push notifications to your attendees, but they are able to attend each session after they see it, which is fantastic. And you can send push notifications on people’s cell phones, reminding them to rate sessions during breaks and everything.
Which is a really great way while people are engaged right there in the moment with everything fresh on their mind, they’re able to go into the app and leave that feedback instantly.
Andy: 0:25:48.2 That’s super cool, the easy and kind of almost seamless way of getting that
feedback in addition to SurveyMonkey, because hearing about what speakers are resonating, who is really drawing the crowd in makes it so much easier to learn for the next time around.
But also, as just as a conference attendee – I haven’t been to Converted, but in the past few years I’ve been going to a few different conferences and I am not a typical corporate person, so I haven’t been to those huge mega-conferences, but I’ve heard plenty about that where the typical conference experience for a lot of people is a dozen different tracks, there’s so much going on, none of the talks are really that actionable, none of them you’re really learning that much, the keynote is usually by someone, a celebrity who doesn’t really have a ton to do with the industry that’s just going to give some generic talk.
So Converted, from everyone I’ve talked to who has gone, and from what I’ve seen about it, is the opposite of that. It really is focusing on the content and it reminds me a lot of – I’ve gone to MicroConf for I think three years now and it seems to have a similar vibe where it’s really about learning, it’s really about the content and the people that you’re going to meet there. Does that seem fair to say?
Julie: 0:26:58.8 Yeah absolutely. You brought it up, these breakout sessions they have at a lot of conferences. I’ve been to conferences all over the world, more than I care to admit to, but it’s been interesting.
I think some conferences do a really great job of setting up the breakout sessions, but even at conferences I’ve been to that have been really beautifully run – I mean there are some amazing event producers in this space, but I find that a lot of the breakouts that I attend, I’d be one of six people in a room, including the speaker, so they’re not excited to be there, they feel like it’s a waste of their time, and I’m caught wondering why am I going to these random breakouts.
0:27:37.2 And it’s frustrating too when there are too many sessions happening at the same time and you can only see one. And we decided with Converted, we didn’t want to have breakouts, we wanted to give people all the content they need on one stage so nobody’s missing out on anything. Nomo fomo. Keep everything simple and concise and keep it on that one single stage for everybody to benefit from.
Andy: 0:27:58.3 That’s funny, because from your perspective, even if a conference isn’t great as an attendee, you can still probably appreciate just how much work goes into putting on some of those mega-conferences, and coordinating it all and seeing and knowing what goes on behind the scenes.
Because there’s almost two parts to it. There’s the logistics, there’s everything you deal with day in and day out and if you haven’t done it before, you’re probably dramatically underestimating how much work goes into that, but then there’s also the content side which you’ve spoken a lot about, and when you can get both of those pieces right then it seems like the conference can be such a powerful asset to your brand.
Julie: 0:28:34.1 Absolutely. Yup.
Andy: And so to wrap things up a little bit, we’ve covered a lot of advice, we’ve covered a lot of things, but if you wanted to put a bow on it and give something to founders who are curious and interested in getting started with live events, what type of advice would you give to them. How would you suggest that they, at least get started thinking about this?
Julie: 0:28:57.1 Yeah so live events are an immensely complicated beast that require constant recalibration and meticulous care. One of the most important steps to ensure that everything actually happens, is to set up a project management software to help keep track of your tasks and assign deadlines to each little project of which there are thousands. 0:29:16.7 I mean the logistics alone that go into planning a conference, it’s truly overwhelming.
But in the past I’ve used Basecamp, Break and Trello as a project management software, and I couple that with my good old fashioned Google calendar and with that I’m able to create these detailed work back schedules, which allow me to manage my insane workload without feeling like the weight of the world is bringing me down. It’s really all about organization and getting on top of every task and planning everything out ahead of time so you can make sure everything actually gets done on time. Otherwise, you’re just going to drown. It’s tough, but organization is key.
Andy: 0:29:51.8 Awesome advice. And so, before we wrap up, I like to ask all my guests a few rapid fire questions. I’m going to go through them quickly, but your answers don’t need to be too short.
0:30:01.8 And the first one is just, what do you currently find yourself spending too much time on?
Julie: 0:30:06.3 Just in general? Oh gosh, well currently I’m planning for my honeymoon, so planning a lot of cool stops in some national parks.
Andy: 0:30:15.7 Nice. What are you not spending enough time on? If there were more hours in the day, where do you think you would get the most leverage by putting them?
Julie: 0:30:24.3 Exercise and self-care.
Andy: 0:30:27.7 Those are very, very common answers. Maybe not the honeymoon side of it, but the self-care.
0:30:33.3 Then, in terms of Leadpages, what are you hoping to accomplish in the next quarter?
Julie: 0:30:39.7 You know, I really want to double our attendance numbers for Converted this year. So we’re doing a big sales push coming up and that’s my goal. Is to keep doubling attendees year over year.
Andy: 0:30:52.1 What were the attendees last year? How many I mean?
Julie: 0:30:53.3 Last year we had about 600.
Andy: So the goal is over 1000 this year?
Andy: Nice 0:31:02.4 And what do you see as being the biggest obstacle to getting there?
Julie: 0:31:05.1 That’s a good question. Again, ticket sales. Obviously is an issue to get to people to come to your conference — If you don’t have them. But like I said before, location is tough.
A lot of people don’t think highly of the mid-west for whatever reason. Although it is America’s heartland. And it’s beautiful here. But I think our guests who have attended in the past have really gotten to get that great Minneapolis experience and see what a cool city this is. And just how many entrepreneurs this city breeds, and business owners, and tech savvy individuals.
t’s just an amazing, amazing energy in the twin cities, and we’re just so excited to keep hosting the conference here and bring people back and show them what this city has to offer.
Andy: 0:31:55.5 It’s funny, I was talking to Rob Walling where he was sharing a lot about his thoughts on making the move from California to Minneapolis after the Drip acquisition and he said he was pleasantly surprised about how much there was to do in Minneapolis. And while there may have been some reservations before-hand, he’s pretty happy there now.
Julie: Yeah, you know the arts and culture scene here is incredible, we have one of the best park systems in the US. The food scene is off the chain. If you’re ever interested, the food and craft cocktail scene is absolutely phenomenal. And you know, you get that Minnesota nice. It’s a real thing.
I love the Midwestern hospitality and that really bleeds over into Converted too. Like I said, we host it at the Depot Renaissance Hotel, which is one of my favorite places in the world. The people that run that place are absolutely incredible and they have the Midwest hospitality in their blood and they take really good care of all their guests.
Andy: Julie, you’ve given us so much today, so first thank you for your time and for being so open about this entire process. It was super valuable for me to hear and I think the listeners will get a lot out of it as well. But if listeners want to hear more from you and see what you are up to in general, where are the best places for them to go?
Julie: Yeah, I would have them email me at [REDACTED], or follow me on Instagram @JulieInDisguise.
Andy: Awesome, and I’ll make sure to get that linked up in the shownotes and again, thank you so much for your time.
Julie: Thanks for having me Andy.