The past 6 months or so have been a steep learning curve for me. I joined Rotary back in May last year, just as the Rotary e-club of district 1070 was forming. I have to say, I am proud to be a founding member of a new and exciting club. I wanted to make my mark on the club, come up with a good idea that could make lots of money. For what? I wasn’t sure, how? Again, I wasn’t sure. All I knew was I wanted to come up with a kick ass idea that wasn’t your typical event. I wanted to attract people that weren’t your typical Rotarians. I consider myself to be quite a young Rotarian at 31 I probably do bring the average age down slightly. Although, I am pleased to say the formation of the e-club has brought younger blood into the world of Rotary. In fact, our first honorary member was only born last week!
Any way, I digress! I wanted to attract new members, run an amazing event and get some of the rest of the community involved in this event. The questions were, what, where, when and how!
Having sat in on a number of our online meetings, went along to our face to face events, and even got involved at the Kids Out event at Wickstead park (an amazing event that really got me enthused, so thanks to all those that got me involved, Robin Green); I felt like I was starting to feel my feet in Rotary circles and could offer my two pennies worth! So then it occurred to me, a comedy night! But not one of your run of the mill comedy nights in a dark bar somewhere, I wanted to run an event in a prestigious venue with known comedians, a meal and make a real occasion of it! I did a little research into what I’d need. I have a friend who operates in these circles so I bought him a beer and went through my idea, needless to say, he loved it and immediately wanted to be involved. We talked numbers so I could understand a high level budget for the event and got some names of comedians he was able to access through his network.
Armed with my idea, some rough figures and all the enthusiasm of a first year starting school, I logged into our next meeting the following Thursday and presented my idea to the rest of the club. I hope I gaged the reaction well, because I think it was positive and anyway, the event is happening this Friday so either way, its going ahead.
I don’t want to bore you with every step of the process from concept right through to street. But what I do want to bring to people’s attention are some of my observations through this process of planning the comedy-night and some lessons I have certainly learnt for next time. Assuming that is, I am allowed a next time!
So off I went, agreement from the rest of the club this was a good idea; I set to work! In my head, all I needed was a venue, some comedians and a stage with a microphone. Easy-peasy! The rest would simply fall into place, with the right venue and the right acts people would just start flocking to the event, making it an instant hit and go down in Rotary folk law!! Oh how naive I was! What I really needed was:
- A Prestigious venue at bargain basement prices
- A group of TV quality comedians willing to travel across the country for the night
- A quality stage and set to be in-keeping with the prestigious venue plan
- Food, again to fit the location
- Top quality raffle prizes
- Matching quality raffle tickets (non of this rubbish buy a strip of tickets)
- An event website
- A mechanism for selling tickets to a wide audience
- A marketing plan to attract people to the night
- 134 paying guests to make the night worthwhile!
- Photography and Videography on the night
- Probably a whole heap of other things that I have scrubbed from my memory!
I don’t know about you, but when I realised just how much needed to be done, the time that each thing would take and most importantly, the specialist skills needed for quite a number of things on the list, I quickly understood I had no hope of shouldering all the responsibility myself!
I needed to turn to the rest of club and my extended network to help turn this event into something people would want to pay money to attend, potential donators of raffle prizes would want to be associated with and ultimately something we as a club could be really proud of. It is really difficult to thank everyone that has helped put this event together but I am going to give it a try at the end of this article, in a sort of credits section! You will then see just how many people were involved in the planning of what I hope to be a fantastic event!
Know your numbers
Initially I had a very high level view of what the figures looked like. I understood how much the venue costs us, how much the acts were how much the sound equipment cost and most important of all. How many tickets we needed to sell to break even. My goal was 52 tickets. Things were going well, we had everything in place, the club had really come together to organise the event. We had an aire of excitement at the meetings and as the event was drawing closer we had almost reached that goal. Then I realised something, in fact, Peter Borner, club treasurer noticed a discrepancy in the budget. I had omitted from the budget the correct pricing for the meal. I was out by £4, not a huge amount I hear you say but £4 across every head meant I now needed to sell 72 tickets to break-even.
This was a real kick in the teeth for me. However, it is also a key lesson learnt and one mistake I will not make again. Understand your figures, if it is looking like you wont make any money, do a sanity check, is the event worth it? In our case, yes it is worth it. Fortunately, as a club we were able to sell all 134 tickets making this a capacity event. I have even over the past few days had to turn people away. I was approached by Mercedes AMG F1 who wanted to bring a group of people, unfortunately, it is a sell out! Maybe one of my key lessons learnt in retrospect was that I needed an even bigger venue than I initially anticipated!
Have the right marketing plan
We live in a vortex of social media. People may as well be surgically attached to their smart phones, Facebook, twitter and Instagram are everywhere. I decided to take a multi-threaded approach to social media marketing. We created a Facebook event, took to twitter and even used Instagram to initiate a bit of a vibe! This was great, I invited everyman and his dog, as did the rest of the club, I was tweeting the comedians to get them to start liking and re-tweeting to try and get a wider audience and their already large fan base interested. The results… We sold some tickets! The event site was getting hits; people knew about the event!
I will highlight a word I just mentioned … “some”, we sold “some” tickets. All the effort that went into social media marketing was of course worth it and something that I would do again. Where we sold most tickets was through word of mouth. I found that by telling literally everyone I knew about the event we sold more tickets. Because we were able to secure a great venue and excellent comedians, we could email friends who work in large companies and they were willing to advertise with their social committees, on notice boards etc. The biggest success with this was Mercedes Benz HQ in Milton Keynes, they bought 24 tickets off the back of one email to a good friend of mine.
The lesson I learnt here is that people will not simply flock to an event because it is on Facebook! You have to target your marketing to the right people, get in front of the right audience and physically tell people about the event. I will admit that I was worried after 2 weeks of ticket sales and we were only at around 15 tickets sold. By changing our approach and talking to the right people, we saw the ticket site go crazy! One week before the event happens and we are sold out and have a demand on for extra tickets!
This is my chance to say thank you!
- Alex Graham and Ceris Probert, British Racing Drivers Club – Venue and catering
- Phil Freeman, http://www.phil-freeman.co.uk for supplying the Staging, set, sound equipment and being the sounding board for my whacky and often stupid ideas
- Ryan Gough of http://www.hilariouscomedy.co.uk for being the compare and supplying all 4 comedy acts
- Edward Borner, club member, creating a cracking event website http://comedy-nights.co.uk
- Angela Woods, club member for designing and printing the unique raffle tickets
- Mercedes Benz, for supplying an under 17 driving experience prize
- SNO!zone Milton Keynes for supplying a snow experience voucher
- Mercedes Benz AMG F1 for supplying 2 sign Lewis Hamilton Baseball caps
- Silverstone International Race Circuit for providing 2 tickets to the British Touring Cars
- John Norton, club member and Sales director, for providing a Sling-box
- Jaguar Land Rover, for providing an off-road driving experience
- Mike Potter, club member for taking photos on the night
- Mike Page, club member for creating a video on the night
- Peter Borner, club member for setting up and keeping an eye on the figures and setting up the mechanism to sell tickets on line.
- All the other club members for their help in the running of the evening
- Finally, the 134 people that bought tickets to make the night a complete sell out and hopefully a success, because without you, the night would be nothing!
Thank you to everyone, if I missed you, I am sorry, it really is not a personal thing! For those of you reading this that will be at the event on Friday, I look forward to welcoming you, I am confident you will have a great night. After all, a huge amount of planning, man hours and most of all team work has gone into this event. If you are not fortunate enough to have a ticket for Friday night, I hope you will be able to join us at our next event and look forward to getting to grips with the planning of what ever it will be!