Why Running ‘In-person Events’ can be a Great Business for Digital Nomads
I was at a Bangkok sky bar during DCBKK, a conference for location independent entrepreneurs, and having the usual ‘getting to know you’ chat with some fellow entrepreneurs.
“I run an events company” I offered.
The guy I was talking to looked a bit confused and said “Why are you in the DC? Isn’t that a classic old world business?”
“I also have a SaaS business” I offered sheepishly
This got his interest and we talked about SaaS for a while but actually I was surprised. The events business I run is far bigger than our SaaS business (currently) and is a textbook ‘location independent business’ — We have a team in the Philippines who support all events, a global remote team, and ran over 300 events in 2018. Of these I went ‘in person’ to around 10 and these were mostly either in new countries I wanted to visit (Peru, Luxembourg) or places I try to visit most years such as Hong Kong, Taiwan and New York.
The events business is booming. I spoke on my podcast to an Events Business Broker (yes they exist) who said that 2018 was a record year for M&A activity for events companies. There are a lot of reasons for this but my opinion is that as people lead an increasingly isolated online life, huddled over their laptop with the noise cancelling headphones, they increasingly seek out real connections with people — and this means more and more live events.
Now the ‘events industry’ is a broad category covering everything from wedding planners to 50,000 person trade shows, but the part of the industry that I know best is running meetups, training sessions and conferences.
So why do I believe that events are a great location independent business?
1. You can make good money from live events
Conference organizers lie! How many times have you heard “We’re losing money on this it’s just to support our community” or “every penny we make gets ploughed back into the conference”.
There’s a strange psychology exclusive to events that everyone wants to show they are not making money, just building the community, whereas in reality I believe there’s no problem in doing both.
Let’s look at some rough numbers for a conference: You get 100 people to pay $500 per person plus 5 sponsors to pay $2000, that’s $60,000 revenue, minus $10,000 for the venue and $10,000 other costs that’s $40,000 (I’m presuming your hustling together speakers for free which you can do for sure in the beginning). Now this isn’t ‘get rich quick’ money for one event and you’ll probably make quite a bit less than this, even worst case almost no profit in year one — but it can be good money and with other huge benefits that I talk about below.
The thing that most people forget is that events can also give you the ‘Holy Grail’ of the Digital Nomad…. recurring revenue!! Running an event as a ‘one off’ is a huge hassle but most events are designed to be periodic or annual. Event organisers often sell 50% of tickets for the next year from the stage or right after the event via an early bird offer, already putting themselves in profit. So effectively an annual event is recurring revenue.
2. Events are the perfect business to run with a remote team
The biggest time sink with running events is dealing with the back and forth of attendee questions (as a basic rule presume that every attendee will contact you, plus a lot of potential attendees as well). This lends itself well to a remote support team to give great customer service and quick responses. We have a team in Cebu who deal with all support, but also manage our websites and all online promotion.
Remember everyone talks about how much work it is to run an event…. and there’s no way around it your first event will always be stressful and a lot of work, but if you repeat the event and create systems, it becomes a process that you can get all ‘4HWW D-E-A-L’ on ;).
3. For Nomadic types you can plan your travels around events
As I mentioned above pretty much all my travels are planned around events and I love it. My wife was joking that apart from our Honeymoon we really haven’t done a trip that didn’t start with a conference….and that almost happened! This year we have a lot going on in Asia in the fall so I’m planning to take the family and base ourselves there.
You can plan a years travel around events (both your events and ones you will attend) and many people do just this. Many event organizers make their events regional and repeat, for example, in Europe-Latin America-Asia annually.
This is just a personal thing but I like having a reason to be somewhere. I remember the old, old says of meeting a stranger over a cocktail in some tropical location and them looking slightly sceptical of my ‘location independent business empire’.. Now I just say I’m in town to run an event as I knock back my drink with confidence :)
4. It’s a great way to network / meet people / rise your profile
You probably already know all the benefits of attending a conference, but if you are the organizer this is 10x’d. People know you and the opportunities that will come and the connections you will make are magnified. Of course you can also speak at your own events and lots of people I know have used this a springboard to go on to speak at other people’s events.
Remember it doesn’t even need to be paid events that you host…. you still get huge benefits from running free meet ups, as anyone who has run one will tell you. You can host events for your community, customers, prospects…. or better still get them all together!
Finally just remember that this doesn’t need to be your main business and can also be a side hustle. I know of too many people to count who run an online business that also organise an annual conference or meet up.
So I hope some of you find this useful and please ask me anything at all in the comments about running events. Also I know many of you are having success with their own events so I’d love to hear what’s working for you.
Finally II’d love it if you checked out my podcast ‘The Events Podcast fpr weekly interviews with people killing it with ‘in person events’. links below: