Planning your firm’s next big event? Lessons from planning Lerer Hippeau’s 200-person Annual Summit
By: Stephanie Manning, Director of Platform
We recently hosted the 2019 Lerer Hippeau Summit, where we gathered 200 LPs and founders for a full day of programming and networking. It was the third LP Meeting/CEO Summit I’ve planned since joining Lerer Hippeau.
Most VC firms bring together their community in some way during the year, and often this task is executed by their Platform team. For many first-timers, navigating invites, a venue, speakers, A/V and everything else can get overwhelming. I often get asked about how we plan our annual LP Meeting and CEO Summit, so I’m sharing a few things I’ve learned over the years.
Rewind to last year.
As a first step, start by looking at last year’s post-event survey, if you have one. What did attendees ask for? What worked? What didn’t work? Use that to inform and guide planning for the year ahead.
Question the status quo.
Year-over-year, the event doesn’t need to drastically change, but you don’t want it to be a full rinse and repeat. Think of two or three things you can improve upon each year. In 2018, we tested combining our annual LP Meeting and CEO Summit into a one-day event, hosted it at a new location, and focused on event marketing (event logo, colors, branding throughout the space). In 2019, we created the Lerer Hippeau Store Experience, premiered the Life at Lerer Hippeau video, and focused on featuring more later-stage founders onstage.
Nail down the venue.
This decision will dictate your budget for everything else as well as the format of the event. Do you need breakout rooms? One large room? We love working with the team at Convene and host at their Park Avenue location.
This event is your baby.
It will take around nine months to plan so start sourcing speakers early. We start conversations about speakers in February with the goal of having names confirmed by April ahead of an October event date. Around 20% of your initial outreach list will have conflicts so brainstorm more names than speaking slots as you get started.
It’s a team effort.
Get buy-in from the entire team, partners included, to source speakers, provide feedback on topics, and participate during the actual day. I carve out 15 minutes in our partner meetings starting in April to discuss updates and roadblocks. It’s the one day a week I have everyone in one room, along with their full attention.
Organize. Organize. Organize.
You’ll get questions on the fly (Is this person confirmed? What time am I speaking?) and you’ll most likely have more than one person working on the event. Create centralized docs for planning. We have a master Google spreadsheet with 11 (Yes, 11) tabs (such as Agenda, Budget, Marketing Materials, Invite List, etc.) and use Dropbox to store all static docs for future reference.
Create a Matrix.
I learned about a Matrix when I worked at AppNexus and brought it with me to Work-Bench and now Lerer Hippeau. It’s a spreadsheet with due dates, tasks, categories, assignees and status updates which serves as my master planning doc. (I made one for my wedding too.)
Create a minute by minute.
The day of the event you’ll have a thousand things to do: from bringing speakers to the main stage to making sure A/V is running smoothly. Account for (almost) every minute of the day and assign tasks so nothing slips through the cracks.
Prepare your team.
Carve out time to do a run-of-show with everyone. Do speakers know who they’re introducing? Do they have questions prepared for the people they’re interviewing? Does everyone know where to be and when? Spend time with your larger team and 30 minutes with your smaller planning team the day before to go through the full day and minute by minute.
Share on social.
We love bringing together 200 guests for this annual event, but understand that not everyone can make it. Plan ahead with a social media and content plan to make sure people who aren’t there feel like they’re in the room. This boils down to live Tweets, Instagram stories and recap posts, and maybe even video streaming. For the first time this year, we hired an event photographer and it was an amazing way to capture the energy in real time.
And we’re back to where we started.
After it’s over and you can celebrate a job well done, send your post-event survey to attendees and allocate time with your team following the event to gather feedback to apply to next year’s summit.