Party Down: What We’ve Learned About Organizing Events
August 26, 2013
Here at Wistia, we love the “meta” stuff. You know — self-referential material recapping or analyzing other material. For example, we frequently make videos about making videos. Or shoot video about shooting video in a studio, showcasing our own video studio. Whew! It’s fun, but it definitely makes our heads spin sometimes.
As a company, we also love data and feedback. Paired with our own reactions, this feedback lets us analyze our videos, events, and blog content after they’ve gone live to see how we can do better in the future. (And then, of course, we often write or make videos about what we’ve learned!)
Having thrown a bunch of events recently, Wistia’s gotten great feedback on what worked and what didn’t. We’ve had some misfires already, but we’re learning! So, to continue with the meta theme, here’s our analysis of other people’s analyses about our recent merry-making:
Give something of value.
When trying to figure out what makes a good event, we’ve found a single “must have” ingredient: offer your guests something of value. The value can take many formats: it can be something learned, it can be a feeling of inspiration or empowerment. Or it can simply be a new friend or business contact. When we keep most of our focus on this goal, the rest seems to falls into place.
Identify and minimize friction points.
The beginnings of parties are often a bit weird. People don’t know who to talk to or what they should do with themselves. At our most recent event, Dan Mills (resident musician extraordinaire at Wistia) was kind enough to play live music at the start. It gave people something to look at, talk about, and generally created a more awesome vibe. The music minimized the psychological friction point that occurs when one enters a new space and doesn’t know many/any people there.
On the other hand, we kind of messed up on the physical friction points. We placed a keg near the door, and that created an annoying bottleneck, but at least the lesson was learned for next time!
Know your audience.
If you have a formal, professional audience, don’t go with a keg! Martinis and wine might be a better bet. Our circle of friends and partners is pretty laid back and quirky, so we let our scrappy side show. We went with the keg and also hand-made a lot of the signage and food ourselves.
Be true to yourself.
At a recent event, we wanted to keep track of who attended, but nametags felt very un-Wistia. We played around with a lot of alternatives. In fact, we almost decided to catch people on a 5-second video clip when they walked in. But then we realized this might make them uncomfortable. Since Wistia is all about making people feel welcome and supported, we nixed it at the last minute. Don’t be afraid to kill an idea if it doesn’t feel right!
Instead, we came up with an alternative: taking Polaroids of people as they entered and getting them to write their names on them and post them to the wall. This had the added benefit of allowing guests to peruse the wall of attendees. We even learned that one couple met via this Polaroid wall, and they’re now married. Okay, not really.
Booze never hurts.
Anyone who’s visited the Wistia office has probably tried one of Ben’s insanely delicious concoctions. They’re handmade in a “Bill Nye the Science Guy” sort of way: he pressurizes alcohol for super-fast infusion with herbs, a little sugar, even wood chips. Not only do his creations taste great, but they also make people feel welcome, since he’s taken care to make you something special.
Many people feel more comfortable with a glass in hand, even if they’re not drinking much. So give the people what they want. As F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “Here’s to alcohol, the rose-colored glasses of life.”
Side note: These photos are the result of a recent experiment. We asked a local photographer to join us during a happy hour we threw during HubSpot’s Inbound conference. She took photos of the event so that we could focus on our guests. Worked out pretty well!
As we pick up steam with more live events, we really want to suss out how to make them great. So help us out! Let us know if you have reactions to this post or ideas for fun events. What have you learned from events you’ve put together? What events have you attended that you’ve found especially well-executed?
And the take-home message is: come hang out with us. We’ll spend a lot of effort to try to make you happy with music and margaritas. But be forewarned, we’ll probably analyze the hell out of how it all goes.