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My 1am Conference Organizer Playbook

2 minute read
by Alex Hillman

It was 1am after the closing party for the business conference I co-organize with my partner Amy Hoy. I stopped at the corner bar near my house to grab a night cap and collect my thoughts about the event, and why it had gone so smashingly well.

I recently rediscovered those thoughts I had written down, so I wanted to share them here. The timing couldn’t be better since I’m currently working with some collaborators on a fairly large new event.

Seeing these notes again with fresh eyes was a bit like discovering a playbook of advice that I wrote for myself at 1am, knowing that I’d need to read it again in the future.

Here’s the advice I gave myself at 1am

Across all of the formats and sizes of events, the most successful ones I’ve been a part of (both as an organizer and an attendee) are also the simplest.

Want to bring people together? Remove distance between the “speakers” and attendees. Value comes from everywhere.

Most events are overstuffed because organizers are afraid that “if we don’t do XYZ people won’t show up.” Biggest lie ever.

Imagine if every speaker bailed out at the last minute. Would your conf be pointless? You’ve got bigger problems.

What’s the thing people are going to remember or take home? Can people put it into action or own it themselves?

What if the ONLY outcome of your event is every person made one friend for life? (Not a bad thing - you should be so lucky).

Don’t confuse delight for perfection. Rough edges are okay. Rough edges are necessary. Rough edges are opportunity.

A meaningful 2-3 person conversation > basically anything else.

Three hour lunch breaks are a good idea.

Dim Sum is underrated after party food, but soup dumplings should come with a warning/instruction manual.

What’s the convo your industry isn’t having? Is it hard/scary? Be the one to be honest about it. It’s better for everyone.

First time speakers are 100x worth their weight in gold. More attendees identify with people similar to them than “experts.”

Underspend on badges, programs, and anything else that might be thrown away. Overspend on catering.

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Hey, thanks for reading!

Alex Hillman I am always thinking about the intersection of people, relationships, trust and business. I founded Indy Hall in 2006, making us one of oldest fully independent coworking communities in the world. This site is packed with the lessons and examples I’ve learned along the way. You can find me on Twitter, too! 🐦 Say hi.