Promoting a Live Event: Convincing vs. Inviting

It probably won’t surprise you that I’ve received some emails from people who say they’d like to attend an upcoming workshop but that it would be a financial challenge to make it happen. Some people have pointed out the irony of not being able to afford the Conscious Abundance Workshop.

My response is normally just to agree with them. I don’t want to convince them to go. If I’ve never met them, I really can’t tell if they’re a good match to be there. And I don’t know the extent of their financial challenges or their readiness to change. Only they can decide whether to go. My job is simply to make the invitation and answer any questions they may have.

When I was broke, if I wanted to stretch myself to go to an event that would be difficult to afford, I would have found it annoying at best if someone pressured me to spend money I didn’t have.

I remember attending a Tony Robbins event during the 90s that I could barely afford. I can’t say that it was particularly transformational, but it was a lot of fun. Afterwards Tony offered each attendee a free 30-minute coaching session with one of his coaches. I na├»vely thought that was very kind of him, although I figured it would include a sales pitch for something at the end. When I showed up, I discovered that the coaching part was merely a 10-minute information gathering session to be used against me for a manipulative, high-pressure sales pitch that included being double-teamed by another “coach” (i.e. a commissioned salesperson). The duo tried to push me to spend $10K on Tony’s Mastery University, and at the time there was no realistic way I could afford that. I walked out feeling disappointed and angry, certainly not inspired. They made me feel like I was a loser or a liar for not having the money to sign up on the spot. This experience greatly reduced the impression I had of Tony. Calling it a coaching session was a lie.

I’m sure you’ve encountered similar sleazy sales tactics. They’re so common that we jadedly tend to accept them as normal.

Do they work? I think they often do, if the goal is to generate more sales.

If Not Persuasion, Then What?

I really disliked selling when I first started as an entrepreneur. I liked the creative side of business so much more than the sales and marketing side. Selling seemed pushy, aggressive, and annoying. Why would I want to annoy a bunch of people in order to generate income?

I was fortunate in that I found good ways to “cheat” by finding a selling style I actually liked, one that was based on invitation, not persuasion.

In my computer games business, I relied heavily on free demos to attract sales. I uploaded demos of my games to hundreds of game and software download sites. Some demos were included in low-cost retail CD-ROM compilations as well. The demos brought lots of traffic to my site, where people could buy the full versions of those games with more levels and features.

It was a simple model. I liked that I didn’t have to convince people to buy. I just gave them a good taste of the game experience for free. Who could complain about getting something for free? If they liked the game, they could buy it. I didn’t feel a need to pressure potential customers. If people only played the free versions, the cost to me was negligible.

This model worked well for many years. Eventually I tried to stretch beyond it though. I invested in advertising. I sent out press releases when new games were launched. I did licensing deals. This extra effort brought in additional revenue, but it also made the business more complex, which I didn’t like. I prefer simplicity.

Over time, and especially with my current business, I realized the importance of balancing income generation with lifestyle priorities. If I have to generate sales in such a way that diminishes the quality of my life, such as by taking on more work I don’t enjoy, it may not be worth the additional income potential.

Convincing people to buy is tiresome. And if people have to be convinced to buy, they won’t be the best matches for receiving the benefits. It’s like dragging someone to a movie they don’t really want to see. Will you have a good experience if you have to bribe a companion to go?

Inviting

When I created the web pages for the new 2016 workshops, I thought about how to promote and sell the workshops in a way that would feel good to me and which would attract the right attendees for each event.

Instead of thinking in terms of persuasion, I thought about matchmaking. Which people would naturally be good matches for attending? I wrote each workshop page for the people I felt would be the best matches.

I decided to make each page pretty straightforward, using a structure something like this:

  • Identify the problem or challenge the workshop will address, so people can quickly see if they’re a match for that particular workshop
  • Acknowledge that this is a non-trivial problem that requires a significant effort to transform (so it’s a good fit for an intensive, in-person experience, especially for people who really want to move past this problem)
  • Share how I had this problem or challenge and overcame it, even though it wasn’t easy
  • Introduce the workshop and how we’ll address this problem or challenge together
  • Define the positive transformation the workshop will target (what will it do for attendees?)
  • List some specific topics we’ll cover at the workshop
  • Encourage and invite people to sign up

There are no tricks or gimmicks, no money-back guarantees, and no fake deadlines.

There is a $100 early bird discount for each workshop for a limited time, which we do for practical reasons. Almost everyone has to travel to go to the workshops, so they need time to make travel plans. And we need to give the venue an estimated headcount, so they can arrange the seating. So we want to encourage people to sign up early and not wait till the last minute. About 80% of attendees sign up with the discount, so this works well. But if people want to, they can still sign up the night before the workshop. That’s happened before.

There are some free bonuses, but they’re available free to everyone. You don’t have to attend a workshop to download them. The bonuses include a free audio program and two free e-books. They’re intended to supplement the experience of going to a workshop, including helping people make the events pay for themselves.

Could we get more attendees with a more aggressive selling style? Possibly. But then we’d have some attendees who needed that extra convincing to go, and those aren’t the kinds of attendees I want. When people have to be persuaded to go, they aren’t as invested in co-creating a transformational experience together. The best attendees are the ones that say, “I knew I had to be there.”

I like doing workshops with a room full of people who really want to be there. They don’t need to be convinced or sold. They show up because they’re a match for the problem or challenge we’re addressing and the positive transformation we’re targeting. Such people develop a special bond because they have a lot in common with each other. No one was pushed to be there, so there’s no counter-energy slowing people down and preventing progress.

A Party Invitation

Promoting a live event is like inviting people to a party. Tell people what kind of party it is and the various details. Then let each person freely decide if they want to go. The people who show up will be those who are really interested in that kind of party, and their mutual interest will help co-create a good party.

Pitching in for the party is reasonable if the party has expenses and if the amount you’re asked to contribute seems fair relative to the value you’d expect to receive from the party.

The purpose of a party is to connect and have fun. The purpose of a workshop adds a growth and transformational element as well, which for many attendees is the primary reason for going.

Just like a party, a live event is a co-created experience. If you push people to go by bribing or pressuring them, they won’t be the best party guests. But if you invite people to go and then let the best matches show up, you’ll have a delightful party full of people who will make it a positive experience for all.

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