I remember going to my first homeschool conference in Ft. Worth, Texas. I walked up to a GIANT convention center and opened the doors into an overwhelming experience of information and curriculum.
I left wondering if I could host an event that would be more intimate. I wanted to create an event where Moms felt comfortable with asking questions in a smaller group. I wanted an event that DIDN'T have a vendor hall PACKED full of curriculum options that added to the confusion of homeschooling.
In my heart, I knew that someday, somehow, I would host one of these workshops. I just had to be bold enough to make it all happen.
Back in June of 2015, I invited one of my favorites to Austin, Texas. Kathy Lee Eggers of The Homegrown Preschooler SAVED my homeschool. A Year of Playing Skillfully was a curriculum that I had been longing for. But if you've met Kathy, you know how wonderful she is! Her stories will make you laugh and cry because this momma has done everything from adoption to homeschooling. I just knew that she needed to come to ATX to share her wealth of knowledge and inspiration.
In September of 2017, I hosted a much bigger conference in Austin. My children were growing into young writers and that's when I discovered Brave Writer. I, myself, was growing into a homeschool mom that needed a cheerleader along the way.
That's when I discovered Julie Bogart (founder of Brave Writer) and I wanted to share her with my Texas friends. Little did I know that parents from ALL over the United States would make their way to hear Julie speak...via Skype. (it's a LONG story)
A new country brought me a new opportunity to host Andrew Pudewa, founder of IEW. I was a bit hesitant about this idea because of the newness of everything. But I prayed about it and moved forward with the idea. Why not? I had done this twice before.
August 2018 - Taupo, New Zealand
After 3 successful workshops/conferences, I have had many asking..."How did you do it?"
So, I thought you might want a blog post about how to get going.
Email - Just Ask
With my first two workshops back in Texas, I simply emailed Kathy and Julie. My motto is "all they can say is no thank you." And to my surprise, both of these wonderful ladies said YES!
So if your heart keeps coming back to this idea of becoming a conference host, just email them. Be sure to include why their expert advice is needed in your homeschooling area.
Once you've heard back from them, set up a time to video conference. This face-to-face interaction is important. The speaker needs to know you, as a host and a homeschooler. Be honest with them! And have your questions and ideas ready and planned.
During this conversation, make sure you discuss your ideas for venues, ticket prices/transactions, dates, expected attendance, the speaker's travel expenses and so on. Write down and record all that was said in this conversation.
Once you have had your video conference, email the speaker with a summary of your video discussion. It's so important to have everything in documented writing!
Form a committee
My first workshop, with Kathy H Lee, I didn't have a committee. I did it all by myself (bc I am a bit of a control freak!)
With the Brave Writer conference, I did 90% of the planning but had a wonderful tribe of women help with setting up at the venue the day of.
I knew in a new country that I needed help. I had just been in New Zealand for a few months and I had NO clue about venues or sponsors. How did I find my committee? Just a simple facebook post on our homeschool group page. I had 2 women offer and I was so thankful for their help.
Find a venue and sponsors
If you are planning to host a small conference, find a small, cheap venue! I was very blessed to find 2 FREE venues, one for Kathy's workshops and one for Andrew Pudewas visit.
We knew that the Brave Writer's conference would be bigger...we just weren't sure HOW big! We had thought 75 would be interested. Little did we know that we sold over 100 tickets in only 8 minutes of opening the registration online! So when that happened and the ticket purchases kept coming in, we canceled our smaller venue and booked a bigger one. BE FLEXIBLE and ready to adjust to any situations that come up. (even if the situation is when your speaker breaks her ankle and is unable to travel so you Skype her in on a big screen)
Once you have your venue, it's time to find sponsors and/or vendors. Sponsors would be businesses that would donate food or materials in exchange for advertising. And vendors would be local businesses that actually come to the event to sell their products. Vendors are a great way to earn some extra money because you can charge per vendor table. This money can go to paying yourself for your hard work or help pay for decorations.
Social Media makes this sooooo much easier! I actually printed off flyers for my first workshop with Kathy Lee Eggers. And looking back, that was a waste of time and my own money. All of the Brave Writer advertising was done via social media pages and LIVE broadcasts. We did make a few flyers for Andrew Pudewa only because my committee had made that suggestion. New Zealand Kiwis are a bit "old school" (and I like that) so we posted paper flyers around town to get attention.
Create a facebook event page and post to that page often. I included quotes from the speakers and even YouTube videos. I would ask their opinions by creating polls. The closer to the event, the more often I would post. This helps build the excitement and helps remind everyone about your event.
Be the Hostess with the Mostess
I honestly found so much joy in planning and preparing for these events. I see it as a way that I can use all my giftings in one spot.
Be Organized: Make checklists and timelines for yourself and committee. Making these in Google Docs makes it easy for everyone to edit their comments into the documents.
Be Hospitable - Food and door prizes always add to the awesomeness of events. Getting food donated or hand making door prizes is a great way to add that hospitable touch.
|I painted these tin cans that ended up costing about $1 per can.|
Every attendee was able to take one home after the event. Who doesn't love a little gift?
Be YOU - Adding your special touches to the event is what will make it one of a kind. If you enjoy crafting (as I do), find ways to incorporate that gifting. If you are great with words, then allow yourself the spotlight as the MC during the event to inspire others. Or maybe your the quiet introvert that just gets pure joy out of seeing it all come together. Just sit back and watch it all unfold.
Asking friends to help can be huge! Invite over other homeschooling families to help with decorations and include your own homeschooled children to help out.
Just be YOU and create an event inspired and designed by YOU!
Feel free to email me with any further questions that you might have about hosting an event. It's alot of work, but it is so worth it!