events

Event Management / Scheduling Software Options We Know About (Part 2)

If you read our previous post about events, you might be reading this post because you figured you need some kind of event management on your site. If you haven’t read it and want this to be in context, check out Part One here.

I’m going to divide this into three categories for information digestion purposes!

Option One: Stuff That Sort Of Integrates With Your Website Software

Great if: You don’t need something robust, you are using something that already sort of works.

There are a variety of options that *sort of* integrate with your website.

For example, you could have a Gravity Form (Wordpress plugin) and use a Zapier ‘zap’ to send the information from a form to a Google Calendar, blocking it off.

A real life business example of this is my coworking space has one room that is rentable. Not 16, not 25. One. So I just need the one form that concerns it to connect with the calendar used to manage it (a Google Calendar). It would be total overkill to install a full booking system for this one room.

Because there are a whole category of things that don’t need deep integration but just have to communicate with one another, you have a whole robust category of websites:

Zapier
IFTTT (short for ‘if this then that’) 
Automate.io
Workflow…

You get the idea. Programmers are hip to the fact we have lots of tools and sometimes there just needs to be a connection.

So if you are already using a calendar and some kind of RSVP mechanism, rather than adding a whole booking system into your website, it might work best to connect what you’ve got online already.


Option Two: Stuff That Integrates Directly With Your Website Software

Great if: You’re going to do a ton of events, you already have a robust website

Now clearly if you start getting into multiple events that have to communicate with each other (or concern other factors like notifying instructors or closing automatically when full), that’s when you need a real system.

The two main Wordpress plugins I’ve used for this purpose are Event Espresso and Event Manager (free or Pro version).

I personally like Event Espresso for really complicated setups. Like you are running a regional camp for three weeks that has over 100 classes and different parameters (special pricing for students under 16 for Class A, needing to be able to email all students in a particular class in case the location of Class B moves, etc.) It can be overkill for some things, I won’t lie but it lets you set specific parameters for specific events and add things on (like a seating chart in case you want to have people pick out a particular seat as part of their booking and having that seat be a particular price).

Event Manager is a great option too because the free version does a lot but the paid one will let you sell tickets in the system. But let’s say you’re a downtown association that does a lot of free events and you just want people to be able to search them, have each event have a layout, and be able to print a calendar of all events in a certain category. Something like this can work really well

I like both these plugins too because you buy a yearly license that is relatively reasonable ($50-$200ish/year). So you could have like 50 or 500 or 50000 events and not be stuck paying a percentage of registrations or some monthly fee. They also do things like support recurring events (goodbye needless data entry), have great tech support, and a TON of settings (just Event Manager, ie the simpler one, has about 250 that I’ve noticed). In other words, you can set it up just for YOU, which is both a blessing and a curse.


Option Three: Third Party Options

Great if: You are uncertain about the capabilties of your own website, are not at all tech savvy

Listen, this is a totally safe place to admit it: “Nicole, I have no desire to mess around with tech settings. I just want something that’ll work in about 1-2 hours setup time.”

Third party solutions (which will link to your website not not integrate directly with it) are going to be both the easiest thing to do (and by default, offer the least customization). But there is a saying that good enough is good enough and if the thing does what you need it to, great. Bonus is whole companies have been set up to handle certain kinds of bookings.

Here are some examples:
ChowNow – For restaurant ordering, $200ish setup fee plus $100ish monthly fee for mid tier plan
EventSmart- For events, $10-$100+/month
Calendly – mostly an appointment thing, I know a lot of consultants who use this $0-12/month
Acquity Scheduling– booking calendar mainly for spaces $0- $50/month
Eventbrite – 6% of your ticket sales (remember 6% of $0 is zero so that’s why a lot of people use this for free events)
Fare Harbor- some of my boat tour clients use this but the fact their pricing information is buried on their website- so much so, I couldn’t find it easily and according to the internet, they only charge for credit card processing, I find it a bit suspect.

There are about 10,000 of these and you can find similar options if you go to similarweb.com, putting in the website, and clicking on the ‘Competitors’ section.

You’ll notice with third party options, you have to be careful. You start out as free or cheap and then suddenly, ‘oh you have more than 50 events so that bumps you to our next tier!’ They want you to be invested enough to say ‘meh, it’s just $20/month and I really don’t feel like moving everything to another software.’

These can be a great solution, just remember the devil is in the details and as long as you know yours, you can make a good choice.

If you aren’t sure what to do, before you pay an intern 20 hours to move your events into a system or buy $400 in software you don’t entirely understand, consider having a consult with a tech person give you a consult on what could work best for you. They could save you time, money, and headache looking out for things you aren’t.

Congratulations on being open to letting your customers book online. In the end, you might be surprised with how profitable (and accessible) it’ll make your business.



Seven Silly Ways I Made Money On The Internet

We live in this really weird time in history where there is real life money to be made in the ether (i.e. the internet). I’ve been looking into (and trying) different things over the course of the last few years and I thought it would be fun to do a post about the weirdest ways I’ve made money online. (This is almost like a part two to my Thoughts On Passive Income post a couple months back.)

Seven Extra Moneymakers (With At Least An Online Component)

I sold a stock photo on Twenty20 for $2.

I take tons of pictures on my iPhone so for fun this summer, I uploaded a bunch of my nature shots (you need releases if you put photos of people online)… and proceeded to forget entirely that I did this.

Then I got this email…

As you see, this isn’t the most stunning photo ever taken. But someone still bought it, even after I’d forgotten it was for sale.

I told people to sell their extra jewlery on Worthy.com.

One of my friends got divorced several years ago. To give her a hand, I offered to shop it around to local jewelry shops. They all offered me less than $100 (I had the original paperwork for the $2000+ ring) so I held onto it. Then I saw Worthy.com and decided I had nothing to lose so I sent her ring in… And got her $600 for it.

Since then, I’ve told a few other people to do this (via an affiliate link) and have made $50. Note: they did not accept my engagement ring because it was too common of a style so I ended up going through a local jewelry store. In other words, look online and real life if you are trying to find the best price for your jewelry.



I wrote reviews on Capterra.com. 

You know, as much as I’d love to write reviews all day for free for giant corporations, I don’t typically. But if someone’s willing to pay $10 for my opinion on Quickbooks or Dropbox or whatever, I’m fine writing up a detailed review of my years of experience with it. Occasionally Capterra offers $10/review for up to 5 reviews. So I wrote 5 reviews and got $50 in Amazon gift cards. Think about it, Capterra owns my review and can use the content in marketing or for resale on their site so I don’t feel bad getting money in exchange for adding to their database of information.

Note: if you are a small business that I have a good experience with, I’m happy to leave a review gratis.

I am an Airbnb Superhost.

We could say I didn’t choose the Airbnb life, it chose me. I will say having people constantly in your living space can be a little draining (insert high strung dog and demanding day jobs for additional consideration) but it has been a good way to help pay my rent and generate some additional income for my landlord and myself. If you find yourself in Bar Harbor this summer and  want to check out the Golden Girl Palace (long story) for yourself, come on over. 

Airbnb is the largest paying part of the sharing economy. Click here to learn more.

I rent out my projector/screen setup.

My budget for starting Breaking Even was about $10,000. I used $1000 of this to buy a nice LCD projector and screen setup. I was doing a lot of presentations and was getting tired of relying on the venue’s technology. Then I met other people who needed stuff (most of what we rent this out for is family reunions and weddings with an occasional business presentation and kid’s birthday party). We rent it out for $50/day which includes any needed dongles/Mac converters, extension cords, table to set it on, etc. I estimate we rent it 3-5 times a year so we’ve more than paid back the initial investment, plus it’s a benefit we can offer our coworking space members.



I hosted an amateur comedy night.

I’ve been wanting to try standup comedy for awhile so I made a plan to really do it. When I realized I had to travel 4 hours and miss two work days to do it, I figured I had to host something local first to see if I liked it.

So I contacted a local venue and asked if they’d be up for it. We could charge a small cover, which would cover my time to organize and run the thing (and my help with marketing) and they could sell food and drink. So I made a Facebook event and talked about it a little online and then showed up that night and ran the event for two hours. It went great and I walked away with $300 in covers.

I guess the moral is, if you want to do something, see if you can find a way to do it in a low risk way and partner with a venue that has a complimentary audience.

I made and sold courses on Teachable.

You too can buy my SEO course or my online shopping card course! Basically, if you are a consultant type (or heck, any industry where people have to like you to do business with you) an online course is a low risk way for prospective clients to try you out. Plus if you naturally like public speaking (see amateur comedy night), it’s not that much of a stretch. I will, however, be moving these courses to my own domain to avoid the monthly fee, now that I know people are theoretically interested in them.



I’m not including my ‘passive’ income experiments here.

A couple months ago, I did an experiment where I did much more than this stuff. I took surveys, I joined Amazon Mechanical Turks, Google Adsense… You name it, I spent a month trying anything anyone considered passive income. It did make me some money but not a ton (See this post for more information.)

The thing with any of this online money making stuff is you have to understand:

  1. There is a learning curve, during which you clearly aren’t earning money.
  2. It’s not any money I can count on (at least for now) because it’s so variable. For example, I might sell 10 SEO courses one month and 0 the next month.
  3. Most things start online but have an offline component to be truly successful. If you want to sit in your basement and not talk to anyone and be completely anonymous, the reality is very few online opportunities will exist for you.

Now I could do more to expand these. For example, I keep meaning to email all the local caterers and other event venues about our technology setup so they could upsell/rent it for their events. I could get multiple peoples’ jewelry and shop it around for them. In other words, any of these things could bring in more money if I let them… but since most of them happened by accident, I am only thinking of these ideas now.

In other words, as long as you treat online income as a fun experiment that may or may not make you money, you’ll be able to do these (or others) with a spirit of fun and excitement (versus desperation and drudgery). You might not be able to quit your day job, but at least you can get random emails in the middle of the day that will notify you that you made a couple unexpected dollars while you were doing other things.



Reconnecting with the World via the Internet

I didn’t realize how lonely the first month after having a baby really is. Sure, you have the company of the baby, but for someone who is used to being around other people on a daily basis and having some form of adult human interaction, it can be a shock to the system (in addition to the other stuff that comes with having a baby, which I won’t go into here).

While it has gotten considerably easier to find our groove over two months, a huge part of my rediscovered happiness has been found online. In addition to streaming a lot of Bravo and Netflix, and consulting Dr. Google at least once a day for 4 weeks, the internet has actually helped me step into my new role.



Without being as cliché to say “find your tribe,” there can be a sense of “these are my people” when you connect with the right groups/people/apps.

Private Groups. One of the biggest things online that helped me feel connected was private groups. A few of them are directly related to “mommy stuff” and another is a fitness accountability group. People post daily about challenges/victories, offer advice, and are overall supportive. The groups I like and participate in have a few things in common:

  • There’s no judgment. Mom-shaming is real, and from what I’ve seen it tends to come from other moms. The mom groups I like participating in are honest and not critical of each other’s parenting choices. I won’t go into detail my feelings about this, but when people come to a safe space to vent or genuinely ask for help, the last thing that makes them feel “connected” is getting criticized.
  • It’s honest. The groups I like are the ones that really capture the “win some, lose some” essence of everyday life. It’s not always Instagram worthy, but it’s still nice to share. For instance, one mom had gotten glammed up, just because, only to have her kiddo spit up all over her outfit. Some days I work out in my living room in baggy t-shirts and boxer shorts. The point is we don’t take ourselves too seriously.
  • It feels like a conversation. After all, that’s why I sought out online groups in the first place. The best groups encourage others to post and it’s not all dominated by one person (but there usually is some sort of moderator who keeps things going if needed).

If you can find a group with a common interest, join up! If you can’t find one…create one 🙂



Events on Facebook. Another way to stay connected is looking at the events on Facebook. One of my friends actually pointed out Emlen Family Doula’s new Postpartum Support Group that meets every first and third Sunday. Without Facebook, I never would have known about this delightfully local and incredibly relevant/helpful event.

You can search events locally, by event “type,” and Facebook will also let you know if you have a few friends interested in a nearby event (which may or may not feel a little bit creepy). This example is more of an intersection between online and “real life” but it helped me feel connected to other people in a meaningful way.

Hobbies. For me, working out has always been something that brings me joy. Using the power of the internet to read blogs from some of my favorite fitness people (Hungry Runner Girl, Carrot’s N Cake) helped me feel someone connected again. That, and I was able to stream some easy post-partum workouts to get my endorphin level back up before getting the doctor’s clearance to resume a more intense program. For other people, connecting with a hobby online may mean perusing through Pinterest or writing blog posts of their own.

Entertainment. My postpartum period was not all productive (actually a small percent of it was). Most of it was spent catching up on Bravo TV, checking out some new Netflix shows (American Vandal satisfies my love for true crime and comedy). Another source of entertainment was Instagram. There are a lot of funny/absurd memes about parenting- and complete randomness- that ate up more of my time than I’d care to admit. Strange as it may seem, these memes actually made me feel connected to the outside world because it helped me remember that it everyone struggles- but sometimes you just have to laugh about it.

Turn it Off. Honestly, sometimes it’s all a bit overwhelming and you just have to step away from your phone or computer. Maybe make some tea, go outside for fresh air, read a book…we all need a break every now and then! Sometimes the most important connection to focus on is the one with yourself.

I’m happy to slowly be reconnecting with the world, online and off… and I hope this post helps at least one other person do the same.



Tech Thursday: The Art of the After-Party (How to Follow Up Post-Event)

As a business or individual, you may find yourself throwing an event. A lot of energy gets put into the preparation and actually hosting the event, so by the time it’s over, most of us don’t want to do anymore work. But, to take your event from “good” to “great,” consider some of these ideas for following up with attendees after the “party.” Start with a “Thank You,” maybe a survey for feedback, and see where it goes from there!



Tech Thursday: Online Scheduling

Note: This might be our last broadcast from our current office. Next week, we may have a different wall behind us!

Most businesses have some sort of scheduling aspect (we tried to think of examples of businesses that don’t need scheduling, and it was surprisingly difficult).

When it comes to adding an online scheduling or booking program to your website, you want to consider a few things before committing:

1) How often does the event occur? Is it a regularly occurring event (i.e. once a week) or One and Done (i.e. a conference)?
2) Do want people to pay online or hold payment (a la hotel)?
3) Is this for internal use (scheduling employees) or customer use (i.e. booking a room/provider)?
4) What is it you’re scheduling? A place (room, seat, etc), person (doctor, hair dresser), or a time slot?

And, finally, remember to test out your scheduling software before launching it to the public, or whoever is going to be using it. You want to make people feel smart and make sure they understand what they’re booking, after all!

While most booking software costs money, think about a) how much time you’ll save by having a program handle this aspect of your business for you and b) utilizing the free trial period (a good 95% of these programs offer a 1 month free trial period, so you can really determine if it’s the best fit for your business needs).

If you have any topic requests for us, send us an email, comment on the video, or visit our website at www.breakingeveninc.com!

Selling Stuff Online: Events

SellingShizOnline

 

In our first couple blog posts of the series, we discussed the basics of online sales and what to consider when selling products. Selling tangible objects seems pretty straightforward, but what if your business a) is a venue, like a community center or stadium, or b) puts on a certain amount of events (or, as I like to call them, funtivities) each year? It’s not the same as selling a physical product on an ecommerce site. I only recently began to appreciate the many considerations of online booking when working on booking for Anchorspace this past month.

1) How does booking work? 

There are two ways we can think about online scheduling. Option 1 is a “Class” event (there is a set number of attendees in one space). Say you’re a higher education institution or a local YMCA. You have multiple instructors offering all sorts of classes at various times, or just one or two classes going every six months. Or, maybe you’re a business like us, and offer a workshop once or twice a year that has roughly 30 spaces open. With this type of scheduling, you want the registration to stop once you reach the desired number of participants. At Anchorspace, for instance, there are 4 desk spaces available to daily users. It’d be inconvenient (and not to mention confusing) to have people signing up for the space even after the four person limit.

Screen Shot 2015-03-03 at 9.49.51 AM

A “Class” type event.

The other event type is a “Booking”- perhaps a “book now” situation for car maintenance or a haircut, or renting a bowling alley for a birthday party. This is more about attributing a certain time slot with a certain place/person, regardless of numbers. As the business, you don’t need to sell a ticket to each individual coming to the bowling alley birthday party- you just need to indicate to others that it’s already being used at that time. An example: the conference room at Anchorspace is available for booking every hour. We don’t need to know how many people will be using it (I mean, after 10 people elbow room becomes a concern), just whether or not it’s available from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.

A "Book Now" type event

A “Book Now” type event

Discerning between these types of events will help narrow down the scheduling software that makes the most sense for you (some handle “class” types better than “booking” types).

2) How many people can attend?

Selling tickets for a rural high school’s prom is a slightly different experience than selling tickets to a Patriots playoff game at Gillette Stadium.

If you have tens of thousands of people purchasing tickets through your website, you’ll want to invest some money in a program that can handle that amount of traffic. A smaller venue probably doesn’t need quite as much attention, and can get by without all the complex bells and whistles.



3) How often does this event occur?

Is this a “one and done” event (sports game, New Year’s Eve Party) or recurring (a horse drawn carriage tour that leaves every two hours)? Certain plugins, like Tickera, are intended solely for “one and done” events. Maybe you’ve seen this in action, like a Bonnaroo 2015 site or Wordcamp Boston 2015. These events happen once a year, and often have their own website (though it may be linked to something larger).

Other plugins, like Events Manager, are made for recurring events, or businesses that host multiple events. With Events Manager, you can display a calendar in the widget area in the sidebar, along with your top 5 (or so) upcoming events. The example below is from the Grand Ole Opry. As you might guess, they have an event almost every day, and they have a vast number of users to accommodate in a buyer experience. Their event software is pretty robust and offers different viewing options to cater to the needs of many.

Screen Shot 2015-03-03 at 9.50.59 AM

4) How does payment work?

Do you want to require people to pay in full at the time of booking, or just hold their card information? (Remember, if you decide to take payment through your website, it’s important to have SSL and a payment gateway in place). Not all plugins integrate with all payment gateways- but there is something called Mijreh, a PCI compliant plugin that links ecommerce systems with payment gateways. As a disclaimer, I’ve never used this plugin, but have seen it referenced in my travels online and thought it worth pointing out.

(Some places may have free events, but since this series is about selling stuff, I’m going to save myself some sanity and neglect such events for now).

All of these questions should help narrow down what you need to look for in event management software. This will also determine how much moneyu you’ll throw down. Most online scheduling software will give you a free month trial to decide whether it’s a good fit for your company’s needs. After that, the pay structure varies. Full Slate, for instance, is around $30/month, but increases an extra $15 for each additional staff member. TicketTailor and Events Manager have a flat yearly rate. Some plugins will take out a certain percentage for commission, so be mindful of that as you’re looking around. Bonus: many offer discounts for non-profits,

Next week, we’ll explore the topic of E-products!



1 2 3