My friend Anton posted this the today and it triggered something in me. He artfully expressed how I feel about Web Afternoon and the effort it takes to coordinate. Jessica, Stacey, and I have put a lot of time, thought, and effort into making this event happen. And that says nothing about Chris, Bermon, Epic Labs, 45 Royale, and the countless others who’ve helped with previous events. It’s a helluva lot of work. We can’t do it alone.
Web Afternoon needs your help to succeed.
That was a surprisingly difficult sentence to type. Not nearly as difficult as planning and running a micro-conference, mind you, but difficult nonetheless. Now that I’ve typed it, and you’ve read it, it’s time to explain a few things. Planning a conference of any size is a lot of work. Here’s a little glimpse into what it takes.
In case you didn’t know, Web Afternoon is all about giving back to the community that supports it. There is no profit motive. I’ve never made a dime from any Web Afternoon event, despite pouring well over 600 hours of my time and thousands of my own money into planning and hosting them.
Planning for Atlanta 2013 started in late November 2012…
tl;dr: Skip to the important part.
We began contacting speakers first because, from my years in rock-and-roll, I know that without talent, there is no show.
We needed 12 speakers minimum; 16 to fill the schedule. I sent invitation emails to 62 potential speakers. We like to provide a diversity of perspective from the Web Afternoon stage. With that in mind I contacted a good blend of people from different disciplines, experience levels, genders, ethnicities, and parts of the country.
We received replies from 29. Yep. Over half of the people I emailed never replied. Most of the people who didn’t reply were female (maybe I’m no good at talking to women). Half of the people who did reply declined for one reason or another. The resulting group of people who could participate was skewed heavily towards the dreaded all-white-guy lineup, so we sent another round of 14 invitations. Now we believe we have a good mix of diverse people, no matter how you slice it.
8 of the 16 speakers are from out of town. Now we have to get them here.
Flights and hotel for the speakers: $6,367.52.
Venue and Catering
Face it: hotels suck for events like this. They’re too stuffy and downright expensive. $3 a can for Coca-Cola? No thanks. We wanted something affordable, modest, comfortable, and with a unique Atlanta vibe. Theaters are a good choice. We called every single one in Midtown, Buckhead, and Downtown. They were all either booked or too large. Special event spaces and ballrooms, also all booked.
Drat. Late September/early October is wedding season. Everything is full. We asked our contacts for ideas and finally landed on the Egyptian Ballroom at the Fox Theater. It’s available. Score!
It Adds Up Fast
The Fox Theater sounded nice when we first spoke to them. $4,500 plus a $150 ‘room fee’ for the room with a $1,000 discount if we used their catering partner, Affairs to Remember. Sounds good. $3,650 plus catering costs, which should be about $8 per person.
I called Affairs to Remember and told them all we wanted was water, coffee, tea, soda, and light snacks for 500 people. They wanted a $4,000 minimum to “maintain the integrity of the event and our brand”. The numbers were lining up.
Not so fast, slick.
They told me they couldn’t provide drinks because that was against the contract with the venue. The Fox has to supply the drinks. Here’s their quote:
- $1,500 – Est. 500 sodas @ $3.00 each
- $3,000 – Iced tea/coffee/water @ $6.00 per person
- $990 – 22% service charge
- $439 – 8% sales tax
- $5,929 – Subtotal bar service estimate
- $300 – 3 bartenders @ $100.00 each
- $120 – 2 hrs bartender OT @ $10.00 each
$6,349 total bar service estimate. Note, that’s an estimate. And here’s the kicker. We can’t spend $4,000 on light snacks with Affairs to Remember. That would be far more food than necessary. So we lose the $1,000 discount on the room. Now we’re at $4,650 for the room and $6,349 for drinks.
$10,999 for the venue and drinks and we don’t have food yet! As you can see, this isn’t looking good. Let’s assume we can get snacks for $6 per person. That’s another $3,000.
We still need to rent audio visual gear. Nothing too fancy. Just enough so that everyone who attends can see and hear the show. Two screens, two projectors, two wireless headset mics, two wireless handheld mics, a mixer, and speakers to fill the room with sound. We received three quotes with an average of $4,796.
Now we’re looking at nearly $16k just for the room and catering. So we abandoned the idea of having it at the Fox and starting looking for other spaces. Fortunately we were able to secure the 20th floor of the BB&T building in Atlantic Station at a cost we could write off because of some other business we’ve done with Nine Labs, so we’ll call that free. Score!
New venue, new challenges
The 20th floor is great. Plenty of space with a panoramic view of the city. However, it’s a completely blank empty space. That means we’ll have to pay a lot more for audio/visual and staging (we’re still waiting on quotes for that) and we’ll need to rent chairs, tables, etc.
- 250 – Black wooden padded chairs: $750.00
- 4 – 8ft x 30″ Table: $32.00
- 4 – Tablecloth for 8′ Table: $70.00
- 3 – 60″ Sepentine Skirted Bar: $150.00
- 2 – 6ft X 2.5″ Fill and Chill Party Table: $50.00
- 10 – 24″ Hi Boy Stainless Top Tables: $110.00
- 30 – 29″ Black Wooden Bar Stool: $120.00
- Delivery and Labor: $200.00
- Sales Tax: $89.74
Total: $ 1,571.74
Then there’s miscellaneous costs like a photo/video crew, printing the badges, signage, and other materials. Parking, transportation, and a whole list of minutia that would bore you to shreds. From previous events I know we can estimate all that stuff at $4,250.
Let’s add it up.
- Speaker Travel & Accommodations: $6367.52
- Venue: $0 (yay!)
- Catering: $2,500.00 (est)
- Audio/Visual: $8,000.00 (est)
- Chairs & Tables: $1,571.74
- Signs, materials, etc.: $4,250.00 (est)
Running Total: $22,689.26
It would be flat out incorrect to say our sponsors haven’t helped. They’ve all sent money, and others have donated their time and effort (more on that later). Altogether we’ve collected $7,785 in sponsorship cash (minus transaction fees). We’re not anywhere close to where we need to be.
Total Sponsorship to Date: $7,714.20
But what about ticket sales?
By fire code, we can only have 293 people on the floor. Of those, 250 or so will actually buy tickets. Assuming no more sponsorship comes in, there’s $14,975.06 remaining to cover just to break even. We’ll need an average ticket price of $59.90 to get there.
Here’s where you come in.
Every penny of profit goes back to the Atlanta web/tech community. We’re really close to making this event work. If you want to help the Atlanta web/tech scene and make Web Afternoon happen, you need to do three things:
1: Buy tickets for you and a friend.
Just $69 for an afternoon of learning, networking, and fun. What a bargain! You could easily blow that on happy hour with friends or a few Pixelworkers shirts. Don’t be lame. Support your community.
Go right now and buy your tickets. I’ll wait here.
2: Spread the word.
Tweet about it. Tell people on Facebook, Instagram, your blogs. Here are some ideas to get you started.
Here are some ideas for tweets:
- I’m really looking forward to @webafternoon. It’s going to be great! http://webafternoon.com
- Wow. @webafternoon has quite a lineup. Pretty excited to see all these people talk. http://webafternoon.com
- Stay up to date on the latest web wisdom at @webafternoon. I’m going, and so should you. http://webafternoon.com
- Hear 16 of the web’s smartest people talk about the future of the web at @webafternoon. http://webafternoon.com
- Hey, it’s like a TED for web people. @WebAfternoon looks fantastic. http://webafternoon.com
- Love the Web? Then get your ticket to @WebAfternoon! http://webafternoon.com
Copy and paste this into an email:
Hey, have you heard about Web Afternoon? It’s Friday, October 4th, from 1-7pm. Some great designers, developers, and UX people will be there. People from Turner, Facebook, Salesforce and more are speaking. I already have my ticket. You should go, too. Check it out: http://webafternoon.com
Of course you’re free to say any flattering thing you like to promote the event. There is some content from the email we sent to attendees below to give you more ideas.
3: Help get more sponsors.
Every sponsorship helps, even if it’s just $100. If you know anyone who might be interested in sponsoring, send them some info about the event and a link to the Sponsorship Package. Every bit counts.
It Takes a Village to Raise a Child.
And it takes a community to make a city’s ecosystem strong. Web Afternoon and the AWDG are my way of giving back to the city I love. I’ve never made a cent from any of it. Which brings me back to what Anton said; do it for the love, not the profit.