121: How To Start A Successful Ecommerce Conference On Your First Try With Steve Chou And Toni Anderson

121: How To Start A Successful Ecommerce Conference On Your First Try With Steve Chou And Toni Anderson

Today’s episode is a little different in that I’m not interviewing anyone on the show. Instead, I brought in my partner Toni Anderson to talk about how we launched The Sellers Summit, our ecommerce learning conference!

This was my first event ever and I discuss all of the little things that were involved in planning and running the event. If you plan on launching your own conference someday, our mistakes and successes may help you out!

I really loved every minute and I met so many new awesome people as well.

Right now, we are selling virtual passes to the conference for a limited time. Because our event sold out so quickly, many of you did not have the opportunity to attend.

So I’m doing my best to bring the event directly to you.

If you purchase a virtual pass by July 18, you will be invited to a live Q&A webinar where some of the speakers of the Sellers Summit will be present to answer your questions. It’s the closest thing to attending that I could think of without actually going.

Click Here To Grab Your Virtual Pass

Get My Free Mini Course On How To Start A Successful Ecommerce Store

If you are interested in starting an ecommerce business, I put together a comprehensive package of resources that will help you launch your own online store from complete scratch. Be sure to grab it before you leave!

What You’ll Learn

  • Our motivations for starting the Sellers Summit
  • How we sold out so quickly
  • Our strategy for making the attendees ecstatic
  • How we chose our speakers
  • What we did right and what we did wrong
  • How we chose the venue

Other Resources And Books


Intro: You are listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job podcast, and if you are new here, it’s a show where I bring in successful bootstrapped business owners to teach us what strategies are working and what strategies are not. Now I don’t bring on these famous entrepreneurs to simply celebrate their success, instead I have them take us back to the beginning and delve deeply into the exact strategies they used early on to gain traction for their businesses.

Now if you enjoy this podcast, please leave me a review on iTunes, and if you want to learn how to start your own online business, be sure to sign up for my free 6 day mini course, where I show you how my wife and I managed to make over 100K in profit in our first year of business. So go to mywifequitherjob.com, sign up right there on the front page, and I’ll send you the mini course right away via email, now onto the show.

Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job podcast. We will teach you how to create a business that suits your lifestyle, so you can spend more time with your family, and focus on doing the things that you love. Here is your host, Steve Chou.

Steve: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job podcast. Today is going to be a special episode because I’m not interviewing anyone on the show today. Instead, I brought my partner Toni Anderson on the podcast to talk about the Seller’s Summit, which was a conference that we both threw last month in Miami, Florida. It was my very first conference. I thought it would be interesting to talk about the planning, the preparations, the attention to detail and all of the ups and down involved in planning the event. First off, how are you doing today Toni? Thanks for taking the time to come on.

Toni: Thanks for having me again.

Steve: Yeah, and I wanted to talk about the motivation for the conference, because it was kind of funny. I did not want to do it in the beginning, because if you think about the conference in terms of just upfront risk and monetary reward, you got to put a lot of money upfront to do the conference and you don’t do a conference to make any money.

People have to travel, you got to sell tickets, you got to get sponsors, you got to book a venue, deal with logistics. It’s like planning a wedding all over again, not that I planned my wedding or anything, but still how did you convince me to do it? I knew I wanted to do it, but I can’t even remember what you said to me.

Toni: I think it was a consistent wearing down, wasn’t it? Through multiple meetings, over the fall of 2015?

Steve: Yeah, because there was a stretch when we were seeing each other. We saw each other for like a full week, right? Straight was it?

Toni: Yes. I think we saw each other in September at a conference, and then we saw each other again in October at 2 different conferences, and I think we just kept having that conversation over and over again about is it really worth it? Is it worth it for your brand; is it worth it for my time? What are the benefits truly at bottom-line for us to do this, because it was definitely a huge risk?

Steve: Just for listeners out there, Toni does wear on you and after a while you just want to give up and go commit suicide. Anyway sorry, so what were your motivations actually? I think I asked you this before, but I don’t even remember your answer because at the time you had just started getting into ecommerce, right?

Toni: Right. I had been– I started selling in May. When we were talking about this, I’d only been selling for 4 or 5 months. I think what appealed to me was being able to be on the planning team, or ownership team of an event, in a field that I didn’t have a lot connections in. I have a lot of connections in the marketing and social media world, but in the ecommerce world, I don’t really anybody but you, not anymore.

For me it was very appealing to be able to be a part of something where it would give me access to the thought leaders and people that are really making a big impact in that community, and it was a way to jump to the top pretty quickly. For me that was a huge appeal to be on that side of things.

Steve: If you consider me the top, that’s very sad.

Toni: Right, I have low standards though. Don’t worry.

Steve: Okay, all right. Good because you had been running conferences for the past 7 years, is that right?

Toni: Yeah, so I’ve been running blog, primarily blog conferences, marketing events for bloggers. This was a little bit different, and we were really trying to reach a totally different audience.

Steve: Just for my knowledge, why are you shifting away from the blogging crowd to ecommerce?

Toni: I really like ecommerce a lot better than I like blogging. I love blogging, it will always be something that I do, but the ecommerce was a way to step back a little bit I think if anybody out there is a blogger or has been in that world. You really have to put a lot of your personal life out there on a blog.

My kids are getting older and it was time to do something where they didn’t have to be front and centre all the time. My personal life didn’t have to be exposed. Ecommerce has got a lot of anonymity to it. That really appealed to me.

Steve: Yeah, I know for me, my motivations were I actually wanted to go and meet some of the people that were reading my blog or taking my class. I know for me, going to conferences had such a huge impact on my businesses, and in fact both my blog and my ecommerce store did not really start taking off until I started meeting other likeminded entrepreneurs.

I know my students were asking for this for such a long time. Thankfully Toni was there just nagging and nagging at me to do this, maybe nagging is not the right word Toni, I apologize. Pleasantly whispering in my ear that I should do this, and she actually gave me the courage to take the plunge because she had the experience of running these conferences for the past 7 years. You still there Toni?

Toni: I am.

Steve: Okay, not pissed, okay good. The first thing that we did, and I was really squeamish about this entire idea from the start actually. First thing that Toni suggested was, “Hey, why not just send out an email and have people sign up for a list just to confirm that the idea is a viable one.” What I did was I just put together a very quick and dirty landing page saying, “Hey, I’m thinking about putting on an event next year, and it’s going to be called,”– actually we didn’t even have a name.

It was basically ecommerce based conference. I just said, “Hey, sign up for this email list if you are interested.” I think that list just immediately got like a thousand people. From there I was like okay, maybe some people are interested in this, and maybe we can actually pull this off. Is there anything else that you said to me, I can’t remember to kind of convince me that was going to work?

Toni: I think we said whenever you agree to put up that landing page, I think we said, if we can get a thousand people to sign up, we can move forward. I think that was our number because we felt like, we wanted the conference to be really small. I know we are going to talk about that later. We felt like a thousand people when you think about who’s actually going to commit and do it, that was a good number. Then I think we got a thousand really quickly. I think that sort of for you was enough to push you, push you to actually doing it.

Steve: Yeah. How does that usually translate though just curious? Like what percentage of people who go on an interest list actually end up signing up in your experience?

Toni: I mean, I would say probably 5% or less. It shows the interest I think is the big thing. Is there people even willing to like give us that information of, “Yeah we are interested in getting marketed to for the event?” I thought a thousand, because that doesn’t include actually marketing it, right or doing advertising, or getting speakers involved, getting them marketing it for us as well, or word of mouth kind of thing. I think that’s why we picked that thousand number.

Steve: Okay, then, I forgot to mention some of my other motivations for doing the conference. I actually really like interacting with other entrepreneurs, and so having a conference was also an excuse for me to invite other more successful entrepreneurs to actually come and speak, and then we could actually hangout for a weekend and really get to know these people. In fact, that was how I met Toni. We met at World Domination Summit. I want to say it was at 2013 or through 2012.

Toni: I think it was 13.

Steve: 2013. When I first met Toni, like never in a million years would I have thought that I would be working with her, not because of anything negative or anything, but it was just like a random meeting. You were in the blogging space, mainly catering to mums, would you say?

Toni: Yeah.

Steve: Here I was running about entrepreneurship. It’s just really random. All these connections and the people that you meet over the years, just somewhat randomly may become your business partner some day. That was another motivation that I forgot to mention.

Toni: Right, and I think 2, it helped that we had just come off this conference circuit last fall where we had been to conference after conference after conference. I think when we were at the final conference; we met Daniel Solid who ended up speaking at Seller’s Summit. I think having that fresh in our minds of just thinking like,” Wow, we’ve been in this thing for 4 days or 3 days.” However long it was and we’ve already made all these connections with people that we probably would have never crossed paths with outside of being at the event. I think that was a huge motivator. Two, just being right in that experience and then making the decision soon after that.

Steve: Here’s actually a little known fact about me. I have never really worked with anyone in a partnership capacity before, because I like to do things myself. I use contractors to do different things. This was actually the first time that I ever partnered with anyone on anything. The reason why I felt comfortable with Toni was because if she could hang out with me for multiple days like 24/7 and not go crazy then I figured that it might work.

Toni: I think that’s a compliment, I’m not sure.

Steve: It means you have a high tolerance.

Toni: I have a high tolerance.

Steve: One of the top questions actually that people kept asking me even during the ticket sales and everything was why we actually chose the venue that we did. The Seller Summit was held in Miami, Florida. The way this worked was, I went up to Toni and said,” Hey, can you just do some research on different venues, and then get back to me with a short list.” I relied on Toni to steer me in the right direction. Really this is a question for you Toni. How did we narrow down the venue list?

Toni: A city or the hotel or both.

Steve: Both. Let’s start with the city actually.

Toni: Yeah, I think we had a conversation and we had some cities in mind. Unfortunately, or fortunately, with the conference, you’ve got to keep in mind what does that city bring as far as the hotel pricing, airport proximity to hotels, things like that. I mean, we had some great locations that were 45 minutes from the airport.

People that are flying and don’t want to pay for a 45 minute cab drive or rent-a-car. You’ve got to think about the attendees and what they are willing to pay, and obviously being conscious of their budgets. Miami came to the top because the rooms were affordable, and their proximity to the airport was under 20 dollar cab ride which was kind of the goal for the location.

I think we had it narrowed down to 3 or 4 cities at the end, but Miami just worked the best with the international airport, the walk-ability of the location, the hotel that we were at. This year you could walk to just about any restaurant you wanted to go to. Once you flew in, you didn’t need a car which was really nice. We did have a majority of the people attend from outside of the Miami area.

I think that that plays a big part of making those decisions, because you know people are going to spend money on a ticket and a flight and a hotel. You are trying to minimize their cost once they get there by giving them restaurant options, and not having to do the car thing and things like that. It’s Miami, it’s a fun city. I think for people that don’t live in Florida, it’s a tourist … It’s a place where it’s like, “Hey I can combine this, maybe I’ll bring my spouse. We can add an extra day, go to the beach something like that.” That was appealing too I think about the Miami location.

Steve: The other thing that we forgot to mention also is that we pretty much decided we were going to launch this conference in November, which didn’t give a whole lot of time. Initially, we were actually even planning on having a conference in April. We actually launched over Thanksgiving which is, from what you told me, it sounds like a really bad time to launch, right, over Thanksgiving?

Toni: I think when we are trying to get ecommerce folks to pay attention to us, we launch black Friday. That’s probably not the best, probably not the best time to get anybody’s attention, because I wasn’t paying attention myself and I’m running the thing. Yeah, I think we launched at a tough time just because I know for me I was focused on maxing my sales out for that month. I know you were super busy and you guys were running out of stock too.

I think for a lot of– it was a tough time, but it was also good because people were bringing a lot of income at that time too. They did have some extra money and thinking maybe end of year expenses type of thing. Deciding how to, it’s pros and cons, but it was definitely tough just to get people’s attention during that last quarter of the year.

Steve: Yeah, I think what were the other venues we were considering? I think Denver, Austin …

Toni: I think those were the 3. Miami, Denver and Austin. Austin is just with South by Southwest, it’s just too expensive. It’s not affordable for attendees to basically get rooms. Denver I think the weekends that we could find availability were still maybe in their winter season, I mean Denver can get a snowfall in May.

Steve: Yeah, there was a conference like a week before ours and there were snowfalls the entire time.

Toni: Right. I think that for us was a pretty big risk. I know that I did a conferencing in Colorado Springs in July, and we had people straying on the runway in Denver with the freak weather issue. I think it’s tough. Denver is a tough spot with weather, but obviously it’s a great location too. I think had we been able to work out the dates that would have been a definite contender.

Steve: I know for me, I wanted to go to a place that I had never been to in the past. I really like hot weather and beach kind of atmosphere. Miami kind of stood out to me because right near the water, it was very walk-able from the hotel through all the restaurants. There are some really good restaurants there including that Italian place we went to. Then people could just head over the beach if they wanted to afterwards. A lot of people actually took their spouses.

Toni: Which I think was great because we did offer like a networking spouse pass. The spouse could explore [inaudible 00:14:37] during the day, and then attend the networking event at night which I know people appreciated being able to introduce their spouse to other people at their meeting. There was multiple connections going on there too.

Steve: But outside the venue, really the goals for the conference for me at least, and I go to like maybe 5 or 6 conferences every year, and a lot of times when I go to a conference I hear people get up there like the speakers and they talk about their success stories. A lot of times their stories are very inspiring, but what ends up happening is I’ll head home super inspired to take action. Then that inspiration just wears off after a couple of weeks.

My vision for the conference is that I wanted to cut down on the inspirational stuff, and then focus more on the actionable items. I didn’t want all the speakers to come to my conference and talk about their success stories. I wanted to make it very small and intimate and have kind of like a teaching environment. You were completely on the same page right Toni, because your previous conferences were the same way?

Toni: Absolutely and I just … I know we met at World Domination Summit which is a very fun event, but every talk at World Domination is inspirational, which …

Steve: Yeah, actually the World Domination Summit was like the anti Seller Summit I would say, right?

Toni: Yeah, which it’s a great event, but it’s absolutely the opposite of what I think we both thought would be best in the ecommerce world. Because I think the people that we wanted to attend already were inspired to start something. Or at least begin the research process whether they were researching a product or … They needed those practical like,” Hey I’m stuck in the importing process. Or I’m stuck with the … Okay I have the Amazon sales, but I don’t know how to do that to my own website.” We really wanted to help people get unstuck from whatever step they were in the process.

Steve: Yes, a lot of the speakers including my speech that I gave was a step by step that walked you through certain things. That was the information that I wanted to be given at the event. It’s funny and I went actually back and watched some of the recordings of some of the speakers. Part of the beginning of their speeches they said,” Hey Steve told me to cut down on the inspirational stuff and focus more on the actionable stuff. So I’m just going to … this is the only slide that I’m giving that’s going to talk about my background. Let’s jump into the good stuff now.”

Toni: Yeah I saw that too in editing, most people spend very little time talking about these things.

Steve: Which sounds terrible, but …

Toni: I think and actually sometimes now I think I have watched almost every talk for a second time. It’s amazing what I missed even just sitting in there because there was so much information given in some of those talks. Most of the talks where I didn’t have a baseline knowledge. It was really helpful to be able to sit in front of my computer and have my notebook out, and be able to freeze the frame. I’m going to implement this right this minute because now I’m basically sitting in a college lecture kind of thing.

Steve: Yeah, and that’s actually one of the main reasons why I insisted on getting everything recorded. Now not every conference would do this, but I think in a teaching sort of conference it’s important to get the recordings so that everyone can watch a lecture over and over again to get all the finer points of what was pointed out. I remember actually when we were talking about this, we were planning. I asked you, “Hey how much would it cost to just record everything and have an AV person in every room?” Then I think you quoted some insane costs, right?

Toni: I did. I think I said a lot that was probably my …

Steve: Yes and I was like, “Well how much is a lot? Like we have to have this, and then yeah.” Ultimately it was important to me. We ate the cost on that. I think it is important for any conference especially a content focused sort of conference to have video recording. That was another thing that we wanted to make sure that we invested in.

Toni: I agree and I think going back and looking through even the slide decks of our speakers those slides were so content rich, that to be able to have those and go back through them because while they were speaking obviously you were getting a great overview and you were understanding the principles behind what they were talking about. Being able to go back and actually read those slides and see the detail on a lot of them. A lot of them were screenshots of different parts of the process, which for me I’m a visual learner, so it’s very helpful to go back and be able to look at those.

Steve: I mean the other goal too is we sent out a couple of surveys once people bought tickets. We noticed that some people were beginners, and then some people were experienced sellers. I don’t know … Do you remember the breakdown actually ultimately of what the experience versus the beginners were?

Toni: I think we had about 25% of the attendees were full time sellers. Like this was their primary job. About 50% were either selling or … Selling but not to the point where they felt they had a viable business. It was … There was another 25% they were in the middle like maybe they never planned on quitting their full time job, and this was going to be a side thing. We were probably 50, 25-25 at the end of the day.

Steve: Yeah, and so that compelled … Originally we were just going to do a single track which meant everybody would watch every single lecture like the same way. Once we got the survey results, and we realized that we needed to divide it up into 2 distinct tracks. One catering specifically to beginners, and then another tracks catering to the more advanced people.

Toni: Right, I think when we started we thought we would get all beginners.

Steve: Yeah, actually that was the case and that was just kind of this misconception I had about my list. I didn’t realize that there were so many experienced guys who were coming to the conference.

Toni: Yeah, which I thought it was fun. I thought it was fun to have a nice mix of people, because it was fun to see them make the connections at the event. Even people that weren’t speakers, but the people who were there that were experienced sellers were able to mentor some of the less experienced. I know Ryan Gourmande, am I saying his name correctly? He met up with I can’t think of that guy’s name that sold the trigger kits.

Steve: Oh yes I don’t remember his name either, but there was 2 guys on trigger kits actually yeah.

Toni: I noticed like their connection. They really hit it off throughout the event and were able to pass knowledge back and forth to each other. I saw a lot of that. They just happen to be sitting in the front row on most of the talks. I noticed them but yeah I noticed that a lot which was cool to see everybody that was there I think was really valuable. Even if they were a new seller they maybe had a background in something else that was able to provide benefit in a different topic for other attendees.

Steve: So what I really liked about the conference was from working with you was there was a lot of attention to detail. For me at least my only request was that one of my pet peeves for going to your conference is I always lose the conference schedule. After fumbling through my bag pack and looking for the schedule. I know I wanted the schedule on the name tag. That was my only requirement, but you actually thought of a whole bunch of other things that were really detailed oriented that I probably wouldn’t have thought of. You want to mention some of those things?

Toni: Yes, so I think the schedule, the schedule and the name tag is something I have done at previous events. It’s always met with like, “Oh thank you so much, I never can keep track of a schedule.” I can’t keep track of a room key. I mean I love having the schedule on the back of the name tag, I think it makes it easy to figure out where you are going.

I think another thing that was good is that we gave a detailed account of what the talks were going to be about before the talks. So that people didn’t just show up and then feel panicky. They had 12 hours to make a decision about what session they were going to that they had the ability to plan out their event before they got there. I think another thing that I really liked and I don’t know if this is much attention to detail but is all of our speakers were very available to our attendees.

Which to me I have been to events where the speaker shows up, gives the talk and leaves. To me that was one of the most important things about this conference was that we needed to make sure that our speakers were going to be very available for the attendees and willing to sit down. One of the things that we did that was helpful for that was that we all ate lunch together every day. The lunch was in the hotel. People didn’t have to leave which meant you had more time to eat and talk to people, because you weren’t rushing out to try to find a place to eat. Then people were able to make those connections at lunch. I think the tables sat 8 or 10 people, but it allowed … By the end of the first day you could already see friendships form.

That was really nice that we gave people a lot of opportunities to hang out with each other. We did the networking events every night. That was really another opportunity. They met at lunch and then they could meet up again at night or you could talk to new people. Our speakers for the most part attended all of that with the attendees. Our sponsors did too which was really important for us as well.

We wanted them to be a part of this too because it’s great for the sponsors to have a table and they can go up and talk to them. It’s really nice to just be able to sit down and have a conversation at lunch and not have this pressured sales pitch. Or just like, “Hey I’m just going to meet you and talk about my family or we are going to talk about what I do.” Then you develop this relationship with somebody as opposed to this shake hands, pass a business card out and then never talk to them again.

Steve: Here is what I noticed. The first day everyone was … At the first mix everyone was super stiff. Like, “Hi, my name is whatever.” But the second day like everyone was a lot looser and by like the third day everyone was like hugging each other. Like they knew each other for years, which was really fun to actually see.

One thing that you forgot to mention that I actually noticed was I liked how you structured the conference in such a way that we had like our own little private nook of the hotel. I have been to conferences where you have to actually walk 5 minutes to get to the next room if you want to attend a session. Everything was just really close to each other. There was no way to avoid the other attendees. We had our own little private nook together.

Toni: Yeah and I think that was another factor in why we picked that hotel, was that not every hotel is set up to be able to do that. And you are right that made it really nice, because one it cut down on the time people had to spend trying to get where they needed to go. Then two they really weren’t able to leave each other, which I think is a good thing for them unless you are a total introvert, then I apologize.

Steve: Well see that’s where open bar comes in. I insisted on open bar every single night, because in my experience when I go to conferences that’s where the good stuff comes out. You start to … You are having a couple of beers with someone that you just met, and you talk about your businesses. Then before you know it a lot of sensitive information gets leaked out there, and so that’s why I insisted on it.

Toni: Your next job will be with the CIA.

Steve: Of course I don’t drink anything during these events, I just pry for information. The other thing that was important also was we wanted to keep it small, right? Because I have gotten lost at big events where I just end up hanging out with the people that I already know. When you keep it small that kind of fosters networking and encourages people to reach out to new people.

Toni: Well I think too when you have it small is that you can’t avoid people. Well not that you would want to avoid people, but you see the same people over and over again all day. At some point you have to introduce yourself, because it gets awkward that you haven’t because you are bumping into them getting coffee, or you are sitting next to them in 2 sessions or then you’re at lunch. I think the smallness, when you are at a conference … World Domination was what? 3,000 people the year we were there.

Steve: Yeah, that’s a lot of people.

Toni: As soon as I met you and the people I was with I was like I’ll never meet anybody else. I have my people, I don’t have to meet anybody else because I have them and I never saw the same people again. That’s really how … That’s what tends to happen at those bigger events and the smaller events, you can’t avoid people, once again sorry to the introverts.

Steve: I thought the introverts did pretty well at the conference to be honest with you.

Toni: I did too and you know why? We got feedback about this from several attendees is that we had that Facebook group, that pre-event Facebook group that allowed people to introduce them. We had … I think we even had an introduce yourself thread and I think Scott Volker came in and said, “Hey tell me about your business.”

We had a lot of speakers in there saying,” Hey give me some feedback about, this is what I’m talking about what do you want to learn?” I think that was really valuable especially for people that aren’t … I mean I am a mastered extrovert, but I still think it’s hard to just walk up to somebody I don’t know at all and introduce myself, so …

Steve: Well that’s what I did with you at the World Domination Summit if I recall.

Toni: Yeah it is, yeah but I think having that Facebook group you had a face with a name. You had already interacted with them online. If some of the people shared rides from the airport … By the time they got to Miami and to the hotel it didn’t feel like you were talking to strangers. It felt like you already had some sort of relationship with these people even if it was online, it didn’t feel as awkward.

Steve: Yeah and speaking of the speakers, I was very careful in choosing the people who were going to speak at the conference. I basically only wanted to get specialists. People who were focused on a very specific topic and knew it inside and out, for example I had Spencer Hawes talk about SEO. That’s pretty much what he is done in his internet career.

Scott Volker from the Amazing Seller really focused on Amazon selling, launching products and that sort of thing. Greg Mercer he runs Jungle Scout. He’s got this tool that helps people do research and that’s like all he does. He is also a very successful Amazon seller as well. Every single person was hand selected to actually cover a very specific topic in deep depth, and so yeah.

Toni: I think that was a positive, but conference logistic wise it makes it tough.

Steve: Why is that?

Toni: Well because if you have a talk, let’s think Erick. Erick did a talk on Gmail ads, right? That was his talk. So you are devoting 50 minutes to Gmail ads. That’s a lot of time. If you get a generalist up there they are going to talk about 7 things in 15 minutes and you can check all these boxes. The problem is you don’t get any real information on any of those 7 things, you get very cursory.

I think to me I love when everyone is a specialist, because then … I walked out of Curt’s Google analytics talk with my mind blown. I have already re-watched his talk 3 times. There was so much information in there for me in that one talk, super valuable. It’s almost like taking a course in Google analytics just to go to the one talk. It’s tough because you are then trying to cram in all this really great information in 48 hours which is basically what you have for the event.

Steve: Yeah, absolutely I mean I was ending up taking notes myself on a lot of these talks. Jeff Cowen … Amazon changes all the time, and Jeff gave an awesome talk on how to rank your products on Amazon, which kind of blew me away. Daniel Sarlad’s talk about how he runs his Amazon business blew me away. There was like 2 or 3 points on there that I didn’t even know people were doing out there. It was just nice that all the speakers were so open in revealing some of the secrets to their success.

Toni: Yeah, I was surprised at them. I was surprised that they were more willing to share the fact that they shared, but I thought it was awesome that they did.

Steve: Yeah totally, and then Lars with the whole sourcing thing. Lars is like my go to guy for product sourcing, and then Dru is just an amazing person when it comes to email and just marketing because he’s worked with so many different companies. It was incredible how everyone was willing to share so much stuff, and we’ve got it all on recording now, which is pretty cool.

Okay, so one thing I was also wanted to mention was– that worked really well for us was the VIP passes that we offered. For people who were willing to pay a little bit extra, we had a couple of special events just for VIP people. The thing that worked the best for the VIP customers were, we offered these 30 minutes one on one consults.

I knew in my experience at least teaching my class is that even though you might have all the information from the sessions and that sort of thing, there is always going to be questions that you have that are very specific towards your business. Perhaps you might have a question that is very specific to a certain thing that you might be selling, and by offering these consults, it allowed the attendees to ask very specific questions about their businesses that we could help them out with.

Toni: Yeah, and I think we got a lot of feedback from them telling us how valuable that was to their business. On top of that I think you are right, being able to … Because the reality is you don’t have time, Scott Walker doesn’t have time, Greg Mercer, all these guys that did our one on ones for the VIPs, they can’t be taking one on one consults on a regular basis. It’s obviously not scalable.

Steve: Yes, it is not.

Toni: I think for them to be able … I think and you did this in your office hours sometimes where it was just to ask me anything. I think those are so valuable because sometimes you get to a point, you and I had this conversation in a day where I was trying to set up a listing, and I was having issues, and I said I would pay so much money for someone to just tell me how to do this right now.

Steve: I recall asking for a 1,000 bucks, but you didn’t pay me anything.

Toni: Oh sorry, you also didn’t tell me how to do it.

Steve: Well, you didn’t pay me.

Toni: I think for some people, just being able to have that face time with someone who’s seen a lot of success in a certain area, and I think one of the things with the VIPs is we had them doing this survey and said, “Hey what is your biggest pain point?” Then we really tried to be purposeful in who we paired them up with. If someone had a problem with SEO, they were getting with Spencer, I mean that was just a done deal. If someone wants to do Amazon they are getting Greg or Scott or Jeff.

We tried to be really get … Treg was trying to do more with drop shipping and so we paired him up with Andrew. I think that that was really helpful that we tried to get them what the person is going to give them the most bank for their buck during that time. I think just having that ability to ask, ask Scott anything you want to ask him, most people don’t have that opportunity.

Steve: Yeah, and all the speakers, they were just so generous with their time. Some of these sessions went over 30 minutes, and it didn’t really matter. I’m just very grateful for everyone who took part in that.

Toni: Absolutely, and I know we had Michael Jackness, who wasn’t even a speaker at the event, although easily could have been a speaker. He was connecting with these people before the events. I think there was so much of that with the speaker just really investing in those VIP people, and they were investing in everybody at the conference, but they take that extra time, and a lot of them had to move their travel schedule, or they weren’t going out to dinner because they were with somebody. I think that was really valuable, and I’m very appreciative that they were able to take the time and do that.

Steve: Yeah, absolutely. What’s funny is that, what ended up happening is that we ended up selling out our tickets over the holidays pretty much, and demand ended up being just so high for these tickets, but we wanted to keep it small, and so we ended up with a the sold out conference way ahead of time. I want to switch gears a little bit now and just talk about what worked well at the conference from both of our perspectives, and what did not work so well. We already talked a lot about the good stuff already, what needed work in your opinion?

Toni: Well I think one of the things, and we heard this from some attendees too was that, I think we gave a people a ton of networking time, but the evening networking was really loud, and part of it was the room size … We had planned to have it outside and then the weather wasn’t cooperating with us every night. Part of it was that I think maybe at an outside space the noise would have disappeared a little bit more, but people were definitely yelling to have a conversation, and that’s not ideal. I mean it’s like that awkward when you are yelling and then the music stops and you are still yelling.

Steve: Well it’s funny; we didn’t have any music either. It was just pure talking noise.

Toni: Yeah, so there wasn’t really … There was no background sound just people, which you know part of me is like when I walk into a room and it’s really loud, I’m happy because it means everyone is talking, but then you feel bad because that, I think you and I both stopped on this second, the first real morning our boys were already going from talking so much. One of them was just coming out that you don’t normally talk that much in real life, but then also just having to talk at this other volume to be heard.

I think the amount of networking we gave people was awesome. Could it have been … Is there a way you do where people don’t feel like they are yelling? Maybe it’s different spacing, maybe it’s … Who knows, but I think that that would be something we can definitely do a better job of next year.

Steve: Yeah, and then I was thinking also that maybe we can do something for maybe the introverts. A little bit more just to maybe like pair them up ahead of time with other people who they can hang out with at the conference. I don’t know, I’m not an introvert, so it’s a little hard to relate, but I don’t know, what do you think?

Toni: I do, I’m not– but I asked on Facebook after the conference, I said, “Hey introverted friends.” Because I apparently have a lot of them. What makes you feel more comfortable? For us, I think you are willing to walk up to me in the middle of Portland square, you don’t know who I am and just interrupt me and to meet me, and I’m willing to do the same too, but for most people that would be terrifying if you are not an extrovert.

A lot of things we did and I think we did accidently, like did the Facebook group. We didn’t do the Facebook group because we thought we have a bunch of introverts. We just did the Facebook group because we thought it would be fun people to connect, but it helped a lot of people in the end to connect.

I think be more purposeful in that. Trying to really think about like, “Hey if I may be talking to some of our attendees from this past year, how can we make it more comfortable, how do we get you connected earlier.” I think there is a lot of things we can do to help people feel like they are coming in already a part of something.

Steve: That’s a good segway into what I wanted to talk about next which was kind of tips on getting the most out of the time in the conference. There are some conference super stars, and I just wanted to give a shout out to Barry real quick. Barry, like pretty much documented the entire conference on the Facebook group, and he immediately stood out for at least me, because there was no way I was leaving that conference without knowing Barry.

Toni: Yeah, for sure, I think he did a really good job of just connecting with just about everybody. It’s just like every night in the Facebook group after the conference was over, I would see a post from Barry saying, “Hey, I’m at the pool, on my computer, who want to join me?” My room overlooked the pool, so I’m like opening my curtain and there was like 15 people at the pool and they were with Barry. He did a really good job of making the effort to meet people and get out there and definitely, I think everybody knew Barry by the end of the conference which is awesome.

Steve: I also want to give a special thanks to William who took so many wonderful photos of the conference, and he stood out to me also because he was just so selfless. I want to say that, he was taking shots and not paying attention to some of the sessions. So big thanks.

Toni: I think, and we had several attendees, I know Cindy. One of our attendees was just very, “Do you need any help? Is everything good? Is there anything I can get for you? Do you need coffee? Do you need water?” There were several attendees like her that just came with another one, “Hey, how is it going? How are you doing?” Not just, you know can we turn the air conditioning up or down although we should have been able to do that more often in some of those rooms.

I think that’s another way to set yourself out, and just offer help. I don’t think, obviously people are buying a ticket and paying to attend, so I’m not saying you need to go and work, but it definitely appear if you say, “Hey, can I send you the photos I took?” “Sure, I’d love it even if they are in your iPhone; we would love to have as much.” You and I have time to take the photos.”

Another thing too and you stressed this a lot in your keynote, and I think we pushed it in some of the emails, but introduce yourself to the speakers. I mean people get a little star struck sometimes at conferences, and they don’t want. I think if someone even came up to you and was like, “I can’t believe I’m meeting you.” And it’s like as someone who …

Steve: I think I turned around I was like, “Are you talking to me?”

Toni: I’m like I know him; it’s not that big of a deal. I get that way with certain people, so I know that it’s just common to– because these are people you’ve probably followed online or listened to their podcasts, or read their blog or whatever space that they’re in, so to meet them it’s kind of, “Oh, I’m meeting one of my idol or someone I look up to.” They are all just really just normal gootsy people.

I think when you go, introduce yourself to definitely the speakers, but it’s really as many people as you can, and I think the connecting in the Facebook group a lot of people, got in there and shared their story. Then when you get there, you have a connection with someone else who is there, like “Oh, I like to rescue pets too, or I live in the Pacific North West.” Or whatever the connection is, you’ve got this immediate … I’m with the person we were there, we were there at the … The little unofficial event, we were at the bar.

Steve: The warrior’s game, yes.

Toni: Yes, and I was taught … Nick was there talking and all of a sudden I heard him say something about sports center, and I was like, okay we have a connection, we can talk about sports. I think you look for those ways to have …

Steve: I think he regretted that decision, but yeah.

Toni: He did, I’m sorry …

Steve: He probably talked to zero off.

Toni: I think you got to look for those commonalities because it might not be, you might think to look at somebody and think we got nothing in common, but then once you start talking to them, you realize that there’s a lot more, and yeah there is probably some ways you can partner. I think we had people talking about partnerships.

Steve: Actually, it did happen. I just can’t remember the names off head, but oh I think I know what happened. There was a product, and I think it was Nick’s product, but Daniel was thinking about selling the same thing, so now they are partners.

Toni: Okay, yeah but you don’t know that until you have that initial,” Hey I listened to Mike and Mike too.”

Steve: Yeah, I just want to give a special thanks to Mike Jackness also, so technically he wasn’t a speaker, he was just an attendee, but man, he was dropping knowledge bombs left and right, and there was swaves of attendees just hurdled around him like soaking in all his knowledge, so that was pretty awesome.

Toni: I think that was really helpful to have people like Mike that weren’t there as a speaker, but were really willing to mentor other attendees.

Steve: Yeah, totally. Yes, because the tickets sold out so fast over the holidays. I think they sold out in like the middle or end of February, that left like a good 3 months of people who were just hammering us for tickets, and unfortunately we didn’t have any left to sell because we wanted to keep the events so small, and so I thought about this for a long time and what I ended up thinking about was offering all the sessions out as a virtual pass with a little bonus.

Instead of you guys having to come to Florida to attend the conference, I thought that I would try to bring the conference to you, and so an as an added value, we are going to start releasing these virtual passes where you can get access to all the recordings, but I have actually talked with some of the other speakers who spoke at the Seller’s Summit, and we are going to go ahead and do a live Q&A webinar for anyone who decides to purchase a virtual pass.

Toni: Yeah, along with the live Q&A that we going to have with some off our Seller’s Summit speakers, we also have a Facebook group dedicated to virtual pass holders, so that way you can connect and network with other virtual pass holders, and hopefully learn something in that group, build relationships, be able to network, possibly find a partnership. That’s a huge value add to be able to have those conversations in a meaningful way with people that are all trying to do the same thing which is sell online. We have that; we also have MP3 recordings, right Steve?

Steve: Yes, that’s correct. A lot of times people want to, thanks to this whole podcast boom, a lot of people like to listen to their stuff on the go, and that’s why we are offering high definition videos in addition to the MP3, so you can consume the content in any way that you want. Here is a couple of things I just want to share. All of the sessions at the conference are just very practical and actionable tips. I just want to mention Ryan Gomidy. He actually came to my Google shopping session, and he said that one session paid for itself, because I went into such detail on how I run my profitable campaigns online.

Toni: We are including all of these Seller Summit sessions in 2016 will be in this virtual pass along with the MP3s which Steve mentioned as well as all of the slide decks from the speakers. That will give you the opportunity to go to those decks, grab the information from the slide decks, and really help you take a deep dive into some of the session topics that we presented there.

Steve: After you’ve gotten the chance to go through all the videos, we will go ahead and schedule that live Q&A session with the speakers, to answer any questions that you might have had on any of the given sessions.

Toni: Who is going to be there? Who is doing the Q&A?

Steve: So right now we have Greg Mercer, we have Scott Walker and we have Mike Jackness. Depending on– what I’m going to do is I’m going to actually survey everyone who purchases, and ask them which questions they have, and depending on the questions, I might go ahead and invite the appropriate people to come in and answer those questions.

Toni: Awesome.

Steve: It’s not set in stone, but the virtual pass is going to be offered at sellersummit.com/virtualpass. If you’re interested in getting access to the sessions and the live Q&A session, go to that URL and go ahead and sign up. Once again that’s sellerssummit.com/virtualpass all one word. All right Toni thanks a lot for coming on. I know that the running a conference has been just a tremendous experience for me, and I’m very thankful that I met you, and you nagged and pounded me into submission to actually start this thing, and we are definitely going to have another Seller’s Summit next year for sure.

Toni: Yes, I think I have a contract on your desk, don’t I?

Steve: Yes, you do and we are probably going to discuss it right now because there is a large upfront cost, and I always get nervous about all this stuff, but I think I’m a little more confident this year that we will be able to have another successful event.

Toni: I think so.

Steve: All right, take care Toni.

Toni: Bye.

Steve: There you have it, a behind the scenes look at how Toni and I started my very first conference the Seller’s Summit, which ended up being a huge success. And if you are interested in getting access to the session videos, please go to sellerssummit.com/virtualpass. Once again we will be offering that live Q&A session with some of the other speakers to answer all of your questions live and in person.

For more information about this episode, go to mywifequitherjob.com/episode121. If you enjoyed this episode please got to iTunes and leave me a review. It is by far the best way to support the show, and please tell your friends, because the greatest compliment that you can give me is to refer this podcast to someone else either in person or to share it on the web.

And if you are interested in starting your own online business, be sure to sign up for my free 6 day mini course where I show you how my wife and I managed to make over 100k in profit in our first year of business. Go to mywifequitherjob.com for more information, sign up right there on the front page, and I’ll send you the course via email immediately. Thanks for listening.

Outro: Thanks for listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. Where we are giving the courage people need to start their own online business. For more information visit Steve’s blog at www.myifequitherjob.com.

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One thought on “121: How To Start A Successful Ecommerce Conference On Your First Try With Steve Chou And Toni Anderson”

  1. Seth Phillips says:

    I am looking for the virtual pass discussed in episode 121 and the link did not work

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