Planning a travel festival is like juggling with 14 different balls while balancing on a tightrope with your eyes closed. It's equally terrifying and exhilarating, but if you're not prepared for it, things can get a little overwhelming.
That being said, it's also a whole lot of fun. I'm currently knee-deep in the organization of my latest project, the Women's Travel Fest, which I'm hosting in New York City on March 8, 2014 -- and it's going to be awesome.
If you've ever thought about creating your own festival (or any large scale event, really) you're in luck, because I'm going to tell you exactly how to make it happen!
1. Venue Hunting:
I spent the better part of a month looking for venues until I stumbled across a gem in New York City that I knew was perfect: The Angel Orensanz Foundation for Contemporary Art. I was looking for something spacious first and foremost, but I also wanted to work with good people, in a place that felt comfortable and could contain the magic of bringing 400 travel-loving women together, and I couldn't be happier with what we found. Most venues will also require you to put down a 50 percent deposit upfront, so be prepared for that. If you can, look for venues that include furniture in their costs -- it saves you one extra step, and one extra expense.
2. Create a Team:
None of what I'm doing now could be done without the help of my incredible co-directors. We are all committed to helping women travel the world, but we all also have our own strengths and our own connections. I could not even attempt to do this without them, or without the help of our awesome web and print designers. I can't say it enough: Once you decide to start a travel festival or any large project, immediately begin building your team.
3. Finding Sponsors:
Now that you've coughed up half of the venue fee, it's time to shift focus on finding sponsors to help you cover the other half. Think about your event, and make spreadsheets of companies whose products or visions line up with yours. Then hustle -- get on the phone, make blind calls asking for the right person, send emails and Facebook messages or tweet: Often the marketing directors who will help you with sponsorship also run the company's social media accounts.
Whether you have a budget to advertise or not, you have to get the word out about your event somehow. If you have a little money, consider advertising in local and student newspapers. If you don't have a budget for traditional advertising, start reaching out to bloggers you know or whose vision is align with yours to see if they'd help you spread the word. I chose to do all of the above -- we're advertising with student newspapers, have an ad campaign coming out in the subways of N.Y.C and I'm in constant contact with solo female travel writers and bloggers.
5. Social Media:
It's time to really kick it up a notch. Studies have shown that the most effective amount of tweets on Twitter is at least 22 -- and the only way to schedule 22 tweets and not turn into a weirdo who can't get off her phone, is to use tools like Hootsuite, Tweetdeck or Bufferapp. I love Bufferapp, and it's the easiest way for me to post to all of my accounts on Twitter and Facebook in the least amount of time.
6. Plan for Plan B:
I just assume that everything that can go wrong, will. So I stay up at night thinking about what my Plan B is when Plan A hits the fan. Who are your backup speakers? Who are your backup volunteers? What happens if you wake up with a flu? Who will run things while you're on stage? Who will take care of the AV needs of the venue? What about lunch?
There are a million details that go into planning an event: finding speakers, vendors & sponsors, hiring a DJ and a photographer, finding an A/V tech, renting equipment and furniture, producing giveaway bags and t-shirts, planning pre and post-parties, finding volunteers to help run things, pitching press. If you're up for it though, it's a great way to establish yourself within an industry and make new connections you otherwise wouldn't have made.
For all the stress that goes into the planning, I feel incredibly lucky -- If someone had told me two years ago that I'd be hosting an event that allows me to meet women I've admired for years, like Travel Channel's Samantha Brown, I would've never believed it. How cool is that?
Love travel? Want to learn more about solo travel by the industry's leading ladies? If you can, join us in NYC on March 8 (International Women's Day) for the Women's Travel Fest! It's going to be so fun!