Three and a half years into Coworking Convos, we’ve learned a few things about running virtual events with numerous guests and over 5600 coworking space operator participants.
As we’ve grown Convos from an idea into an industry must-do, one of our goals is to keep things as simple as possible, while still holding standards of excellence and a service mindset.
Not easy, but definitely doable.
And we’re up for a good challenge.
We have a system that lets us systemize recurring todos while being very hands-on with the actual events so we can hyper-focus on helping coworking space operators learn, share and connect.
We thought it might be helpful to see how we approach Convos production.
Take what you like and remix it, repurpose it, make it your own.
1. Generate topics in batches
Early in the year we create a draft list of Coworking Convos topics for the first two quarters. Then we revisit (and add to) the calendar each quarter. This gives us a clear roadmap. However, one of the strengths of Convos is that we can pivot to address hot topics and questions. We did this a lot during Covid, as space operators tried to figure out how to keep the doors open when their spaces were empty. So we give ourselves permission to adjust the Convos calendar as needed.
2. Event creation in batches
Once we’ve decided on the next quarter or two of Convos, we batch create the Zoom rooms and event registration pages. We currently use Luma and are happy with it. Previously we were using Eventbrite and switched for a couple of reasons: it was overkill for what we needed. Eventbrite was designed for big festival-type events. And, more importantly, it was super glitchy and would frequently serve up error messages.
3. Get great guests (and let them shine)
We have a growing roster of Coworking Convos guests that includes some of the biggest names in coworking, as well as operators who are quietly (or not so quietly) doing amazing work in their towns. We generally have two to three guests who are familiar to us, and we always have a newcomer or two. This allows us to continually expand the Convos circle and connect with new operators around the world.
4. Embrace imperfection
This is probably my best tip. Convos will never be perfectly polished events with everything planned down to the millisecond. Convos are, by design, organic, real-time conversations between coworking space operators. This means leaving a lot of room for grace, flow, spontaneity, whatever you’d like to call it. This imperfection is what makes Convos great.
5. Trust our community
Once I start a Convo, where we go is up to our guests and participants. This means having deep trust in the community of coworking space operators that show up month after month, year after year, to learn, share and connect. Our Convos community has never let me down.
6. Leap into the unknown
Related to the above two tips, Convos is a leap into the unknown. It’s an exercise in being present, active listening and trusting the moment. As each guest is sharing, I take a few notes of ideas I’d like to circle back on with follow-up questions, but that’s mostly so I don’t forget insightful phrases and ideas. I glance at the notes, but the more present I am, the more engaging the Convos experience is for everyone.
7. Take a service mindset
Here’s a pro tip gleaned from hosting many, many events and workshops and speaking at many in-person events: If I’m in imposter syndrome or self-doubt, I’m thinking too much about myself. The solution to imposter syndrome and self-doubt is to shift my focus onto the people I serve. That’s you! Next time you’re feeling like an imposter, get into service mindset. It makes a world of difference for you and your community.
8. Clarify duties
During Convos, I don’t moderate the chat (I don’t even look at it until after the Convo), I don’t let people into Zoom, I don’t mute people, I don’t problem solve. I host. And my amazing cohosts take care of the rest. This clarification of duties lets me focus one hundred percent on listening, hosting and guiding the conversation.
9. Get great cohosts
I’m fortunate to have an amazing, rotating team of cohosts that includes CJ Co’s Amanda and Karina; Lauren from Coworks; Stormy and Liz from GCUC; Hector from Syncaroo; and pinch-hitter Katharine from Alkaloid Networks. Convos would not exist without these friends.
10. Email templates
We use email templates for guest info and todos, promo emails and follow-ups. We customize them slightly for each topic and guest, but 90% of the email work is on auto-pilot.
11. Guest-generated content
Much of our Convos promo is guest-generated content. This saves you from seeing the same promotional material month after month all over the place. And it allows us to let our guests shine and warm up the conversation. We ask guests for a photo and a tip they’ll share about the specific topic, then share those in a carousel on LinkedIn and Instagram. We also generally have a pre-Convo blog post and a graphic of all our guests.
12. Direct email the week of the Convo
Far and away the most Convos registrations come the Monday before the Convo when we send a very short email to our entire email list. The subject line is, “Convo this Friday!” The email body is three sentences long, with a list of guests and a call to action (CTA) to save your spot now. Embrace the power of a short and direct email.
13. Set up and track repeating tasks
Every Convo we do the same promo on the same platforms. We make the same changes to the website. We update copy in the same places. We create events using the same template. Keeping track of todos and todones for each event, on a platform we all have access to, is essential. We use Airtable but use whatever works for you.
14. Canva templates
Canva graphic templates make things easy. Swap out photos, customize any text, download the design and you’re good to go. We use Canva for Convos promo, sponsor graphics, email headers, social graphic, carousels and tons more.
15. Same format each Convo
If you’ve been to more than a few Convos (as many of you have), you know that there are no formatting surprises. I do a quick opener, introduce our guests, hand the Convo over to them, ask follow up questions, do a sponsor break, open up the conversation to everyone, then close with details about the next Convo, any upcoming workshops or announcements, a Lab mention, then we all go back to our days.
16. Notes and a script
To keep me calm and focused, I use the same general opening and closing script. I have notes to keep me on-track and make sure I hit all the key points. Even having done well over 30 Convos, I still get a bit nervous before each one, so it helps to have my opening down. I take heart that one of my media role models, Rachel Maddow, uses the same opening every show. I think that’s more for her than her viewers.
17. Keep it informal
It’s very important to me that Convos feel like big conversations with, by and for coworking space operators. So I keep it as informal as possible so people feel free contributing to the chat, raising their hand with questions and being guests presenting their insights and tips on whatever topic we’re digging into.
18. Loose blog schedule
Most months I get a Convos promo blog post out. Some months I don’t. This, honestly, goes with almost all of our content. Sometimes something falls through the cracks. I know you know what I’m talking about. We don’t dwell. We just focus on the next thing and keep moving.
19. From Mailchimp to Flodesk
MailChimp was becoming a bigger and bigger headache while simultaneously asking for more and more money each month. So we switched to Flodesk, which has simplified and streamlined our email communications a million times over while also opening up drip email sequences for challenges, onboarding and more. While I hope Flodesk adds more reporting, I’m beyond happy we made the switch.
20. Perfect fit sponsors
Our community of sponsors enable Convos to happen, month after month, year after year, like clockwork. We love hosting and producing Convos, and having sponsor support lets us put Convos as a high-priority CJ Co project and giveaway for the coworking world.
So, if you love Convos like we love Convos, please connect with our sponsors, learn about their offerings, see if they’re a good fit for you and your space, and tell them we sent you.
And with that, here’s a huge shout out to our amazing sponsor community.
Coworking Convos Partners
📬 PilotoMail: Generate more revenue from your mail.
🍊 GCUC: The hottest coworking event around. (See you in Chicago!)
🤳 Coworks: The only mobile-first, member-driven workspace platform.
🦘 Syncaroo: Automatically update your listings across all the aggregators
Coworking Convos Supporters
🏢 Vari: Workspace strategy, design consulting, installation and transformation
📊 Deskworks: Automatic check-ins plus a KPI dashboard.
🧑💻 Isofy: Simple (and human-focused) wi-fi and networking solution.
📰 Allwork.Space: Keep up with the future of work.
This month’s Convo is: Hospitality as a Service.
Snag your spot and we’ll see you there.