You know I'm a woman with a mission, right? First, to showcase those who are already building offline communities - that's what this series Offroad Blogging is all about. You'll meet the person and hear all about the behind-the-scenes details. Some are big events in a variety of cities. Some are one-off meet-ups. Some are a series of casual get-togethers. Whatever they are, it's all about building community.
And second, to inspire me and you to do the same - to build our own local communities of people who inspire.
This week it's Megan Gilger, a design and lifestyle blogger at The Fresh Exchange. She has such a fresh and clean and original design aesthetic. Gorgeous! Megan is also a co-partner with her husband Mike at Hitch Design Studio in Traverse City, Michigan.
Let's hear from Megan.
Describe your event
The Simple Evening events are small and intimate in nature. There is no cost to attend since it is by invite only and consists of between 10-25 people. Everything is a collaborative effort in order to produce the event from top to bottom. I act as Art Director and coordinator so I cast a vision, find people to work with, find publications that may be interested and brands that want to be involved. The event is just one evening over a dinner and is extremely low-key in nature. It is usually focused on the concept of gathering with those who inspire you, the food we gather around, and some sort of great drink.
Why do you think it's important to go offline and into real life?
For me it is important to find ways to exemplify what I talk about on the blog. The blog is meant to be a place that inspires me and those who read it. This means it should also be what encourages me to live the life I want. So events like this are just one way for me to engage my readers in the simplicity of moments like this. It also creates unique opportunities to collaborate with people and grow as creatives through working together. It is everything I want to encourage and inspire on The Fresh Exchange. Also it creates amazing original content to get offline. As lifestyle bloggers we need to find more ways to live than behind the screen in a chair or on the couch. We have to live and provide opportunities for lifestyle to exist. You can only curate and pretend you love something so much before you either have to make it happen or not. My theory: Write a blog that makes you live the life you love. Offline events provide an opportunity for life to happen.
What was your biggest worry before starting your event?
I am always worried about how it will come together. Many times I have my hands in very little since I try to work with people I deeply trust aesthetically. I have learned to be less of a control freak and find people who know what they are doing so I can worry less. The other fear is always is this the right event, does it stay on brand, will this be something a publisher will actually want? Those things get in my head, but I have found that if I forget all of that and just trust my gut and go for it, it all comes together better than I expect. It is kind of crazy and awesome at the same time. Then when you see the images you realize the details were not as important as you thought!
What are you proud of having thought of ahead of time?
Wine. Every event I hold I make sure there is good wine. It always encourages a good cheer and an enjoyable but relaxed evening that never gets out of control. I always make sure that at a dinner party at least one sponsor creates and supplies alcohol. I know that sounds silly but it always makes for better smiles from people and pretty table shots when the candles are lit. I don't care what glass it sits in as long as it is there.
Also I always try to plan ahead of how I want to promote it and I try to think through if there is a publication that may be interested in it. If I think they may be I contact them and after I always forward them teasers of images. But if I have thought through it ahead of time it makes me think about how I will have it shot and what I will focus on.
Why should people/bloggers come to your event?
Well the event is invite only which sounds super exclusive but it isn't. It really is just me wanting to keep things intimate more than anything. But I always invite as many creatives as possible because of the talks and discussions that come out of it and I also try to find ways for them to collaborate if they are invited. Almost everyone that comes has some part in the evening. So if they come most likely they will be doing something amazing to make the event happen, which that is always a great thing!
How do you know if it's been a success?
My events are done to be successful online not offline so it is pretty easy to know if they are successful. The first thing is did the event come together and did we have a good time. Then it is looking through the images. Did we get what we need? Did it come out the right way? Finally it is putting the images and video online with type and everything. It is quite the process in post, but when it goes up I know it did well if people are talking and my page views spike that month. All my events I have planned are in my top 10 most viewed posts. I want my readers to engage and be inspired to enjoy similar events themselves with those they love and if they feel that and say that to me then that is the true success of an event like this.
From idea to execution, how long did it take?
The first one I did was planned in the middle of the winter. It took a total of almost 6 months to develop, execute, and post. It was a lot of work. The most recent one was planned within 2 months and the one I am doing in March will be done in all of a month. I feel a month is a good amount of time to produce and execute. I have learned it is all about who you work with. That defines how long things take and how stressful it is.
What is the most challenging part about putting on these events?
Making sure the story comes through. I want readers to feel as if they were sitting there and experiencing the evening alongside everyone else. If I could I would send them a glass of wine to enjoy while they read. But the internet places certain limitations on story telling and experiences, which always has me thinking of ways to work around this and tell things better.
Here's a lovely short video of Megan's Simple Evening last summer.
Want more from Megan? Here are her wise words after Alt Summit.
Love her advice - trust your gut and go for it. No matter how large or small your event, believe that you have something to offer with your event. The right people will be attracted to attend.
Also, if you are working with any sponsors or plan to blog about, think ahead of time about the images that you want to capture. Words are great but it's the visuals that tell the story.
And finding ways for your guests to work together - think of your event as a catalyst for creative collaborations.
Attended any events in your hometown lately? What questions or advice do you have about hosting your own offline event?
Sponsored by Bing. All opinions are my own.