In today’s episode, we get to listen again to Joe and Brian Richards’ conversation. They discuss the ins and outs of virtual conferences, the challenges of making people show up on event day, and finding success in organizing paid virtual events.   

Brian is the creator of WPSessions.com, where he provides training to businesses and developers working with WordPress. He also organizes WordSesh and WooSesh, two entirely virtual conferences for WordPress and WooCommerce professionals. Before getting into training and event organizing, Brian spent his days as a web development contractor and consultant.

What to Listen For:

  • 00:00 Intro
  • 01:16 Welcome to the pod, Brian!
  • 05:17 The ups and downs of organizing virtual events
  • 12:22 Getting people to show up is the challenge
  • 22:32 Become the go-to resource person/company
  • 32:18 Success in paid virtual conferences
  • 38:42 Find Brian online

Episode Resources:

Podcast Transcript:

Joe Howard: Hey, Hey, WordPress people. Welcome back to the WP MRR WordPress podcast. I’m Joe and

Brian Richards: I’m link.

Joe Howard: We’re glad to have you. You’re listening to the WordPress business podcast. We’ve got link on the podcast savior of high roll this week. One of my, one of my face. Let’s go down. Oh, you

Brian Richards: know, just taking a bit of respite here between beating Gannon and solving all those puzzles.

It’s pretty relaxing.

Joe Howard: Good Dannon was a beast in the Ocarina of time, man. I remember when I was a kid playing that game and that, you know, you finally beat Gandalf and it’s like, yes, the castle falls. And then Gannon comes out from the rubble. Ooh, he’s a beast. That must have been scary. Yeah.

Brian Richards: That, yeah, it, it is or creative time.

Maybe one of my, if not my ultimate favorite game of all time, there’s just so much going on. And the very first time that you walk out of the forest and you get to see high field and everything just comes into view, man, that was a magical moment in video gaming.

Joe Howard: I totally agree. And for an 64 bit game and N 64 game, amazing how much how robust of a world it could fit on that one.

Single cartridge, man. So I’m totally with you. Yeah. All right. We’ve got link on the pod this week, also known as Brian Richards, Brian and Brian. I have to say, I don’t think we’ve had someone give ochre or given Ocarina of time or, or Zelda character selection yet.

And this is I’m with you, man. This is what Mike, my favorite game of all time. So I’ve been like waiting, waiting for someone to pick a character from here. So good on you, man. Good,

Brian Richards: good on you for having, I was very excited to see that in the list of fictional people that I could pick because I’m a big fan of link.

My third son is named link. In fact. Unrelated, but a very happy coincidence that I’m happy to claim.

Joe Howard: I love that I’m like I’m coming into the world. WordPress people who also have families or not uh, families, but, but have have additions to their families, young additions to their family.

So, I’m, I’m always interested to, to chat with other people who are ahead of the curve on me on that one. I feel like I’ve got a lot to learn there, but. Yeah, very cool. And now I know that I can name my child after video game characters and get away with it. So thanks for, thanks for telling me that it didn’t quite know.

Yeah,

Brian Richards: you’re welcome. It was my wife who told me that. No, I can’t. I don’t think I can do that. And she’s like, no, I think it would be okay. I said, okay, well, if you insist,

Joe Howard: you gotta make her think it’s her idea then. Boom. You’re in. All right, Brian, I appreciate you coming on, man. Well, you know, I know the stuff you do in WordPress, but maybe not all the listeners do. Why don’t you give people like a, the rundown of the, you do a couple of virtual conferences and maybe some other stuff, but yeah. Give people a little, a little rundown of the stuff you’re doing with WordPress.

Brian Richards: Perfect. So as you said, I’m Brian Richards. I run WP sessions.com where I bring speakers from all around the world to come and share what they know about working with WordPress, whether that’s in the realm of running their business or development work or design. Or anything else that is at least tangentially related to working with WordPress.

From that I spun off a private training so that I could train development teams and create catered lessons just for what they need to be focusing on in the moment. So you’ve got a team and you’ve realized, oh, we haven’t yet worked with some piece of technology, Gatsby JS. All right. Well, let’s get a few lessons coordinated just for that.

So you can use it confidently on this next project and projects. From that, I then spun off onboarding curriculum to help teams onboard new members as quickly and efficiently as possible. Bring them up to speed to that. You could hire someone who is say maybe an entry-level or beginner developer, get them to intermediate or someone who’s intermediate and get them up to an advanced level, at least for what they need to be doing with your team.

Pretty quickly and then separate from all of that more than an extension of WP sessions. Individual monthly sessions. I have been organizing word sesh for the last few years, which is a full day long virtual conference. And it was originally started by Scott boss guard and I helped him run it a few times.

And then two years ago, Would he be interested in doing it again? Would he like to pass the reigns? And so he said that I could take it and run with it. And so I reduced it from a 24 hour event to a 12 hour event because that’s a sustainable amount of time for my own schedule to manage things.

Joe Howard: Yeah. Cool, man. Th this is one of the things I actually wanted to dig in with you today. I’m just super interested about, I know we talked a lot of people, a lot of word camp organizers, people who spend hours and hours tens of hours, dozens of hours, maybe even hundreds of hours putting together these huge in-person conferences that people can go to and attend.

They fly there, they grab their event ticket, they get a hotel, they get a you know, they pay for Uber or Lyft around the city when they’re there. But these huge, awesome. You know, IRL events th these are slightly different. These are all entirely virtual. You there is no grabbing a flight there. I’ve been to many session, many word session.

It’s pretty nice to be able to just log on to my computer and hang out with all my friends during these events. I’d love to hear a little bit about some of the, the the challenges you’ve had running a virtual conference. So I’m sure. People think of an Inn, you know, people getting a bunch of people together in one space that obviously has its pros and cons.

It definitely has its challenges in itself. But I think a lot of people probably think like, oh, like a virtual conference, you like set it up on the software and then like people join and you know, it’s easy. Right. But I’m sure you have a slightly different take on it. Would love to hear like some of the kinks you’ve had to work out or pieces that.

Challenges and tough to figure out.

Brian Richards: Yeah. Careful. You’re opening Pandora’s box. You get to talk about this for hours. You’re right. There is this perception that oh, virtual conference. I’ll just sign up and turn it on and we’re good to go. And you could do that. Back when Google Hangouts was a real big thing.

That was pretty easy to just schedule that and invite people and broadcast it live. In fact, that’s what I used for a long time for WP sessions. And I would just embed the YouTube video directly on my site, and everybody could just show up on my site and watch the thing while I ran it all through Google Hangouts.

But I didn’t really love the quality of that. Anybody who’s watched a live broadcast. From Google Hangouts, which by the way, you can still do, if you go to schedule a live event through YouTube. But I eventually gave up on that because the audio quality was not perfect. The video quality was pretty soft and I got to be a really big deal when someone was sharing their screen, particularly if they’re trying to share.

Yeah, I think

Joe Howard: anybody who’s used Google ads would say there are probably better options out there.

Brian Richards: The tool that I’ve used, the last few events is called Crowdcast and that’s at crowdcast.io. I love that the quality is far superior and all of this stuff is built in. So you’ve got, you know, the video, obviously for up to, I think, four different participants or two participants who are both sharing their screens.

And chats built-in polling Q and a are all built in. You can schedule multi-session events and that’s pretty slick. I like that a lot because it doesn’t make my machine, the linchpin in the entire operation. So if my internet cuts out or my computer freezes or my power goes out or anything else the broadcast can still happen without me, really interesting to a degree.

I still have to be there to start it, but if I drop out, I can get back in, which was not true with hangup. If you got kicked out of the hangout that you started, you kind of hosed. It was uh, it was a bad. And it’s important because all three of those things I had my internet itself cut out right. As I was introducing the very first speaker of the day, one of the times Chrome froze on me while I was in the middle of Q and a and one of the sessions.

And then my computer just had a kernel, panic, and crashed, and I’d restart the whole dang thing. And that’s embarrassing and challenging and frustrate. To combat that I’ve experimented with prerecording the sessions, but then rebroadcasting the recordings as if they were still alive session. And that worked out really well.

It was annoying to thread it all together, but I knew before the broadcast even started. Yes, we have a good quality recording. You can hear the speaker clearly through the entire thing. You can see all their slides nothing’s missing too. No matter what happens to my machine or the speakers machine, this will still be a high quality broadcast and three, because it is still.

Fixed to a schedule. People have to show up and participate together, which I think is the most important part of an event is getting people there during the live broadcast to talk to each other, to interact with the speakers when possible, because a lot more is possible. Even if the content itself has prerecorded the interactions in the event, chat in my case, or, you know, in the hallway track, if you were talking about a physical event, those.

Change, fundamentally what the material is and elevate the experience that you’re getting compared to say, just watching a recording at some other point. The other thing that this changes is a lot of people will purchase training aspirationally. I want to learn that I’m going to watch that and then they never come back to it.

They’re like, oh, well, I’ve got it. So I can go and look at it later. But when you fix something to a schedule and say, you have to show up and watch this tomorrow, the participation rate increases people. Don’t just register themselves aspirationally. Well, shoot. I got to learn this right now. And then they have an opportunity to apply some new training, which I like a lot.

At high level, there are lots of different tools that need to be used to get the event together. And I can tell you I’m exploring Vimeo live for future events, because there are a lot of cool things that I can do with that. It makes it more of like an honest to goodness production. They have their production software for adding graphics and transitions and cutting between sources.

But. Through other tools that I can bring into the tool chain, I can still do things like pre-recorded video that doesn’t depend on my machine.

Joe Howard: It’s really. Okay. So it sounds like Crowdcast and Vimeo are kind of two options. I’m sure there are other options out there, but but those are kind of two core ones look at, for live broadcasting.

I’ve used I’ve, I’ve been on a webinar that was using Crowdcast and I really liked it. I did a webinar with Joe Casabona a few weeks ago now and he was using Crowdcast. It was lovely. So as. Actually in the webinar or in the event, it was really nice and easy to use as someone who’s watched an event and Crowdcast too.

It’s also nice. I love how seamless it is. You can have like different rooms of events happening all at one time and you just click the button a little dropdown and go to this room. It just starts up automatically. It’s like, it’s not super heavy on your machine and yeah. Works pretty well. I would love to hear a little bit more about the actually getting people to the virtual event.

We’ve started. Hosting webinars at WP buffs and you know, there for WordPress professionals there to help people with certain aspects of WordPress. We actually just did one right before we, right before we hopped on here, the podcast today, this afternoon, yet Kaitlin did one with Anthony over at BeaverBuilder and it was all about kind of putting websites together with a page builder and how that can help your workflow and scale your agency and all that stuff.

But we were looking at the numbers and we were seeing, we got. Over 300 people registered for the webinar which was great. You know, it was our highest registration until, you know, this webinar or thus far, but we only had about 60 or so people attending live at one time. So the. The ratio, there is not exactly what I would like.

I think some people, especially when you’re saying recording out afterwards, I will, some, a significant amount of people are probably not going to show up that want the recording afterwards. But I would like for it to be more like closer to 50 50, at least then, you know, the like 15 or so percent we got with this one.

And that’s usually we’re around 15 to 25% show up for the actual webinars. So it sounds like one tip you have is kind of to make it super important to show up. For the actual day of the event. Anything else that you think helps people like really like show up that day? Like I’m ready for Ru says today, today it’s on my calendar.

Like today’s Wu sesh day. Like any tips you can give me on like, just personally how we can make our webinars better to make people actually try to engage. And on the day of.

Brian Richards: I would be happy to, and to close out my other thoughts for anybody who’s looking to do similar virtual events, Crowdcast is a beautiful place to start.

They have very inexpensive plans and everything is just there. You just show up in your browser, your other participants, if you have them show up in their browser, nothing to install except for a simple browser extension. So we don’t

Joe Howard: have any sponsors getting the audience. They’re bring in a few like low key sponsors because people love their tools.

Brian Richards: Yeah. So getting people there is the biggest challenge and there are so many factors that go into that. Like I said earlier, where people register for things aspirationally or by, by training aspirationally, they’ll go, I’m interested in this. Let me sign up. And many people. In my experience, sign up before they even checked their schedule.

Like, oh yeah, this sounds cool. Let me sign up for this. Oh, I can’t go. But I’ll watch the recording later probably. And so getting at least half of the people who register doing that behavior is very. And then for the other half were like, this shows up perfectly in my time zone. And for my schedule, I’m going to register and participate.

You’ll still have another half dropout because they, something came up right. Like, oh, I really wanted to watch that, but I also really need to get this thing done. So I’m not going to show up and I’m going to get my thing done. And so then. You know, another 25% of your possible attendees. I almost always

Joe Howard: belong with people, which is people who register and don’t check their schedule at all.

I think this is a great webinar. I’ve got whatever, I’ll put it on my calendar, whether I can or not. But then I have no idea what my calendar looks like and a significant portion of the time. I already have a meeting booked during that time, or I always have something. So it’s like, okay, I guess I’ll watch the recording.

So I’m I do it to.

Brian Richards: I did that just a week ago. I’m like, oh yeah, I wanna, I want to watch this. This sounds pretty cool. And then I went and I checked my email this morning. Oh, that’s coming up. It’s coming up tomorrow, right? No, that was last week. I missed it. Whoops. So yeah, there’s, there’s not a lot you can do to combat that besides sort of.

Getting in people’s faces. And so there, if we start way back at the beginning, how do you host a webinar that people want to attend just as a baseline? How do we get something that people want to register for? And the first thing you need to do is to produce webinar around a topic that somebody is interested.

And that could be something that you’re interested in teaching that, you know, well enough to put a presentation together and teach, or you have someone else who. Knows what they know well enough to teach it, ideally are also a good speaker or a teacher. They understand sort of the hero’s journey and the student’s perspective and can relate the information in a way that the audience can understand and benefit from.

So start there, start with something that is, is worth somebody’s time that they are probably already

Joe Howard: interested in. So the way we’ve, we’ve done that a little bit is we use this tool called Hotjar. It has these little poles come up on the website. It does a bunch of different stuff. But what we did is on the page, people get redirected to when they subscribe, we had a little poll come up and say, You know, we ask a bunch of different questions there from like, how’d you find us?

Cause we were interested in that data, but we’re also interested in like, what kind of speed optimization are you interested in doing? Like, what are, where are you having trouble with speed optimization to see if we can get some data on that. So Caitlin put that poll up and it has this data like, oh, 50% of people are having issues with their images.

Okay. So like let’s try and do a webinar on that. So we have a little bit of that cause we just try and ask our email subscribers kinda like, what are you interested in? So I think it’s a mix you want to ask people, but. Do what you think is right. So we, we kind of do that.

Brian Richards: Yeah. So that’s good. That’s a really good first start.

Just overtly asking, what would you like us to talk about? And some people are happy to tell you that some people are just like, I’m not going to answer a survey and we’ll give you, you’re not sending those to

Joe Howard: me personally. So you don’t care as we get a few little like yeah,

Brian Richards: that will happen. Yeah. And so that essentially was how WP sessions was birthed. Six years ago, I was facing a technical problem that I hadn’t encountered yet. And I’m like, how have I missed this? And at that point in time, I’d been developing websites for, I don’t know, 10, 10 or 12 years. I’m like how I’ve made it this far. And I haven’t yet solved this.

This is such a basic thing. And I am, I have no idea where to begin. This is. But I bet there are other people who are in this like me, because all of us have our own journey. Maybe I could hire someone who does know this, pay them for an hour and just ask them questions. And maybe I could even sell tickets to this.

And so all of us get our questions answered. And today that’s exactly what I did. WP sessions was born and I started hosting other people who knew their areas of interest well enough to teach the rest of us so that selfishly I could learn, but so could the broader WordPress. The next thing to do after you’ve picked a topic that people are probably interested in is to make sure that they know you’re hosting this webinar.

So there are lots of avenues to do this, right. Marketing is how you get people to show up. So if you have a mailing list, all right. Email them and let them know, Hey, here’s this thing that’s coming. If you’re smart, you’ll email them more than once. So you’ll have the initial announcement, email. Hey, this thing is coming and it is several weeks away.

Still few days later, you’ll email and say, Hey, get to know our speaker. Here’s some, some things you might want to know about them and how cool they are a couple days pass you send another email and say, here are some of the things you’re going to learn or even better. Here’s what you’ll be able to do after the.

The, the difference there, the benefits versus the features was best explained to me as people don’t want to buy a half inch drill bit. What they want to buy is a half inch hole. They don’t care about the tool you’re selling. They care about the result. That’s what they’re after. So if you can explain why this webinar is useful to them, from their perspective of here’s, how I’m going to benefit from this, you are going to be.

Far and away better than most people who promote their webinars. And so you’re doing that via email, getting the word out multiple times to make sure that people know what’s coming, you’re doing that via all of your social channels, right? Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, et cetera, wherever people follow you already, you’re letting them know, Hey, here’s this thing that you’re probably interest.

If you’re planning a big deal, like my conferences, you probably want to also pay for advertising in as many different places where your audience already spends their time, so that they will see this and know that it’s happening. If it’s. And if you’re just trying to get your feet wet and get your first webinar out there, I would skip that for now.

And just talk to the people you already have, who are listening to you for free and make a few of these before you make the plunge and say, you know what? This is pretty great. Let me pay to get more people to show up.

Joe Howard: Yeah, that, part’s interesting because I thought about doing paid ads for webinars stuff.

Count. I’ve talked about this a little bit. I’m a little hesitant. Right now, I think because of the reason that we’re still trying to get like a pretty clear conversion, some sort of conversion from webinar attendee to WP buffs, customer WP buffs, white label partner. So until we can like, make that a little bit more seamless, It doesn’t quite make sense to pay for ads yet.

So I agree with you. I think at the beginning, paying for ads, maybe something you can experiment with, and it’s good to, if you need to get a few people in the door and get some surveys back to like, improve your webinars, like that’s one way you could do that, for sure. But before you start paying thousands of dollars for ads and stuff, you probably want to have at least some way that that’s going to.

Come back to you financially.

Brian Richards: Yeah, exactly. And so you do all of these things to let people know ahead of time. Here’s this thing that’s happening now? How do we get them in the seat? The day of the event? Well, if we accept the fact that half of the people who registered had no intention of showing up ever, you’re only worried about getting the other half and really it’s.

How do we get. The half of that half, right? The 25% who did register and decided last minute that they weren’t going to make it. And to help with that, the simplest answer is to pay them. Obviously, you’re not like here’s $10, please come to my webinar, but it’s usually by way of things that they not get, except by coming to the webinar.

So maybe there’s a special giveaway that you’re doing. You’re, you know, you’re offering one free hour of consultation or one free month or some percentage discount on the product or service that you run some reason to say, oh, wow. So if I show up to this, I also get this other benefit. That’s pretty cool.

But outside of that, obviously just hammer home. One more time, the day of several hours before, and then an hour before, and then a minute, 10 minutes before, Hey, this thing is starting today. Hey, it’s coming up soon. Hey, join right now and get in the chat so that you are. Don’t forget, you’re going to get these benefits.

You’re going to learn these things. You’re going to be this kind of person when it’s over, whatever it is that you are providing, reiterate that in the reminders that are leading up to the event and to plug Crowdcast again, because it’s such a slick tool, they have built in reminders at intervals like these, so that you can just write to the content for that as you’re preparing for the event.

And you can just know, okay, my audience is going to be noticing. Leading up to the event. You don’t have to do anything else to remember to do that, which is handy for someone like me, who routinely forgets to actually schedule the stuff in advance. For sure.

Joe Howard: Don’t leave it up to your manual self to do anything that you can automate.

Brian Richards: Yeah. So that covers a lot of the how, but I realized, as I was explaining, here are the tools in the house. We kind of skipped right past the why of hosting a webinar, which is kind of like the most important part. Why would anybody waste their time? Yeah.

Joe Howard: Brian, tell me why you were hosting these events.

Tell me why .

Brian Richards: Yeah. So my personal benefit, right, as I’m, I’m earning my living from doing these directly from doing them. But for people who are listening to this who are running their own businesses, who are working on growing their monthly recurring revenue one way or another, whether that’s via SAS or product, your benefit is going to be growing your audience and therefore growing your customer base because you are helping get the word out about what you do.

And the webinars don’t even need to be here’s my tool and how to use it. It can be other related content. Like you Joad hosting a webinar on image optimization and other performance things, things that WP buffs provide to point out here’s how you do this. Here’s some free value that we’re putting out into the world to help you manage your website better.

And by the way, if you would like this to just be done for. My company can do that. This is one of many things that we do for you automatically. And if you host enough of those, you are going to gain a reputation of a company who produces high quality resources that anybody can use, and then way down the road from this people who are searching for, how do I optimize my images?

What’s a good way. And we’ll see. If you do this, right. Aren’t you posted a webinar, you’ve made a blog post, you’ve embedded some of the details from it. They find that and go, oh wow. This is cool. Oh, actually the scene. It seems a little tedious. Oh, I can just pay them done. I’m in. So there’s, there’s just one of the many whys you might do that.

My other benefit from hosting word session, Wu session running WP sessions is I get a certain sense of self satisfaction from helping good people do great things. And this is one of the best ways I’ve found to multiply my own capabilities of doing that by bringing lots of people together.

Simultaneously and just filling their heads with knowledge from other people who are even smarter than me, who are even better at doing these things. I like doing that a lot. And so. Pleased to have the opportunity to do so.

Joe Howard: Yeah, very cool, man. I, I think as long as the activities you’re doing stem from, you know, your values and the things you find kind of really benefit yourself in a way by benefiting others.

That’s, that’s what is scalable. Like that’s what you can do for not only like this month or next month, but you can do for years on end, we’ve had people on the podcast. Like chanting from indie hackers. And we’ve had Robby from beaver builder and like those two guys come out, particularly, they stand out particularly as do you, as people who are just like, I want to do this thing because I love helping other people.

I definitely get that vibe from moose Ash and word session as well as WP sessions. Yeah, for sure. The you know, it’s sometimes you just go to these websites or you interact with these people. Of course they have people’s best interests of heart. Like there’s no other, there’s no other way it could be.

These, these events are free. Are they not?

Brian Richards: Yes, they are. There, there was a brief moment last year where I started charging for word sash. And there’s just a tiny uproar. As I expected, cause word sash had been free for the four years prior and then I thought. I should put some of the onus back on the attendees, both to make sure that they have a reason to show up live because they paid for it.

But also, so they recognize that these things are not free to produce. They cost several thousands of dollars just to make one event. And in particular, I enjoy paying the speakers for their time. I pay for someone to show up and provide live captioning of the events that I’m very happy to do because I enjoy having captions.

And I know lots of other people do as well. And. There weren’t many, like there only a couple of people that I saw like, oh, why are you charging for this? Which is fine. I was expecting way more than that. But an even greater thing that I noticed is that attendance dropped tremendously. There were only a few hundred people who showed up in the 2018 event compared to the thousand and thousand plus that I’ve come to enjoy at the events before that.

And since that, so I’m. I’m still torn about that. I do believe that people who are attending should pay, but I also have many generous sponsors who are willing to just take care of that cost so that it can be broadcast to as many people as possible. One of the things that I did, two of the things that I did when I made it a paid event, a one is that I set up a script to offer purchase power parody so that the price was the equivalent of it was originally, it was $25.

If you paid full price, $15, if you got an early. Or a group discount per ticket. So it’d be the equivalent of that wherever you live, which meant that it wasn’t, you know, 25 us dollars in India, it was essentially nine or 12 us dollars in India, which was the same sort of costs. It was pretty neat.

It was fun to research that and rather eyeopening to see the disparity and an e-commerce or in commerce in general, across all the different countries. But then the other thing I did was I just opened up the opportunity for scholarships. So anybody who wanted a scholarship could apply and 100% of the people who applied for one got one.

And then people who wanted to donate scholars. I could pay for one and donate it to someone they had in mind, or just make it available in the general pool. And that was pretty cool to see people signing up, to pay for other people, to see people who wanted to attend, who applied for a scholarship. So it could have still been free.

If someone had $0 to attend. But I like making it free, even though I, I think people should have a responsibility to pay because it has a, a natural virality to it. When it’s free someone tweets a quote from a session that they’re watching, someone clicks the link and join the session and then hangs out for the rest of the day which is really nice when it’s a free event, when it’s a paid event and they see that and they click the link and they.

No, I don’t have time to invest into this right now, even though it’s only $25, they’ve got no exposure to it. They’re like, Hmm. It’s probably neat, but I’m busy right now. And then they just miss that. Which is,

Joe Howard: I can see that happening because when these events happen, a lot of times, like I have this big kind of gaming monitor here, so it’s, I don’t do any gaming, but it’s like a big curved monitor here, like, so I can have all my stuff going on at once.

So I’ll join and I’ll just kind of have it on all day, but it’ll just kind of be over here on my monitor. And I’m kind of doing some work on this end and. If I clicked on a link or something just wanted to open all day. And I maybe if there’s a pay, if there’s a paywall twenty-five bucks, it may not even be the $25.

It’s just, you know, this wall has this effect of just like, like do I, my wallet’s on the other side of the room. Like, do I really have to go get it right now? Like, does it work? Like, and sometimes I’ll do it. And sometimes I won’t like for a lot of different things. Right. So it’s interesting to see like what the, there are.

I’m sure there are a lot of reasons in addition to. The pure payment of it, of why people won’t come if it’s a paid thing. Yeah, that’s I,

Brian Richards: there’s a lot of interesting psychology there. Yeah. I’ve

Joe Howard: talked with yeah, sorry, go ahead.

Brian Richards: I was going to say for a long time, WP sessions was a pay to attend platform.

So you could register and get an early bird price for any session that I host and the. Didn’t register until later, then you just paid full price and you could watch the recording afterwards. No big deal. And for a little while, I would also make some of those free six months after the fact. So you could just show up and watch an old session for free.

And I realized that sort of destroyed the benefit of a membership where you get access to all of this stuff, because it’s. Wait long enough, they could eventually watch the entire library for free anyway. So I flipped it and made it. You can attend live for free. If you can make time in your schedule, then yes, you can come and watch.

But if you want to watch the recording, anytime after the fact that’s one low price, or you can watch every recording for another annual price, which is still way cheaper than it would have been to buy every single recording. And then I switched to just members only because it reduced the decision of like, which of these do I want to buy to do?

I want all of them or none of them. And so making word sesh and Wu sesh again, free. To attend live. Is it just a beautiful extension of that model that I was already using? So if anybody shows up during the live event, it’s totally free, you can watch and participate and enjoy all of the benefits of being part of the active community.

And if you don’t have time in your schedule or you miss a session or whatever, it’s not a big deal because it’s recorded and you can just come to WP sessions as a member and watch. And you can either sign up annually and get everything, everything, and download it and take it with you as you go. Or you can sign up just for that month and watch as much as you want and either renew month over month or not.

Joe Howard: Yeah. This, this model of like membership and, and pursuing kind of a subscription model very much intrigues me in terms of like courses or collection of videos or community. So there’ve been. Virtual conferences as well in the WordPress space.

Zach Gordon does his JavaScript for WP conference every year. And Zach similar to yours, you know, I, I remember his getting like a thousand plus people and. I would love to hear a little bit for, cause there are probably listeners here who are like, this sounds interesting, like to do something like this or to throw a little free thing for something.

Can you think back to like your first woo sash or your first virtual conference you ever through and because you can’t, it’s hard to do like a membership and get people to pay you on an ongoing basis when you’re just like, don’t have much content yet. I’d love to hear more about those early days and kind of how you got to the point of even.

Starting to say, like, why don’t you pay me for a membership so you can stick around. Cause it’s, I’m sure it’s little harder in those early days.

Brian Richards: Yeah. Yeah, no, that’s good. And this sort of ties into your question earlier about like, how do I. You know people to show up to this thing. I am had many webinars.

We’re only a couple dozen people joined me out of my audience of a couple thousand. I’m like, man, where is everybody? And of course it dawned on me while at first I wasn’t following my own advice of actually promoting this well enough in advance. And second, a lot of people don’t need to come live because they’re members and they can just enjoy the recording at any time.

Many of whom presumably purchased aspirationally and may never even watch the recording. They just want, they are comforted in knowing that it’s there. Right? So when WP sessions first launched, I I just took some of my own money. I think I set aside $3,000 as an experiment. I’m like, I’m willing to spend $3,000 to see, is this something that should exist in the world that people want?

And that was enough for me to pay for all the infrastructure I needed to set up, pay for my speakers to show up and present. And the, the first several were almost like mini conferences. As a matter of fact, I got three speakers together and we would join up on a Saturday and we’d just go three speakers back to back to back.

Then people could show up and watch the whole thing or tune into any one of them. You buy a ticket, you get access to everything. Recordings live, broadcast the whole shebang, and it was one-off. And so a Memorial weekend here in the U S Memorial day weekend, the idea hit me on a Friday and I thought, nah, I don’t know if this has any legs.

And then by Monday, I’m like, no, I got to do this. So I bought the domain, I put up a landing page and said, would you be interested in a mini virtual. Putting your email address. And in a day I had several hundred people subscribe like, oh, okay. I should probably actually organize this thing. And so I reached out to several speakers.

All of them said, yeah, I’d be interested in presenting. And that’s when I decided, okay, let’s put the first one. Right. And I created the sales page, set up WooCommerce site, allow people to purchase a ticket for the first ever broadcast. I think it was $25 and I made about a thousand dollars in the very first event.

I’m like, okay, there, it seems to me that there are enough people who are interested in this, that I could keep doing it. And so then I scheduled the next two and. Not only did I not lose the $3,000 of my money that I set aside to do this, but I made money like, all right, well, let’s just keep doing this.

And so I did five of them and that brought me to the very first black Friday that I could promote things. And so I made a VIP pass where you pay for this pass and you access all of the sessions that I’ve done. And any sessions that I do for the next 12 months. And I had a bunch of people by that. I said, okay, well now I know I have to definitely keep making these sessions.

And so, when WP sessions turned one, I said, okay, if you want to be a member, same deal as this one-off pass that I sold. You needed every session that I did. And every session that I make for the next year. And that will be true for as long as you remain in. And to make sure that people don’t feel put out by the, well, wait a minute.

If I just buy the session alone, I have it forever. But if I joined as a membership, I only get it as long as I have a member. I also added the opportunity for people to download the broadcast. So that’s sort of how it burst. I didn’t start off with a membership right out the gate. Cause I knew like I don’t have enough content.

I don’t know if I’m going to make content. So I’ll just sell these as one-off installments. And if I can do this enough times, then. Once I, once I got to that fifth one, I think I produced four and the fifth one was coming after black Friday. I said, okay, this is enough for me to sell a pass. Even if I don’t make any more, this is still a good price just for these first five, which was as I said, three presenters, each that would have.

15 hours of content. Yeah. So yeah, that’s sort of how it sort of grew organically into a

Joe Howard: membership. Cool. Yeah. So WP MRR is it’s this podcast, but it’s also a video course and it’s I started off doing it as a subscription because I was like, okay, WordPress, monthly recurring revenue. Like it has to be like a re like it has to be a subscription or it’s like, I’m kind of, I have to eat my own dog food.

Right. And I just kind of realized it’s a certain points, like. Probably like 10 hours of video content. And then we have a Facebook group going on, but it’s just, hasn’t gotten to the point yet where it’s, I feel, I feel comfortable, like people were really be willing to pay for a subscription. We had a few signups and we had enough signups presale to like pay for the development of the course, which is great.

But. The ongoing signups, it’s just kind of turned into something. And I said, okay, let’s just make this one-time for now. And I had the same thought. It’s like, I gotta make this one time for now. But when it grows to the point where it makes more sense to be a subscription, we have enough content. We have enough stuff going on, then maybe a subscription makes more sense.

I really love how you started that whole kind of founding story as you put this budget together. And then you said, okay, this is the budget I have for an experiment to see if this works. And to me. That’s how you bootstrap a business. I think a lot of people need just who want to start businesses. You have to like hustle and get, you know, you know, maybe use your revenue from your full-time job.

Put a little bit away, create a budget for yourself and say, this is my experiment. I’m going to, maybe it’s a thousand dollars. Maybe it’s 2000 to say, I’m going to experiment with this thing. And. This money in and be willing to lose it all. And just to get an answer of yes or no, like, do I think this has legs or do I not?

And to me, I have to go through that a couple of times or a few times until you find the thing that has legs, but that’s what it takes is just like having just that little bit of runway to just know, is this going to work or not? If you feel, really feel like it is then doubling down on it and then like, look where you are today.

Man, doing this thousand people coming to virtual conferences and it came from $3,000 of investment and that’s pretty special.

Brian Richards: It was pretty special. Like I said, I feel privileged to have this opportunity to, to be where I am to connect. But then also to get paid for it. It’s

Joe Howard: dream, man. Ha that’s it.

That’s, that’s where we’re going to wrap up today because that is a perfect place to to stop. But dude, why don’t you tell people where they can find out your stuff online? Let’s repeat those domains and maybe if you’re on social and all that stuff.

Brian Richards: Yeah. So if anyone wants to follow me on Twitter, my handle is risen, but it’s spelled R Z.

E N cause I crafted that as a seventh grader and thought this sounds awesome. Going to be my handle everywhere. Oh, it’s terrible to explain. So I’m risen, spelled wrong. And if you want to follow WP sessions, that’s at WP sessions on Twitter or WP sessions.com and from WB sessions, I host word sash.com and Wu sesh.com.

And it’s a lot of fun.

Joe Howard: If a. Ryan on Twitter you’ll know you found him. Cause he’s got this upside down profile picture with the curly hair, easy to, easy to spot. So yeah, man last thing I always ask guests to do is to ask our listeners for a little five star iTunes review.

So if you wouldn’t mind giving our listeners a little ask, I would approach. Yeah.

Brian Richards: If you enjoyed any part of this podcast, I encourage you to leave a review on iTunes. You wouldn’t think that it makes a big difference, but leaving a five star review and adding a comment there really helps raise the visibility of this podcast so that other people can find it and enjoy these gems as much as you did.

Okay.

Joe Howard: That was super professional. Thank you, Brian. Excellent. And if you’re leaving that a review, make sure you leave Brian’s name in the comments or something you learned about this episode so we can forward it to him and make sure he knows. Hey, thanks for helping us out. Getting. Getting her a little review and sounds like people got some nice value from this episode, too.

So we’ll forward that to him. If you leave it, if you wanted to leave that review WP mrr.com forward slash iTunes. Got a little redirect going on, make it easy for you. If you’re a new listener, you’re already bingeing, so much TV and so much Netflix. It’s all. It’s all you do. Why not binge some of the WP MRR WordPress podcasts. We’ve got dozens of hours. Excellent content. Yeah. I’ve spent a ton of time just talking with amazing people.

I actually go through all the episodes all the time, because that sounds narcissistic, but it’s actually to listen to the guests because they always have so much amazing stuff to say that. And especially after I do the episode, I’m like, I got to go back and listen to that again. Cause that was amazing.

This will be one of those episodes, Brian, for sure. So yeah, if you want to go and binge some old episodes, feel free. WP mrr.com forward slash pod cast. All right. That is all for this week. We will catch you all again next Tuesday, Brian. Thanks again for coming on. It’s been real.

Brian Richards: Yeah. Thanks for having me.

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