The Origin of FlynnCON1 and What I’ve Learned So Far Creating My First Conference

Step behind the scenes of of FlynnCON1: Why I’m doing it, what to expect, and the top five lessons I’ve learned on the journey!

Pat Flynn

The Origin of FlynnCON1 and What I’ve Learned So Far Creating My First Conference

For the last six months I’ve been working with Team SPI to create an amazing and unique event experience for people who want to press start (or restart) on their vision for their future. That experience is FlynnCON1—and it happens in my hometown of sunny San Diego this July 26–28.

Today, I want to share how FlynnCON1 came about, give you a taste of what to expect at the event, and go over some of the biggest lessons our team has learned while putting together our first ever large-scale in-person event.

Why FlynnCON1 Is Happening: The Origin Story

I’m incredibly excited to be finally putting together an event like this. It’s not an understatement to say that I’ve been looking forward to doing something like this for years. And I’d like to share a little bit about the origin story that brought FlynnCON1 to life.

As you may know, I’m no stranger to live events. I’ve even done my own in-person events before, particularly the 1-Day Business Breakthrough (1-Day BB) mastermind event I created with Chris Ducker. This is an intimate event that involves no more than 25 people in a room, where we put people on a “hot seat” and dig deep into their business.

Although 1-Day BB has been one of the most fulfilling in-person experiences I’ve created, it’s also very personal and intimate, and our team is excited to put together something that can help a lot more people. I know the power of larger events because of the awesome ones I’ve been to as an attendee, from VidSummit to Chalene Johnson’s events like Marketing Impact Academy and Smart Success Summit, as well as Social Media Marketing World and lots of other great conferences.

I’ve also spoken at over 100 different conferences, and have dedicated thousands of hours into crafting my presentations. For one presentation at FinCon in 2013, I put in over 250 prep hours. A lot of people actually still talk about that particular presentation: as I walked up to the stage, I fell down on purpose, then “rewound” and came back onstage in order to share a lesson about how you don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression.

I still put a lot of time and effort into attending and presenting at other people’s conferences. But the travel that comes with these events has gotten harder on my family, which is why you don’t see me speaking every single week (and to be honest, I don’t know how other people do it). Although I love speaking at conferences and will continue to do so (especially in my hometown of San Diego at Social Media Market World in March!), I thought it would be wise this year to put some of my event energy into doing my own thing.

Plus, I’ve honestly always wanted to do something big of my own, but didn’t feel like it was the right time until recently.

I probably could have put together my own event like this years ago. But I waited, partly because I wasn’t sure if it was the right time, but mostly because of fear (more about that in a little bit). But with how Team SPI has come together, and how tight the SPI community has become, now feels like the right time. There’s also the fact that I just had my ten-year anniversary of being an entrepreneur, so an event like FlynnCON1 feels like a great way to mark that milestone. Plus, I’d be lying if I told you people haven’t been dropping hints for a long time—subtle and not-so-subtle—that I should put on my own event.

With Team SPI officially bringing its superpowers together this year, we’re super excited to focus on bigger and bolder projects that will make more of an impact for the SPI community. And what better way to do that than to gather people in a big, live event that’s unlike anything else out there?

What to Expect at FlynnCON1

So what can you expect at FlynnCON1? If we play our cards right, it’ll be an event you’ll be talking about for years afterward.

Less Can Be a Lot More

First off, FlynnCON1 will be big, but not overwhelming. It’s going to be a 500-person event. Keeping it to 500 people means we can serve a lot of people while also delivering the best value we can for everybody who’s attending.

And after speaking at over 100 events now, I have a good understanding of what makes an awesome, impactful event, one that’s memorable and fun and makes people want to return. I know, for example, that I don’t really enjoy events with dozens of speakers, especially when some of them are presenting simultaneously. Other people who attend these events also often tell me they have a hard time deciding who to listen to when sessions are stacked back to back like that. It can be draining.

That’s why one of my main goals for FlynnCON1 is to make a bigger impact with fewer things happening. I want people to be more inspired and ready to take action, instead of feeling overwhelmed and paralyzed by analyzing everything they’re learning and absorbing.

Where the Magic Is Going To Happen

Another thing I’ve learned and want to put into place with FlynnCON1 is that a lot of the magic happens offstage—in the halls, in conversations, during lunch . . . which is why we’re leaving lots of room in the agenda for networking and community building. Some of that will be facilitated, while some of it will just happen naturally.

Speaking of magic, we’re also doing a lot of fun things to make FlynnCON1 unique, and one is the SmartBar. We’re working closely with a few of the event’s biggest sponsors—ConvertKit, Buzzsprout, and Teachable—to set up booths that will serve as help desks, kind of like Apple’s Genius Bar. These sponsors won’t be there to to sell you things (although you will be able to purchase their services or products), but to help you get started and answer questions you have about email, podcasting, and creating online courses.

It’s For Kids Too

Finally, I really want to make sure FlynnCON1 will be something kids and younger people will enjoy. That’s why it’ll be a family-friendly event, meaning there will be no swearing from the stage (just like my podcasts) and no alcohol at the event sessions.

But beyond that, it also means there will be content that’s relevant for kids. Eva Baker from The Teenpreneur Conference held each year in Florida will be coming in to facilitate talks just for the kids and teens in the room. At one point each day of FlynnCON1, the kids will move from the main hall and join Eva in a breakout session where she’ll teach them important things like budgeting, entrepreneurial strategies, and people skills.

We’re really excited about the kid/teen portions of the event, and I imagine that at future FlynnCONs this aspect will be even bigger. It’s a huge ongoing focus for me to help kids and teens learn entrepreneurship in fun and exciting ways that will help shape their lives and the lives of those they might affect through their work. Whether a kid becomes an entrepreneur or not, the life skills they develop as they learn entrepreneurship can be massively helpful.

So those are a few of the cool details to expect—and there will be a lot more. Putting together this event so far has also been a huge learning experience for the team. Here are the biggest lessons we’ve learned so far.

Lessons Learned in Building a Conference (So Far)

As this is our first experience, we’ve been making a lot really important decisions we didn’t know we’d need to make. We’re also learning a heck of a lot. Here are the five most important takeaways.

1. It’s A Lot of Work

Putting together a conference is a ton of work. It takes the whole team to make this happen. From managing registration, to the stage design, artwork, content, the agenda, coordinating volunteers, figuring out hotel blocks . . . there are so many things to think about.

It’s overwhelming, and we’re lucky to be working with Christy Burch, our event producer who has a lot of experience and is making sure we fill all the gaps.

In large part thanks to Christy, we’re on or ahead of schedule for almost all of the big, important stuff: things like finding sponsors, pre-selling tickets, getting the content and marketing squared away, nailing down the hotel and audio-visual needs, and everything else that goes into creating an event of this magnitude. There will no doubt be surprises to deal with as we get closer to the event, but we’re in a pretty good spot, all things considered.

2: You Don’t Have to Have All the Details in Place Right Away—But It Helps

With FlynnCON1, we started selling tickets before we even had the venue nailed down. And—this was really cool to see—we were able to sell 25 percent of the tickets off the bat without including logistic details, which speaks highly of the SPI community and their interest in an experience like this.

We also wanted to have it in San Diego in the summer, not just because it’s my hometown, but also because it’s also a destination city that’s great for a family vacation. Whether people choose to come alone or want to bring the whole family, we wanted it to be great for everyone. Plus, a lot of people have told us they love that it’s happening in the summer—because most other events avoid the summer, and we wanted to break the mold.

So that’s all great. But knowing precisely where the event is going to take place when you buy your ticket helps you plan ahead, and that’s where we fell short a bit. This isn’t just a live event people can tune into easily from the comfort of their homes. They have to buy plane tickets, get a place to stay, and maybe even coordinate a vacation around all of it. We’ve fielded a lot more questions than we anticipated about the venue and location from people who wanted to be able to make plans well in advance.

That’s why now we’re more aware of the need to have these details available as soon as we announce the event. We’ll definitely be better about letting people in on the details when FlynnCON2 rolls around.

3. The Venue: Someone Else’s Place = Someone Else’s Rules

Number three is the venue. If you choose to have your event at a hotel—like we did—the hotel commands a lot of what happens, from pricing, to how many rooms you need to reserve for attendees, to how you use the space.

One big thing we learned is that if you don’t sell out your reserved room block, you still have to pay for the rooms! But at the same time, it’s hard to estimate how many rooms you’ll actually need. Say you’re expecting 500 attendees at your event (like we will at FlynnCON1). Booking a block of 500 rooms doesn’t make sense, because some attendees already live in town, some will be staying with a friend, and others will be staying at Airbnbs. So guessing the right number is not an exact science. We spent a lot of time coming up with the right number for FlynnCON1, and we asked for input from people with event experience. Hopefully we guessed right!

Also, the hotel’s options for food and beverages are limited—and pricey. I wanted to have breakfast for everybody paid for, but at the hotel that would have cost us $40 to $50 a head, each day. When I first heard that I thought, “What the heck? I can get a gourmet breakfast burrito for everybody for $7 from an amazing place.” But we’re playing in somebody else’s sandbox, so we have to play by their rules, and we opted out of breakfast this time around.

Finally, there are also a lot of rules and limitations for all the rooms and areas in the hotel you’re planning to use for your event. You can’t just have your run of the place. This makes complete sense, but it’s also another layer think about and work around as you’re planning.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m really excited about the venue we chose and I think it’s going to be great. But ideally in the future, I’d love to have our own space that we have full control over.

4. Getting the Price Right and Keeping Costs Sane

A lot of money goes into creating an event like this, which is why it’s not a $50 price point. But since the event is geared toward entrepreneurs who are just starting out, or those who have recently started and are looking to grow their businesses, we wanted to be careful not to price people out either. So it was a bit of a challenge to define a price point that made sense for our budget, our attendees, and the experience we want to create at the event.

The other big challenge has been that as a visionary, I want all the things. I want FlynnCON1 to be the most amazing event ever—everything from indoor fireworks, to celebrity ushers, to other things that are obviously ridiculous. I like to think big. A little too big sometimes. And so I’m thankful that I have a team that can help bring me back down to earth. I’ve had a lot of ideas that we’ve had to put aside because we can’t afford them, they would require too many person hours to work out, or that just don’t make sense for this event.

In the process, I’ve learned a lot about what really matters and what doesn’t for an event like this. And one of my favorite parts of the whole process has been figuring out how to create small moments that don’t cost a lot of money to implement but will make a special, outsized impact on people who attend. I won’t give away any details here, but if you’re coming to FlynnCON1 I think you’re going to really appreciate all the little touches we’re putting in place for you.

5. The Fear Is Real

Then finally, the biggest thing is just how scared I am about putting on this event—more than I have been in a very long time, and maybe even since starting my business in 2008. But I like feeling scared about it, which tells me it’s the right time for this event to happen. (I guess I’m on a ten-year cadence for really scary things to happen.) I don’t have to do this, but I want to.

I also think it’s the right time for the community, especially with how the SPI community and brand have grown.

So, Join Us!

We’ll have a lot of surprises to share in July at FlynnCON1. I wish I could spend more time revealing those surprises, but I’d be letting down the attendees. We haven’t even announced who the speakers are going to be—and we’re not going to. You won’t know who they are until they’re introduced on stage. So if you want to find out, you’ll have to join us on this journey.

We’re putting a lot of love, time, care, and attention into FlynnCON1. It’s been a ton of fun building this event so far, and it’s going to be amazing. If you’re on the fence, we really hope you’ll join us when it all goes down this July 26 through 28 in San Diego. Tickets are already 80 percent sold (and maybe more by the time you read this). Plus, the price goes up February 1, which means now’s the time to grab your ticket! I promise it’s going to be a blast—and will inspire and educate you in new, lasting ways.


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