One of the reasons the Star Wars stories and saga has endured so well over the years is the expert way in which George Lucas intertwined a hero’s journey alongside space ships and laser battles. Joseph Campbell popularized the concept in his 1949 work, “The Hero with a Thousand Faces.”
Simply put, the journey is one in which, over the course of the story, the hero goes on an adventure, wins a battle or crisis, and returns home transformed. While most of us would prefer not to be thrust into an adventure and battle with stormtroopers and lightsaber-wielding operatic cape-wearing villains, that’s exactly what made Luke Skywalker so relatable in Star Wars.
Living on a farm in the middle of nowhere with his simple and uncomplicated aunt and uncle, Luke dreams of going off on adventures with his friends and leaving that life, that existence based on other people’s dreams, behind.
We will come back to the concept of the hero’s journey in a future episode as it relates to your audience and the people who are showing up to your events, looking to be transformed. For now, though, I want to hone in on Luke and, specifically, some of the things he said and did early on that were telling.
When we first meet Luke, he’s building a case to his uncle that he’s no longer needed on the farm and should be able to go the academy and join his friends in the Rebellion. In a scene that was later cut from the film, we actually saw Luke talking to his friends at Tasche station and learned how he’s spent time practicing shooting and piloting, even though his job is to help maintain the vaporizers on the moisture farm.
And yet, when Obi Wan Kenobi meets Luke and invites him to do exactly what he says he’s always wanted, join the Rebellion and fight, he refuses. Luke says he can’t possibly leave his aunt and uncle.
He felt conflicted. Part of him wanted one set of goals that were aspirational and motivating, yet another part of him wanted to do what was safe and familiar.
Have you ever been of two minds on something? Perhaps part of you wanted to take on a big challenge… maybe even organize a virtual summit! Yet part of you wanted to play it safe and stick with strategies or goals that were… “more realistic.”
In Luke’s case, he was unfocused. He wasn’t concentrating on his day to day responsibilities sufficiently to be good at them, nor was he doing what he actually needed to do in order to achieve his dreams and ambitions.
Years later, Jedi Master Yoda would describe Luke perfectly when he said, “This one a long time have I watched. All his life has he looked away… to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing. Hmph! Adventure. Heh! Excitement. Heh! A Jedi craves not these things.”
What Luke lacked, initially, and then later found as part of his transformation, was his purpose. His Why.
Yes, he learned impressive new skills and fostered extremely valuable relationships, all while gaining tremendous experience… but if that was the sum and total of his transformation, his story would have ended with him back home on Tatooine. Instead, his story and journey continued long after that initial confrontation.
Just like you will continue to run and host and succeed with virtual events, again and again.
But in order for that to be true, you have to discover your Why, too, don’t you?
Why are you planning to host a virtual event? What do you hope to accomplish? Who are you hoping to reach?
While most of us might quickly answer something like sales or leads, that’s too superficial of an answer to be meaningful. You can run ads to get leads. You can hire SDRs to generate sales. Why a virtual event?
What, specifically, do you want?
This is an important thought exercise that I walk my clients through, sometimes taking an hour or more just to pull this apart, because it’s a critical first step toward assembling a successful virtual event strategy.
I talked in the introductory episode for The Virtual Event Strategist Podcast about how, if you were going to drive to a new restaurant, your strategy would be to open Google Maps, tap in the address, and learn how far away it was and the best route to get there.
But what if you opened your Google Maps app and had no reason to do so. No Why. How would you get to your destination if you didn’t know why you were looking for directions in the first place?
When I started organizing virtual summits for Agorapulse in 2018 and 2019, like many of you, I was doing it to generate leads. I assembled experts in online marketing, scheduled sessions, and promoted the event. And I watched as thousands of people registered.
Were those leads?
No. They weren’t. Those were registrants. Because I hadn’t thought through the Why for my virtual event, and as a part of that, the Who that I was attempting to reach, I was unfocused in my goals and unfocused in my event.
I hadn’t identified what I was truly trying to accomplish – which might have been attracting qualified leads from marketing agencies and mid-market businesses who need the services of a social media management platform like Agorapulse. So I hadn’t thought through what I needed to do or organize to achieve that outcome. Sure, luckily, there certainly were registrants of even those early events that went on to become leads and customers, but there I was, accepting topic and session ideas from whoever I knew in the space, about whatever they wanted to talk about. There was no plan, no strategy.
Virtual event planning really boils down to thinking through what you want to accomplish, specifically, and putting together a strategy that actually sets out to achieve that outcome.
So we start by determining what it is that you want, specifically, and the next determination is where are you at now? At what point in the planning and determination phase are you? Is this just an idea you’ve had, a task you’ve been given, or have a set of details been determined?
Keep in mind that, as you work through this process of determining your Why, the reason for asking the questions and noting the responses is simple: at certain points you’re going to land on answers and information that your unconscious mind has been holding onto, but that your conscious mind had not seen written out on paper in that way.
At some point in this process, there will be an eye-opening moment and a revelation that will help you achieve the focus you need to be the achiever you are meant to be.
Next, think about the outcome that you want to achieve as a result of hosting your virtual event and describe to yourself what that achievement actually looks like. How will you know when you’ve got it?
And when you achieve that result, what will it get for you or allow you to do? Consider how that would impact your business, and your capability to replicate and scale the virtual event strategy you’ve now developed.
I mentioned a moment ago that it’s important to think about who you’re hoping to reach and target with your event. Similarly, think about the resources you have at your disposal.
Have you ever done this before?
Do you know anyone who has?
Many first-time virtual event hosts and producers feel isolated and understaffed. They start to think about the sheer volume of tasks that have to be done between now and event day, and they feel overwhelmed. They’re staring at some pretty big, hairy, audacious goals, and they’re not sure where to even begin.
It helps if you have some experience that you can apply. Perhaps you’ve run some events in the past or maybe just some live streaming video. Certainly you’ve been to other people’s virtual events and can recall what those looked and felt like!
And it helps to think about who else we might know that has relevant experience. Start with the people on your team, and then branch out to colleagues in the industry and virtual event strategists and consultants in general. Who can you talk to who has organized virtual events in the past and achieved the kinds of outcomes you’re envisioning? Write down all of those names as potential resources and make sure you have built trusting relationships with each of them.
There are resources in relationships.
In the case of Luke Skywalker, he leaned first on Obi Wan Kenobi, then Yoda, as mentors and guides that helped him find his purpose and achieve real focus in his work.
Finally, it’s helpful to think through the purpose for your purpose. In other words, ask yourself these questions:
What will happen if you achieve your outcome?
What won’t happen if you achieve it?
What will happen if you don’t achieve your outcome?
What won’t happen if you don’t achieve it?
Answering these questions will bring clarity to not only what you want to achieve, but how important it is and what the ramifications might be for that initiative, one way or the other. And this is obviously a goal setting exercise that you can utilize for far more than just a virtual event strategy.
Over the next few episodes, a series on Virtual Event Strategy, we’re going to talk even more about these concerns of having goals that are seemingly unattainable, feeling overwhelmed, and feeling isolated. I’m going to offer you strategies to combat those feelings and you will have all of the information you need to confidently decide upon a direction for your next virtual event.
Having your Why in place is the start. Listen to this episode again and think through the questions I asked. Write down those answers. Share them with me on Twitter if you’d like! I’d love to know why you’re planning a virtual event and what you have in mind for it.
Be sure to subscribe to The Virtual Event Strategist Podcast so that you can come along with me and we can be on this journey together.
We’ll talk again soon.