how to host

051 | CAROLIEN MERTENS | Hosting Your First Live Event

Carolien Mertens helps entrepreneurs and coaches create and sell out their dream live event, in-person mastermind or retreat. She is a contributor to major publications such as the Huffington Post and Thrive Global. She has organised over 100 events and welcomed more than 10000 participants. Among those participants were Heads of State, Royalty and celebrities. Her #1 priority is to give her clients the opportunity to focus and thrive on their in-person event through her signature flexible planning strategy and promotion, that ensures sold out events, smooth event flow & intense participant experience.


What got you into this? What do you really love about it?

  • Enrolled into event planning step by step (wasn’t planned). History major in university. Internship for an art auction house. Learned how to plan auctions, how to welcome guests, making sure everything went smooth.
  • After 2 years, started to work for a full time conference agency in Brussels. 1 year ago (2016), she decided to go freelance.
  • Now: Serving entrepreneurs and coaches all over the word. Living in Brussels.
  • Passionate about productivity (started reading productivity blogs. Book “I will teach you to be rich” by Ramit Sethi.)
  • Learned about online education world. Felt drawn to new way of doing business, learning, planning your life. Saw trend of online business and connecting with audience offline.
  • Saw the market. Dove in. Combined her personal passion with her skills.


What entrepreneurs have you worked with? What was the experience like to put the events together?

  • Smaller events: Cycle of group coachings. Everything has to go smooth and fit in with their day to day business planning.
  • Large corporations have different departments. Maybe in-house event planner. But entrepreneurs are smaller. The entrepreneur is the face of the event. Their clients are coming. Has to be authentic.
  • People have to have a great time, have to have the possibility to connect in person.
  • Large corporation’s employees are not as emotionally invested as an entrepreneur would be


What are the different steps / aspects to host a live event for approx 20-50 people?

  • Get clear on your vision (atmosphere, speakers, feeling of the event). Why do you want to host an event? What’s your reason? Have the attendees been following you? Have they worked with you?
  • Is it an event for clients? Do you want to promote a premium service? Do you want to step up as an expert in your field? Do you want to bring your community together face to face (connector)?
  • Logistics (where, when, for who)
  • How are you going to promote the event
  • Agenda of the event (content, line up of speakers)


Let’s say we are planning an event for 20 people to establish authority in market (visibility) and I have a vision board / feeling of what I want the event to be. What would be my next step?

  • Establish date(s)
  • Event season is early Sept to mid Nov (all conference rooms are booked)
  • Be creative on the venue
  • When are people able to travel (your attendees have to come to you). End of year or summer might not be the best dates
  • Is your preferred / dream venue available


What would be a good amount of prep time for an event (20 people)?

  • 3 months would be a comfortable timeline (clear on how you want the event to look, check out dates and venues, notify your audience and speaker list)
  • How do you stand out? What are some cool venue ideas that are a bit outside of the box (not a regular conference room)?
  • Air BnB
  • Cabin at the lake (isolate them from big city life. Let them experience an authentic 2 day retreat)
  • Ask your friends / existing network if they have a great summer house or a beautiful urban loft that you could use for a day


What is a good timeline for your first event? 3 days seem like a lot … Is 1 day enough?

  • You could even start with half a day
  • If you don’t have any help / support, even 1 full day can be a lot for you
  • You need to plan it out well
  • Ask friends to help you
  • Be clear on what the day is going to look like and you have to be comfortable with your content
  • You have to have time and space to welcome and connect with your participants (rather than
  • stressing out over logistics (catering, projector, fixing things, somebody running late, etc.))
  • You need to own your timeline
  • You need your energy to be up to deliver value to your participants
  • Don’t put pressure on yourself
  • What can you imagine doing? If 3 days seem too big, do less
  • Do a workshop (test run)


What are must haves (material, etc.) to keep people’s attention and make them feel welcome? 

  • Basic branding (signs/poster, worksheets) with your logo, etc.
  • Catering (free water, coffee, tea). Creates connections
  • Flowers / decoration add the personal touch
  • Objects from your home that you love to show your personality (makes the audience feel like they are in your room)


How do you actually get people to come to your event? How would you promote your event in an organic, heartfelt way in order to bring across your message and attract the right people?

  • Be authentic
  • Email your existing list
  • Post in your facebook group
  • Announce that something “special” is coming up to create suspense and build expectation
  • Reach out via personalized email (your guest list)
  • Offer a special bonus for everybody who brings a friend to the event (so your friends tap into their network)


What online program do you recommend to sell tickets?

  • Eventbrite: You can post for free. Ticket fee can be absorbed by you or your customer. You canembed the webpage / link to your website. You can send out invitations. You can share the event onsocial media. All in one service that is not too expensive.
  • Use your own CRM system
  • Samcart


What do you think about starting early (not after hitting 80’000 followers)? How about starting small and having photography and videography done and incorporating that into your website?

  • Absolutely! It’s a great marketing tool
  • Live testimonials for later use (easy: smartphone and selfie stick or tripod is all you need and your audience is already there, the room is beautiful and they are enthusiastic about what they just heard)
  • Livestream parts of the event in your facebook group
  • Think outside the box / reinvent yourself to optimize your image
  • Maximise your return by recording / photography / upselling





5 Crucial Steps to Planning A Wildly Successful, Profitable Live Event




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