There’s no denying that the greatest gift blogging has given me is a community of friends around the world with whom I cross paths often. Kelly Lewis is one such comrade; we go back so many years, I’m not even sure how we first came to know one another, but she’s a fellow journalist and blogger who founded (and self-funded) the guidebook company Go! Girl Guides, also sailed on Semester at Sea as communications coordinator, and now is at it again with a great new venture, Women’s Travel Fest, coming to New York City on March 8. Kelly was gracious enough to come to Nashville to speak at KEEN, and now that she’s on the other side of the event-planning process, I asked her to give us a peek into her day.
The Women’s Travel Fest is also an offshoot of my first company, Go! Girl Guides, which publishes travel guidebooks for women. I could talk on and on about travel and guidebooks, but you’re here because you want to know how to organize a giant festival (something our dear host Kristin knows about firsthand).
So, what does a typical day look like?
9am: Rise & Shine. Since it’s physically impossible for me to function before 9am, this is my wake up call. And, 9 a.m. is when my phone starts dinging with emails, which forces me to get up and at ‘em!
10am: Breakfast & Emails. My daily routine almost always starts out with a whole lot of emailing and social media. I make a breakfast—usually half of an English muffin with some peanut butter, my secret obsession, and a banana—and I eat it while creating my Spotify playlist for the day. Then I get busy. There are a ton of things that go into planning a festival: from venue hunting, to finding sponsors, to advertising, social media, finding vendors and, of course, selling tickets! We’ve already secured our venue, which takes one thing off the plate. But there’s so much more!
11am: Working with Speakers. The first thing we did when we started the Women’s Travel Fest was find speakers who could help us with our mission: to inspire, empower and help women make newfound travel connections. This year, our keynotes include Travel Channel’s Samantha Brown, Fluenz founder Sonia Gil, and activist and author Sarah Shourd, plus many more! All of our speakers are incredible, and I’m so honored to work with them!
12pm: Focus on the Venue. Since we’ve secured the venue (which is amazing, btw), now I have to shift attention to how I’m going to fill it, create a stage, work with sound and AV, set up a step-and-repeat, and much, much more. This requires a lot of emailing and the occasional visit to the venue to double-check things.
1pm: Plan the Party. No celebration would be complete without a party (or two, or three) so at this point in my day I shift focus to the pre-party we’d like to have. Where do we host it? Who will sponsor it? Will it be free? Will we advertise it as part of the event? These are all questions I’m asking myself right now.
2pm: Advertising. How do you spread the word with a limited budget? To start, I emailed every lady-blogging friend I had to ask them for help. Then I sent out newsletters as part of Go! Girl Guides and bumped up our social media. Then, I started optioning advertising you have to pay for: Facebook & Twitter ads, advertising in the subways of NYC, and in student newspapers. I make a lot of calls and emails to advertisers about rates, make spreadsheets to keep track of them all, talk to my co-directors about their thoughts, and make some tough decisions. It’s undoubtedly the hardest part of my day.
3pm: Blogging. I’m also a freelance writer, and the EIC of GoGirlGuides.com, so now I shift back to blogging, scheduling and organizing. What posts will I write this week and on what platforms? How will that help the festival? What are we posting this week on our website? What photos or collages do I need to create to accompany them? I try to pre-schedule as many posts on GoGirlGuides.com as I can, but I can usually only get through two or three.
4pm: The Nitty-Gritty. After that, I focus back on the nitty-gritty details of the festival. I send emails to companies to find stuffers for our goodie-bags, to secure a photographer on site, to secure someone else to run AV, to find sponsors for lunch. Last week I emailed every single tourism board in the world. No joke!
5pm: Scheduling Social Media. At this point, I take an hour or so to schedule out our social media for the next day. I work on Bufferapp.com, which has kind of changed my life and allows me to schedule as many Tweets or Facebook posts as I want throughout the day. Right now we’re averaging about 20 tweets per day, and this app makes my life much easier!
6pm: Tying Up Loose Ends. I try as much as possible to finish working around 7pm, but that’s not always possible. So at 6, I start making dinner (and maybe a cocktail) and take some downtime, because I know my phone will keep dinging with emails, and I know I’ll keep responding until I pass out in the middle of my last email. HA!
There you have it folks. Granted, things change all the time when you organize a giant festival. I spend half of my day being proactive and making things happen and the other half running defense for all that can and does go wrong.
But it’s so fun, and I get to meet incredible women! And talk about traveling! I feel so lucky to be doing what I’m doing every day. I hope you can join us at the Women’s Travel Fest on March 8 in NYC. It would be so great to meet you!!
Thanks to Kelly for the insight, and hat tip for such a major feat! Organizing a major conference or festival is no small task, I can vouch for that firsthand. Admission is just $75 a pop, and let me just reinforce that the speaker list is amazing, from Travel Channel’s Samantha Brown to Sonia Gil to Sarah Shourd (one of the trio of Americans taken into custody by Iranian border guards). Get your tickets while you still can—the venue only accommodates 400 people, so once tickets are gone, there’s no sneaking in!—and live Tweet and Instagram the event so I can live vicariously through you from afar!