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Come on in to the Club of determined people who put on seemingly impossible experiences. May you feel right at home here with your exhilarated feeling about bringing your event to life, your ferocious desire to have it succeed, that far away sense that this is madness, and that sincere knowing that it is indeed possible and important. Grab a cuppa, have a seat, and take some notes. This was written to complement your efforts – your hustling, long days, cajoling, patience, strength, resilience and leadership – and to keep you continually winning.

Startup Tips for Creating (Seemingly Impossible) International Events

Here are my top tips from directing two Do Lectures experiences in Australia in 2014 and 2015, attending Do in Wales in 2011, volunteering in 2012 and 2013, as well as directing various experiences over the past few decades ~

1. Get clear early.

Are you creating a one-time event or an event that will happen again?

When designing The DO Lectures Australia, Kaj Löfgren of Small Giants gave us great advice – to the effect of:

‘We know you’ll smash this event outta the park!
Before you start, work out how you’re going to make it sustainable’.

There are too many burn-out stories so be kind to yourself and balance planning, instinct, personal risk and drive. Work out:

  • your business model, your funding and how to minimise your financial risk,
  • how you’ll attract people and sales (now and in the future),
  • how you’ll do your marketing and sales and the influencers (of your target customers that) you’ll involve,
  • the work effort required (and double it) and who’s doing what,
  • how to protect the wellbeing of each, important individual on the team,
  • how much time you can dedicate, and
  • other aspects that are instinctively important to you (trust your gut).


2. Setup a company structure that works for you.

if you’re putting in the majority of hours, set up the best trading entity for YOU. Be strong. Even if you’re wanting to be collaborative and involve your team.

Imagine all of the extra hours you’ll naturally put in, the challenging decisions you’ll make as a leader, how you’ll uphold the vision in many small decisions, potential financial stresses, the financial and ‘personal brand’ risks, the surprises you’ll manage, the email workload,…

With those in mind, get a lawyer to help you find the best structure that:

a) allows your team to gain payment for the value they’re providing.

b) allows you to be remunerated.

c) protects your vision from the start – especially before the wider team have a deep knowledge of it – and protects you from being outed.

d) allows you to make the final decisions (one person who holds the vision rather than a committee) so that you can keep moving fast, making decisions quickly, and trusting your instinct.

e) has you personally owning a business asset that you have built with your extra efforts (this is a wonderful gift to yourself after the event).

Get a mentor involved if you think these points aren’t important. Choose someone who has run businesses or events. Ask them play devil’s advocate and to protect your interests – especially as you may (for great reasons) be seeing all the positives right now. If you’re offering your time for free and you’re creating more than one event, this is especially important.

With the best structure in place to support you, in the long term it helps the event, the recipients, the team, and stakeholders.

Big thanks to Trevor Jeffords who gave us insight on structures and to Adam and Bec Rozencwajg for the numerous startup administration activities that were quietly and excitedly DOne 🙂


3. Engage Advisors.

In areas of low or no experience, get a mentor or paid advisor who has been through it many times. Pay them if you can. If you can’t and you need them stop everything until you have budget or can persuade them to work with you pro-bono (strive to find budget in the future to remunerate their involvement).

Find someone independent of your team, who will check activities in a disciplined and thorough way.

Meet them – without fail – monthly.

Keep these meetings focused and prepare for them.

We gained regular advice and insight from Naomi Dyer, and invaluable advice from Events Senior Producer Tanya Singleton and Lisa-Jane Bell


4. Get Lots of Funding.

Yep, we all know this is true!

Get more than you think you need. Work out what you need, note everyone who you’re not (yet) planning to pay, remember insurances, contingency (we aimed for 20%), ticket refunds, and other unexpected costs, and if at all possible, double your funding goals so you can pay yourself, have room to create, respect/remunerate people for the value they provide and have backup for the next event, publicity, etc 😉

Kudos to Mel Jacobsen for running so fast with me and gracefully and co-creating the energy and spirit to gain our first partners.
Special acknowledgement to Berry, Small GiantsAndy Hedges, Steve Hopkins, and Jac Coates for being our first partners. You motivated and inspired us, perhaps more than you know.
hanks to all of the incredibly generous funding partners in 2014 and 2015 ~ you are marvellous.


5. Use Your Instinct to Find Partners.

Go for the big chunks funding and partnerships that’ll provide the big components of the event. Use your instinct and common sense to think of who’d gain loads of value and who you’d like to spend time with. Work out who knows you’ll create value – partners who’ll provide funding and let you get on with it, with limited need to report back / advertise their brands.

Allow a much smaller amount of time each week to contact smaller players (e.g. great shower products) so you get easy wins along the way to buoy you.

Cold call, email, do what it takes. Get others to advocate for you. Believe the unthinkable is possible.

Get to it! You can do it!

As I got into the flow, brands would pop to mind, I’d shoot off a quick email and often-times there’d be a yes. Having a standard email was great 🙂
Maddie Lucas, thanks for the laughs and the delightful treats. Thanks to the cheeky, friendly, generous in-kind partners in 2014 and 2015.

6. Encourage Influential People to Contribute.

If you know what you’re doing is incredible, find the most influential people for your target audience and get them involved from the start. Work smart!

Thank You and Well Done!

The DO lectures crew are here cheering you on.

Already we’re applauding all you’ve done in creating an event that’ll create amazing ripple effects.


Get in touch for further support.

~ Sam

Other posts in this series are here and this is why I do DO.

The Do Lectures Australia crew are currently enjoying other adventures and we’re starting to feel the pull to organise something that’s bonzer.


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