Brendan Elias made a living running in-person events on importing. COVID changed all that. Adapting to the world situation, he switched to Zoom events, and soon became as successful as he had been with the in-person model.
In his first ever podcast guesting, Brendan shares the story of his transition, the lessons he learned, and insights for anyone looking to make the same leap from in-person to virtual presenting.
In the interview:
01:25 – An eight-year vision realized. James achieves his primary vision.
09:51 – The A to Z of Brendan’s business. This is how our guest helps people.
11:57 – How 2020 changed things. March of that year marked the start of different.
13:53 – From in-person to online, and the lessons learned. Brendan shares his challenging switch to virtual events.
17:40 – The probable future of live events. Where do our two experts see this trend going?
20:29 – Can you have the best of both worlds? Why the hybrid model won’t work.
21:37 – Some practical realities of virtual events. They’re not without hitches.
27:38 – More convenience, less drama. This is what’s great about an online event.
32:15 – What the audience really wants. Are you working off your own beliefs?
34:58 – For your next online product presentation… Some advice from a pro.
40:40 – What kind of crew should you have? When it’s not a one-man show….
46:55 – Achieving connection in a virtual setting. On-screen engagement is possible!
Today’s episode is an auspicious one for our guest, who specifically requested episode triple eight for his SuperFastBusiness appearance.
Brendan Elias’s dad was born in Singapore and experienced the Japanese internment camp as a child. While there, he learned four dialects of Chinese, and sang in Japanese for the soldiers, who gave him cigarettes which he’d trade for food. In the 70’s he returned to Australia, but retained that connection with China and the lucky number eight.
Brendan himself always considered eight a lucky digit. His first car had multiple eights on the number plate, and his dad’s birthday was the eighth of February.
An eight-year vision realized
Before diving into the episode, Brendan wants to acknowledge a milestone of James’s, achieved in, no less, his eighth year of surfing. After much time and effort, James has nailed his first barrel.
For those unfamiliar with surfing, getting barreled is riding so deep into a wave that it throws over you, giving you shelter.
The day of James’s barrel started out freezing cold. He jumped into a place called the boiling pot, really just for advanced surfers. He ducked seven or eight waves and was swept back to the beach. He tried again at an easier spot, but the few waves there already had three or four other people on them.
By now he was tired. But he went back in, and this time went wide. He found himself sitting by himself, and recalled an episode of 100-Foot Wave he’d seen on HBO, where they talked about visualization, and the wave coming to them.
I want the wave to come to me, thought James. On the horizon a big, black set of waves appeared, obviously too big for the people on the inside. James paddled to meet it, got onto the wave, and stood up. It was a monster, well overhead, and he went screaming down the wave, the fastest he’d ever been on a surfboard.
Towards the end, he saw the wave come over his head, and a curtain formed. It raced along and in front of him, and he was looking at this little hole.
Then the whole thing exploded around him, and he popped up. James checked his watch. He’d clocked a speed of 35.9 kilometers an hour on that wave. And it went for 340 meters.
Today Noosa, says Brendan, tomorrow Nazare.
Well, no, says James. He’s happy just to be able to tick that box. Everything around his life had been designed for that moment, and it’s why he does what he does, the podcasts and the coaching. He wants people to be able to design their life around doing things that make them happy, and have the business to fuel that. That’s why he has a free course up on SuperFastResults.com, Lifestyle Secrets of a Seven-Figure Daily Surfer.
The A to Z of Brendan’s business
But enough about him, says James. Brendan also helps people, specifically to import things.
Initially, it was from China to other markets, where they’d sell it on their own store or on Amazon, and make a profit. Brendan teaches product selection, where and how much to buy, logistics, everything down to product shots and how to follow up with the next range of products. And he’s done it for some time.
Brendan started in law school, he says. In 2008, he put a video up on YouTube that went nuts. Then in 2009, he put on a seminar in the Medina hotel in Sydney, a 50-seat setting at which 150 showed up. He’s now done roughly 500 seminars on almost every continent, and it’s been fun.
How 2020 changed things
It was at James’s last event, in March 2020, that COVID became of worldwide significance. James remembers telling Brendan, This is huge. This will mean you can’t do what you do right now, the way you do it. He remembers Brendan being a bit shocked.
But since then, he thinks, of all the people he knows, Brendan has been the most successful at mastering the online format for what he does, the way he does it. James has been there to see it happen, and he knows there were some dark spots along the way, because obviously, it’s not a change one can make instantly.
From in-person to online, and the lessons learned
What are the main insights Brendan’s gleaned from the transition?
It started with denial, says Brendan, and his business did take a hit. Flights were out, and running a room with more than five people in it was out. Their cost structure just wouldn’t work.
But Brendan knew he could run events, and do them well. And he loved doing them, and his attendees and students loved them too. And then Zoom was taking off. It seemed to scream at him, Zoom, Zoom, Zoom.
Online was an obvious move, but it terrified Brendan. And so his first insight was, it’s often that dark place where you’re afraid to look under the bed, right? The biggest value, that’s where the chest of value and treasure is.
The biggest insight was that you can actually move from in-person to virtual. And despite Brendan’s initial fears, it actually performed better on virtually any measurable metric.
Students can come and go as they please. There’s no flying anywhere, no expensive parking, no commute factor.
So first, it works better. And second, it’s better for the student, client, attendee. And the heart factor, the ability to reach out and touch someone, to convince them a program is worth $500 or upwards, which really concerned Brendan at first, actually worked better.
The probable future of live events
James wonders if someone can network or grow in a virtual-only environment from today.
A hundred percent, says Brendan. He never thought he’d say it, but you don’t need live input. And this is coming from an extremely social person.
Where does he think the place will be for in-person events when they’re achievable?
He reckons they’re for camaraderie, and for community.
Bonding, masterminding, says James.
From an organizer’s viewpoint, a live event can be exhausting. James has designed his life around a 15-hour week. So when you jam 15 or 20 hours’ worth of compacted experience into two days, it’s intense, and a lot of work to run. But his yearly event was also the glue that bonded his community. So he’s sure there will be a place for it again, one day.
Brendan’s prediction is that it’s moved to Zoom and virtual, and it will go that way, just like people working from home.
James thinks people are hungry for in-person.
Brendan thinks people who did those events a hundred percent will now find it a relatively equal split between in-person and virtual.
Can you have the best of both worlds?
It seems logical, says James, if you’re doing in-person, to do all of the streaming options as well and to involve people instead of now doing it in Zoom. You might do it in a venue with a local audience, but with a far greater external audience.
Brendan will disagree. You can’t dance at two weddings at the same time, he says. He’s tried it both ways. If you have a live audience while you’re streaming or you’re streaming with a live audience, you have to be focused, because each medium has its own nuances.
For example, you might say, put your hands up like this, but in virtual, it might be, click the button, or type in yes or awesome into the chat bar. You can’t really be doing that, he says. It’s schizophrenic. Your audience have turned up for you, so you need to be giving them everything you’ve got and focus on them. And if you’re trying to serve this audience and that audience, you end up really trying to please everyone.
So it’s ideally either physical-only, not streamed, or streamed-only, not physical.
James likes it. It does make sense the way Brendan says it. And because Brendan’s done both at a deep level, he understands it.
Some practical realities of online streaming
Brendan has spoken, says James, about the infrastructure needed to put on a proper streaming event. What choices has he had to make, and how did he feel about them in hindsight?
Firstly, Brendan’s prediction was that he’d save a lot of money. Bust cost-wise, really, all you save on is the room hire, food, flights and accommodation for speakers. You might think you’ll save on equipment. But minus a lot of the lighting and the expensive audio, says Brendan, you still need a tech person who’s there the whole time. And you want to get someone whose job or experience it is to run virtual events.
So what he’s saying, says James, is don’t skimp on the same production values that you would have in a proper event for your online event.
They also had the discussion of whether to hire a venue or a studio, or to do the event from home.
Brendan had the experience of running a webinar from a co-working space. He’d been living between Germany and Australia, was in Australia, and din’t have his permanent setup. He’d spent tens of thousand dollars on advertising for this webinar, and it was a big launch. At 40 minutes, just when he was outlining his offer, the internet died. Apparently the connection was free for 40 minutes, after which it cut out.
After that trauma, Brendan got the beefiest internet possible for his online events. A hundred and fifty bucks a month, 1000 download, 50 upload for his primary. His backup is a 5G modem, and his backup backup is another one.
“It’s the content and the interaction that really matter.”
Now some people worry about the background. It’s the content and the interaction that really matter, says Brendan. People tend to focus on the wrong things.
More convenience, less drama
In terms of convenience, people don’t talk about marketing stamina enough. If a campaign is too exhausting, you don’t want to run it.
James deliberately avoid launches, and doesn’t run a lot of events. He celebrates lack of drama. Many other people have high-leveraged, performance-oriented business models that detonate easily. He’s got a diesel locomotive that can run for a decade.
Virtual events are definitely less difficult and dramatic than in-person, says Brendan. With a couple of hours to spare before his presentation, he can catch some z’s in his own bed, on his own pillows, while the tech team are in his living room, and people enter and exit the apartment.
What the audience really wants
Brendan thinks we make assumptions about what we think the audience wants based on our own beliefs. And really, all they want is to learn the content that they’re after, and get an improvement in their life. So the time you’re with them should hit as many different information points as possible in the best possible way to get them closer to the goal as quickly as possible. That should be the only goal.
And does he think there’s a limit, asks James? Like, for example, he’s heard people say, in a good training, there might be just two or three points, or even one point, that you really need someone to know and to believe, before they can buy.
Yeah, says Brendan, you definitely want to make sure you don’t overload people with too much information.
“Deliver the least amount of content possible to strike a balance between comprehension, desire and empowerment.”
We all do that when we start out, says James. The secret is really to deliver the least amount of info possible, so that there’s a balance between comprehension, desire, and empowerment. But it’s lovely to hear Brendan say that really, the whole purpose is for someone to have a better result.
And understand, says Brendan, 90 percent of the people you talk to won’t continue with you down your path, and that will be the only experience they have with you. Ten percent will continue. And based on your sales and marketing, those numbers can be increased or decreased. So you just want to make sure that the people who are there have inspiration. That’s really it. Your job is to inspire.
For your next online product presentation…
Having done so many presentations both online and off, what would be Brendan’s advice for someone preparing to present for their product? Say someone’s already sold something for a couple of hundred or a few thousand dollars. And they’ve got a qualified audience of people they want to go and offer a higher-ticket program to by application.
The minimum amount of time, if you’re going to be selling in person at the event, says Brendan, is three days. If you’re going to do it via an application process, then you can do it in two days. That’s his preference, because it would be a Saturday and Sunday. He likes to go in the morning from around 9:30am till about 5pm, and the same for the next day.
Then on the evening of the first event of the first day, he suggests a Q&A session that goes to 90 minutes, where people can ask their own questions, because they need that bit of interaction. You have your lunch breaks, as well, 45 minutes each, and three or four 15-minute breaks, recesses. That’s your structure.
Each content page should be about an hour to two hours, depending on the speaker. It’s okay for someone to do a presentation, have a break, and then come back and do the rest. That’s your content, your overall skeleton.
“You don’t earn the right to offer anything until you’ve actually delivered value.”
In terms of the meat, it’s very important you understand that people walk into that two-day event or three-day event assuming you’ll try to sell them something expensive that maybe they don’t need, using clever salesmanship and razzle dazzle. You need to flip that on its head. To do that, you just focus on all of the content, and leave the marketing and the sale to the side. You don’t earn the right to offer anything until you’ve actually delivered value.
Brendan literally waits till the end of the first day before he even mentions the offer. And that’s quite refreshing to people. And if you count the 17 hours of his event, there’s 20 minutes of what you would call inverted comma pitching. That’s it.
What kind of crew should you have?
Now you need a crew to do online events professionally.
Firstly, Brendan has someone to call every person who registered and tell them what they can expect at the event, but also telling them that if they have a partner that might be involved in any decision to do the business, that that partner attends, because that’s going to be very important when you actually have a conversation about joining a program later on.
They also talk about the bonuses attendees will get at the event, and the importance of being on time, getting a babysitter if needed, because this will be the only chance they get to interact with the attendee.
You want to do this maybe seven days out. And Brendan has seen a high correlation between the people they speak to at the start and those who actually join the program.
A virtual team works fine for this, as long as they have good pronunciation and speak English well.
Other members, you’ll need a moderator, an actual Zoom manager, and you’ll need a tech person. And Brendan also likes to have one person manning the chat.
How to manage the speakers
Then you’ll want as many speakers as you need to cover the content. Brendan will typically speak for about under 40 percent of the entire speaking for the event.
One thing which is very, very beneficial, he says, is to make sure you’ve watched the speaker presentations before they actually deliver them.
James always wants to see his speakers’ slides. And one thing he does, which is huge, is he surveys his audience before the event. He finds out what question they would ask Brendan, if Brendan’s speaking, and he gives the information to his presenters: Here’s who’s coming to the event, this is what they want to know, this is what businesses they have, this is where their revenue levels are at. These are the questions they want to ask you. And then he looks at their presentations, so that everything is cohesive.
When speakers do come up with a counter narrative to James’s own philosophy, he’s seen it and heard it. So he’s able to then give people a different perspective if it’s required.
Achieving connection in a virtual setting
One of Brendan’s fears, going online, was that he wouldn’t be able to connect with people so they would feel he really believed in what he was offering.
What you do, he discovered, is go back to your offer and think, how can I make this so awesome, so amazing with so many things that no one else is offering? How can I give that to them? And that usually translates to more one-on-one attention than anyone else is prepared to give.
And while he presents, does he have the other participants on a screen, asks James?
There’ll be one screen split four ways, says Brendan. In top right is his presentation, bottom left a timer, and top left and bottom right will contain the participants. And the sweet spot, he says, is at least 50 participants, because then enough people will typically have their camera on for you to interact with them.
How many people does he get on these calls?
It’s ranged from 80 to around 160, quite manageable.
Some final things worth knowing
What things surprised Brendan, that he thinks is essential to know about online events?
“People stay, they don’t leave if you’ve got good content.”
Firstly, he says, people stay. They don’t leave if you’ve got good content. That surprised him, how well it works.
The second thing is, make sure you have the best possible offer that you can possibly imagine, to the point where there’s nothing else you could add. If you do that, then something in your mind quiets down. And then you find, when you’re actually doing the offer part, it’s like an energy just comes through you, because you’re excited for your audience.
One thing Brendan got from James: if you feel an offer is not a good fit either for you or the prospect, don’t offer the opportunity to work together, because it won’t help them. Conversely, if you feel it’s a good fit and they’ll actually execute and be better off, you can move forward.
That’s it, says James. Better off or not better off? And never, ever take a client who won’t be better off, and life will be drama-free.
If you want more from Brendan, head over to atozformula.com/podcast. You’ll find a lot of cool stuff.
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