This is a question we all ask when planning educational events. Though its common knowledge there is a huge need for financial education usually the people who need the information are not going to seek it out. One of the struggles many of our partners who serve adults face is getting people to attend their events. Financial Beginnings is fortunate we don’t need to recruit our audience because our classes are in the in schools or community groups where are audience is already gathered. They are stuck hearing form us if they want to or not.
Last week was Money Smart Week in Oregon. Financial Beginnings and Operation HOPE decided that we wanted to expend our efforts beyond our youth in school programs during Money Smart Week. I have always wanted to have an open forum for adults to be able to ask their questions regarding personal finance. With laws and industry norms changing so frequently in addition to money always being viewed as a taboo subject I thought people have a forum to where they can ask questions would be wonderful. Money Smart Week gave me the push I needed to finally organize one of these forums and we named it Unraveling the Mysteries of Your Money. You’d be surprised how long it took us to come up with the name.
At Portland State University we brought together experts within the financial industry including; Jim Hunt from OnPoint Community Credit Union, Michael Parker from the Oregon College Saving Plan, Nelson Rutherford from Alten, Sakai & Co, and Diane Childs and Fernando Velez from the Oregon Division of Finance and Corporate Securities. The moderator of the panel was Brent Hunsberger, It’s Only Money columnist for the Oregonian Newspaper. Brent’s diverse knowledge in personal finance combined with his reputation in the community really helped to bring exposure and credibility to this event. You would think that with this great group this would have been the hard part of my task, but this was easy.
The hard part was the promotion and getting people to come to the event. I hear it time and time again from event organizers that it is so hard to get people to come. Having the event be free may even make it more difficult in some respects because of the perceived value. If people pay for attendance to an event they may tie a higher value to it and may be more likely to attend.
As of the three days before the event we had less than 10 people registered to attend. My anxiety level was high and I was so worried I was going to waste the panel’s time because nobody would show up. So we marketed it hard. All of the panel members helped to promote the event. Brent wrote about it in the paper and Nick Allard from KGW brought us on the bricks to promote it. We ramped up our social media and contacted all of the business professors at Portland State.
The registrations started flooding in, we maxed out the registration. We even added more seats because our experience has shown that usually only 2/3 of those that register end up attending free events. Our predictions were correct and we ended up with about 2/3 of those who registered attending.
I was so pleasantly surprised by the diversity of the crowd and their eagerness to hear from the panel. We had several planned questions in case the audience did not have questions right away, but Brent was only able to get one of the planned questions out and the audience took over from there. I saw several individuals in the crowd filling out multiple pages of notes. When time ran out several audience members flocked the panel for additional questions. It was like they were rock stars.
Aspects I see attributing to the success of the event:
• Having Brent Hunsberger of the Oregonian as the moderator added a lot of credibility to the event and his writing about it gave the event more exposure.
• Holding the event at Portland State University also added credibility to the and highlighted the educational component of the event.
• The panel was made up of high level and respected individuals.
• The varied marketing proved to be successful based on a pole of those attending reporting how they heard about the event.
We will definitely hold the event again next year during Money Smart Week. We have created a great foundation for the event and will be able to build upon this more next year.