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Oh Sh*t, that was hard, but let’s go again!

In February I made the bold step into the events business. After a couple of years peculating on the idea, I bit the bullet and launched the Apps4 event business, setting up our first event in Sydney in May, Apps4 Wholesalers.

The idea behind the Apps4 brand, is a series of events, that showcase the technology for a specific industry. As there was no existing, or even similar equivalent, Apps4 Wholesalers seemed a great place to start.

The Apps4 Wholesalers explainer video

After nearly 20 years in and around Australian Biztech, I was fortunate to know enough people, who trusted me to wrangle 18 exhibitors to each stumped up cold hard ca$h, on an idea.

From there it was a crash course in event coordination! Branding. Speakers. Flights and accommodation. Equipment. Catering. Banners. Registration…etc

Then there was the little bit about getting delegates along. With my marketing partners Growthlabz, we tried it all. Facebook. Twitter. LinkedIn. Cold emails. Eventbrite. ClickFunnels. Banner ads. AdRoll. Retargeting. 3 weeks out from the event we had spent a fortune and amassed… 6 registered delegates… We were heading for an event that looked a bit like this:

The Sydney Apps4 Wholesalers Plenary room

The next 7 days were not fun. The stress of wondering if we’d have to tell the world we failed. Having to refund monies to exhibitors whom I’d let down. Oh the shame of it all… let alone the financial loss. By this stage we were $50k in a hole, with no recourse on deposits nor monies spent…

I set a hard date, 2 weeks was the minimum notice we’d have to give to the exhibitors. Losing $50k isn’t much different to losing $60k, so I book a letterbox drop to Sydney’s key industrial estates. I book some radio advertising. We wrangle in some telemarketing. If I’m going down, I’m going down fighting…

Hour by hour, I monitored the registrations coming in. On the Wednesday, T minus 15 days, things were looking bleak… the next day was D day, and we had about 50 registrations – no where near enough.

Thursday, D Day arrives, midday is my cut-off… 5 by 8am… another 3 by 9am… 4 more by 10am… maybe, just maybe… my mind goes to 14 by x how many. 200 is the target attendance. In Sydney, for a free event that means ~350 registrations. 300/14 = ~21/day… this morning has been alright…

F#@$ this, let’s Cortes this baby! Burn the ships!

Hernán Cortés was a spanish conquistador who set sail to conquer Veracruz, Mexico with his crew. Upon arrival, Cortés’ men became weary and scared, with hopes of turning back home to their old life. 
As legend has it, Cortez had the men burn their ships, leaving no option but to press on! Their ability to retreat to their previous way of life was gone; their safety net had been removed.

We were doing this. There was no retreat. If we were to go down, we were going down having a real crack!

It was stressful, but boy did we have some fun! Then, the Monday, the week of the event (which was on a Thursday) , in pour 121 registrations! Oh sh*t… the venue is only set-up to cater for ~220… We have 260 registration come Monday night… that’s OK, its Sydney and a free event, we’ll have a 35% no-show rate… but, if we get this many registrations tomorrow…?

Tuesday comes, by 3pm we’ve had another 90 registrations… that’s it, up goes the sold out sign, we did it! Whooohooo! Now we just have to execute the event itself…

As they say, the rest is now history! The event was far from perfect, (for example, 2 speakers pulled out the day before) but, nonetheless it went well. Very well for a first event! A post event survey saw the event score a Net Promoter Score of 60! And in a world where you can please some of the people some of the time, we were elated!

And so, we’re ponying up again, with a bigger and better event in Melbourne! This time, we’ll know where to better spend our marketing dollars. This time, we won’t panic on registration numbers until the last week. This time, rather than begging mates and acquaintances to give me money to exhibit, I have a backlog of vendors wanting in!


Apps4 Wholesalers Melbourne will be run at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, South Wharf on October 10, 2010.

You can register now via:

You can register for free now via:

The website:

Or if you can handle it, Eventbrite:

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Matt Paff (BBus GAICD) is founder of Value Adders and a veteran of the Accounting, Payroll and broader B2B Technology industry. Matt’s resume includes time as GM at Attaché Software, one of the world’s longest surviving accounting software companies, as well as starting, growing and exiting a successful accounting technology & business process consulting firm. Matt has held advisory board positions with accounting firm Imagine Accounting as well as Governance technology start-up GovernRight. In his spare time, Matt also runs a RegTech start-up vSure. Matt is passionate about a practical, plain English perspective. He is known for being a straight-shooter and appreciated for his forthright, researched opinions.

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