VideoBrains January post-mortem

I’m going to take a different tack with the post-mortem this month. I’ve been doing this for five months now and you’re going to have to trust that I know vaguely what I’m doing. Rather than tediously examining how the scheduling went and the little mistakes I’ve been going over, I wanted to talk about a few overarching themes

The event was great though, and I’d quickly like to thank all of the guys helping me run it, all of the speakers and everyone who tweeted nice things about it. You guys are the best.

On cost – February and beyond

Here’s something surprising: did you know that selling tickets for £5 with a free drink actually costs you money?

To be honest, we sold 51 tickets for this VideoBrains. The hard limit is generally 50 but I made a small mistake with Eventbrite. The total amount we made after the Eventbrite fees (more on that later) was £250.32, the total amount that we spent on the drinks was £230. Once you factor in the cost of printing our drinks tokens and other fees, we lost money.

So, for February we’re going to sell tickets for £4. This was settled on after looking at our general costs. I just want to be able to pay for speakers’ travel, for the general upkeep and pick up a few bits and pieces that VideoBrains needs to really shine. We’re not looking to make money, but my naïve belief that VideoBrains could run on nothing but a few quid out of my bank account was foolish.

We’ll look at how the accounts look at the end of February, but we want to be making a slightly positive amount at the end of February so that we can build a bit of a nest egg for a rainy day (or a second mic/video camera of our own).

Ticket prices might adjust again for March but hopefully that’ll be the last time for a while. £4 is very sustainable at this rate but there’s one big extra expense to consider: paying for video editing.

On media – Cost and importance

There’s a lot of VideoBrains stuff that I can do myself, and all it costs is my time.

One of the things I can’t do myself is the media production side, primarily the filming and editing of the talks. This is a gigantic aspect of what we do. Twice as many people have seen Alex Roberts’s talk from the Christmas event than those who were actually at the event in the first place. There are three main reasons why we need great video production:

  • The video is great for our speakers. They prepare a talk and give it to us for next to nothing. This is a nice way to let them share their talks later.
  • The video is great for us. It’s the best marketing we can get. Every month has seen a surge of ticket sales directly after each video release.
  • We’re building a resource of talks that anyone can view. This is part of the spirit of VideoBrains, but also I hope that people might find the archived talks to be useful further down the road. We’ve got 31 videos now, with another 6 being edited. We already have a lot of good talks and we’re going to have a lot more.

These videos are a big part of VideoBrains now and the time it takes to shoot and edit the videos is prohibitive. I’ve been advised previously by people to take advantage of other people’s kindness so that we can get the filming done for free, but it feels dishonest.

So I’ve hired a professional. It is an expense we haven’t previously factored in, so we’ll have to budget for it from now on.

Misc – Seats and fees

There’s a couple of minor points that don’t fit well elsewhere that I wanted to slot in here.

Since we started charging for tickets, we’ve seen no real change in ticket sales. Every event so far has sold out and if anything it looks like February is going to sell out in the next week or so, making it our fastest selling event. This raises questions about our venue’s capacity, but they’re questions I’ll look at down the line.

What we have seen is a nearly 100% attendance rate. Only 5 people out of 51 didn’t show up to the January event and every single one of them contacted me beforehand to apologise for being unable to make it. This is a big change from the first couple of events where the attendance rate was around 50%.

I also wanted to mention the Eventbrite fees. Despite them being totally optional, 45 out of 51 of you chose to pay the optional fees yourselves. This probably saved us a good chunk of cash. Eventbrite bill a month behind so we’ll see what the fees end up like moving forwards, but I should say that it’s touching so many of you are willing to help us out a little extra.

If you want to help out with things even more, I have a Patreon which is being supported quite generously. You help us get a bunch of cool stuff to make the event better, but it’s totally non-essential.

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