How We Pulled Off a $1M Marketing Ops Conference Before Hitting Our First Million in Revenue

Planning a conference, particularly a year 1 conference, is the most stressful thing I have ever done. 

Recently, a peer reached out to ask many of the same questions about event planning, prep and expectations that I too had asked.

I thought it might be worth sharing this knowledge more broadly with the community and others looking to host a conference because knowing “what to expect” can help with planning.  

Please note, the following answers to these questions are purely from my experience and should not be taken as the “standard” for how all event planning may go, but I hope it helps.

What technologies were most helpful to supporting the event from planning to execution?

How can I even begin talking about a conference for Marketing and Revenue Operations Professionals without discussing the technology that made it all happen?! 😉

Here’s a brief rundown of the platforms that supported our event and what we plan to do in the future:

Google Docs

  • Templates for emails to speakers and sponsors
  • Campaign content drafts and final assets for promotional materials

Google Sheets

  • Endless amounts of “projections” for costs and possible revenue streams
  • Budget planning
  • Cash planning (different from budget planning)
  • Generally all forms of pivot tables for analysis on ticket sales and campaign results


  • Project management for campaigns
  • Speaker intake form
  • Website development tasks
  • Design tasks for web & event venue graphics
  • Campaign calendar

Accelevents (No Bullsh*t Demo Here)

  • Event platform!!
  • Mobile app for attendees
  • Registration management
  • Coupon management
  • Add-on sales (courses, content, etc)
  • Networking features
  • Virtual live stream

HubSpot (Marketing Hub, Sales Hub, Operations Hub)

  • Promotional emails
  • Nurture workflows
  • Sales pipeline for sponsors
  • Contracts (quotes & deals)
  • Pay-over-time via Stripe+HubSpot (spread cost of tickets over ## months)


  • Website platform
  • Original “go fund me” style campaign via WooCommerce
  • SnoBall
  • Social Amplification for Speakers, Sponsors, and Attendees

What did you find as the most effective ways to sell tickets? (e.g. direct member emails, newsletter placement, LI messages, Slack posts, paid ads, etc.)

Short answer… honestly, it’s unclear. We did not anticipitate the amount of effort it took to reach out to folks and make them aware of the event. 

We tried various methods:

  • Automated outreach on LinkedIn to Marketing Ops titles both broadly and locally ( “locals only” discount code offered)
  • Social media sharing using SnoBall (post-purchase, for speakers and sponsors too). This came later toward the end, but we plan to implement it much earlier this year.
    • PS If you use it, please mention that we sent you – it integrates with Accelevents now (thanks to us 🤪)
  • newsletter mentions
  • Guest on podcast(s) outside of our own
  • Discussed on our own podcast
  • Placed a mid-roll ad in all episodes for the conference
  • Direct email campaigns to our database
  • Welcome nurture for all new joiners to the community including messages via email. We segmented these by seniority to emphasize the importance of going for your career depending on your career stage. 
  • Added event messaging to one of the rotational replies in Atomic for welcoming new Slack members
  • Email signature link
  • Sponsor co-marketing (they post with the use of our “PR Kit”)
  • Customized speaker cards for each speaker to share on social
  • Slack announcements

NO paid ads.We wanted to be mindful of spending money when it was unclear if it was needed or not. With an estimated event cost at 1M, we had no idea if we could afford it, period.

In retrospect, direct email campaigns are probably the best-performing motion for driving sales. 

Any idea on % of tickets sold in the lead up to event? e.g. 3 months prior to event we should have sold 20%, 2 months 50%, 1 month 90%, etc. 

This is definitely the hardest part and caused me, personally, the most stress. About 95% + of ticket sales came within the last THREE weeks of the conference. THE LAST THREE WEEKS! At six weeks is when we started to see the pickup. I recall having a meeting 6 or 7 weeks out from the event with the production team and we were at 180 attendees for in-person. We all said, “Okay, this is going to be our event, so let’s start preparing.” And, suddenly, we saw massive changes in registrations.

Generally speaking, the rule is your biggest pickup will be between 6 weeks and 1 week of the event. That’s industry-agnostic feedback from A LOT of event professionals who host paid and free conferences. Wild, and impossibly frustrating as the event planner. 

My advice? Do everything you can to sell your tickets as quickly as possible. Keep in mind, it’s a lot of effort and people seem to not plan that far in advance. Alternative options are to ask sponsors to commit to driving a certain # of ticket sales and registrations (consider incentivizing them; this isn’t something we tried necessarily). Our sponsors obviously wanted the event to be a success and were determined to bring a lot of their prospects, customers and team to the event.

Recommend you cover your costs for the hotel room commitment (assuming you have one) by asking any sponsors to commit to filling a certain # rooms. It can be helpful to offer additional free passes as long as they stay at the hotel to fill the room block. The last thing you want is to owe the hotel money for rooms that go unused.

In the spirit of transparency, here’s a screenshot from our Accelevents for reference.

Note: The bump in May was an import we did. Technically those purchases were spread out between December and May, so the line should be VERRRRYYYY skinny over those 6 months 😉 

hYbvjId 8VRVGVdfJc hi8bcXdzDwtKawg MRNkV4XNbCVzvVtDBsDL2dZ3Dz1TjsU6c9S5lDPNZpF iFwi96Fu5XunU0nuq56lDZmpGpOebyRWuH NgHpbSwfo2KpEd1X5DvtHSaJp0zCnzCjuunQc

Here’s our trend by ticket count for all tickets and in person tickets::

mCrTZcWZqu0OEBF8EUXc1mLH3 HQjS8yOWO wLnmZ5frPQBifUF6vb04bKIbpiDMes8kuk7PL0uFFMCWwFgLPbMwKUYpdtCrkOL5tPE595vVW0mSGrIKzHcyzRfWSiHSUJIz VlZq Ho6Zazio3mOo8
ZzZP6yQKeNfCIp9IXBqSm7WWHF6AeccvzHTcrZcc4AobUqkDLljYyDVp517f4mGMQVjeq 9DDd7gkXAQ12tW6ckUiBvLMXThzGkcHn2YWFqSrKvRpLdOmQLlve5E2GjtK7K

So, how much did it cost to host Year 1 of MOps-Apalooza? Here’s the final total:

Section / Category
1 – Pre Production$94,766.16
2 – General Session$234,911.41
3 – Breakouts$76,670.00
4 – Expo & Ancillary Events$8,094.82
5 – Venue Costs$320,124.00
6 – Booth Production & Graphics/Signage$124,044.87

There is missing labor in these costs from effort put into ancillary platforms like Snoball, Design Contractors, Developers (building landing pages) and more. Ultimately, the total cost to host the 330+ person event in Anaheim, California was about $1,000,000.00 USD. 

How did you finance paying for vendors and venue?

Given we had never hosted an event of this size before, there were a lot of “risks” for the vendors and venues we worked with. The hotel, for example, had no sense of if we could pull off the event at all. So the contract asked for over $370,000 dollars to be paid BEFORE the event happened. The bulk of that payment was due within the 90 days preceding the event happening. 

If you’re analyzing the trajectory of the ticket sales, you can imagine our stress levels knowing that we had to pay $370K + before we actually had the event. Sales for the event (sponsorships and ticket sales) were spread out over time, so there was an entire process we established to “cover the gap” – the Cash Gap that is. 

To help us manage cash flows, we had to take loans and open credit cards. And, as you’ll hear in my podcast with Justin Norris, I even considered taking a lien on my house. 

Ultimately here is how we helped float the gaps and pay the advanced deposits for all our vendors:

  1. $100,000 term loan from Quickbooks
  2. We opened a line of credit for $55K, but never used it
    1. Don’t recommend btw, it resulted in my phone getting spammed constantly by “debt consolidation” and “predatory lending support” calls 😞
  3. We opened 3 credit cards (AMEX Platinum, Chase Ink Business Plus, AMEX Blue Cash)
  4. We deferred commissions to our own team (thanks team!!)
  5. We didn’t pay me (most people know that by now 😅)

Even with all the ups and downs, sleepless nights, and stressful moments of uncertainty … you might ask was it worth it? And I can say with 100% certainty… that YES! Yes it was.

MOps-Apalooza 2023 event was a massive success and since we had so much fun the first time around… we’re excited to host our 2nd annual MOs-Apalooza 2024 on November 4-6, 2024 in Anaheim, California! 🎉

Register to attend MOps-Apalooza 2024

About The Author — Mike Rizzo

Mike Rizzo, is the Community-led Founder of MO Pros and With his extensive background in marketing Mike helped build, launch, manage and optimize Mavenlink's first-ever user community and Client Advisory Board programs. He is the founder of MO Pros - The Community for Marketing Operations Pros that is growing with an average of 110 new members every month. He is also the co-host of the podcast called Ops Cast by MO Pros. As the founder of, Mike is taking a community-led approach to building resources that are purpose-built for MO Pros.

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