How to Design a $5 Conference in Detroit! #5dollarconference on 5/17/17


There are a lot people who are doing events and I get asked a lot how do you put together a successful event.  So, I thought it would be interesting to pull back the curtain back and show you how to design a $5 Conference.  I have received a lot of interesting feedback about the Rebrand Cities x Automattic Pop-up Design + Innovation Salon.  The feedback has ranged from I absolutely love the event, to an email stating an organization can’t promote the event without descriptions of the talk to a text from a person I really respect that communicated that this is a Parachute Elitist approach.  I am not sure what a ‘Parachute Elitist’ is but sounds interesting.


Event Details

  • Rebrand Cites x Automattic Pop-up Design + Innovation Salon
  • Date/Time: May 17, 2017 3:00pm – 5:30pm
  • Location:  Detroit Center of Design + Technology 4219 Woodward Avenue Detroit, MI 48201
  • Tickets:

Speakers includes a former Creative Director of the Obama White House, VP/CMO/Engineers & Product Leads at Automattic, former design school president, founder of brand agencies, and Detroit business owners.

Seven Elements of Great Conference/Salon:

I thought this would be a great teachable moment.  Here is how it all came together.  John Maeda and I hopped on the phone for 20-minutes and talked about that five core elements that make a great events

  1. Speakers – (i.e.We used local and out-of-state talent)
  2. Environment – (State of the art venue (Detroit Center of Design + Technology) –
  3. Experience – (i.e.7-Inspiring 14 minute talks about design, tech and entrepreneurship)
  4. Call to Action – (i.e. Topics: ‘Designing the Future’ and ‘The Power of Stories’)
  5. Fuel – (i.e.Healthy lifestyle/organic refreshments –
  6. Diversity – (i.e.Women: 30%, Minority: 50%, Local/Detroit: 30%)
  7. Audience – We have reached out to a diverse community in Detroit)

Time Spent Launching Idea (10 hours)

The initial time spent to get the idea to market was 10 hours.  To make this work at the $5 price point we had to be as lean as possible.  There will be a considerable amount of time required in planning and logistics to make this work.

  • Conversation about Event – 1 hour
  • Confirming Speakers – 1 hour
  • Website Development: 2.5 hours.
  • Marketing – 3 hours
  • Event Graphic – 2.5 hours

Tools Used

No physical meetings everything was done remotely.  We didn’t have meetings to make people feel important.  We meet only to discuss critical issues.

Why This Event isn’t FREE


Everybody loves FREE stuff, the problem is that people don’t value FREE stuff.  No shows on free events can range from 20% – 45%.  So we put a small price on the event of $5 and are providing a $10 bottle of Drought cold pressed, raw, organic juice.  So essentially you are paying for a bottle of juice.  We aren’t going to make money on the event, but having a value to the event is important.  Price point for events is critical.

Cost of Other Conferences/Salons

There are a lot of great conferences, talk series and salons and I have listed a few as a point of reference.  To put together events like these require a huge time commitment,  resources and a passionate team.

I hope you found this post helpful.  If you are local we would love to connect with you at our Design Salon on May 17th.  Seats are going fast.  You can purchase your ticket at

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